Jeff Pearlman

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The Return of the Draft

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 10.56.26 PM

So I’m an adjunct journalism professor at Chapman University, which means one night per week—Tuesdays, 7-thru-9:50—I teach sports writing.

Now, I don’t view sports writing as sports writing. What I mean is, I view sports writing as writing. So while we certainly spend a good amount of the semester focused upon athletics, we probably spend even more time focused upon words, paragraphs, phrases, approaches, ledes, etc. It’s writing within the sports prism.

I digress.

Dating back to my time at Manhattanville College and Purchase College, I’ve wrapped classes with a funky final paper that involves a lengthy profile of someone interesting or famous or interesting and famous. To kick off the assignment, we always have … The Draft.

Yes, The Draft—my favorite of favorites. Basically, over the past few weeks I’ve lined up 13 friends/associates who are willing to be interviewed at length. Then, as was the case at tonight’s class, I have the students blindly pick numbers, 1-thru-13, from a hat. The lucky soul who gets No. 1 has the choice of any of the 13. No. 2 has the choice of the remaining 12. On and on and on.

Anyhow, you get the idea. So here’s how the 2017 Jeff Pearlman Draft went down …

••••
Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 6.12.40 PM• 1. Colin Gonzales, Kansas City Royals scout (Selected by Emily Watts): I didn’t see this one coming. Colin is a tremendous guy; we met when I wrote this piece on Bo Jackson. But he’s not a household name, and I wasn’t sure how my students would feel about a scout. Well, Emily happens to come from a family of Royals fans, and she immediately plucked Colin at No. 1.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.35.01 PM• 2. Tommy Shaw, Styx singer/guitarist (Selected by Natalie Benson): I didn’t know where Tommy would go. Could have been first, could have been 13th—depending on the musical tastes of a class of a bunch of young adults. Natalie made a high-value selection here.

 

 

 

Screen-Shot-2017-01-05-at-10.05.08-PM• 3. Jeremy Popoff, Lit guitarist (Selected by Tasha Rebensdorf): Reminds me of when Knicks drafted Mark Jackson out of St. John’s, in part because of local ties. Both Popoff and Tasha are Orange County products, leading to this match made in heaven.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.36.18 PM• 4. Dave Coverly, cartoonist (Selected by Ryan Rusin): I saw Dave going seventh or eighth, just because surface pizzazz of a cartoonist probably doesn’t match rocker or pro athlete. Yet Ryan made a bolt pick here. Is this more Ricky Rubio or Jonny Flynn? Only time tells …

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.37.18 PM• 5. David Moscow, actor/producer (selected by Kristen Miloro): Very smart pick from the pride of Port Chester, N.Y. Almost all of my students recognized Moscow as young Tom Hanks from “Big,” and a couple shouted with glee when I mentioned he once dated Kerry Washington.

 

 

 

Screen-Shot-2016-12-11-at-11.59.13-PM• 6. Margot Bingham, actress (Selected by Tori Menninger): First obvious steal of the evening. I had Bingham—the former “Boardwalk Empire” breakout—projected as a one or two overall, but questions about her 40 time led to a drop.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.38.26 PM• 7. Molly Peckler, pro-canibus life/dating coach (Selected by Olivia Harden): Awkward student-teacher moment when asked, “How do you know her?” Not sure they believed me when I said, “She was a Quaz.”

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.39.10 PM• 8. Kyle Brandt, Good Morning Football co-host (Selected by Trip Westmoreland): I’ve never had a bigger Dodgers fan for a student. World Series heartbreak offset by strong No. 8 pick. Expect Real World stories galore …

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.39.49 PM• 9. Bill May, synchronized swimmer/ Cirque du Soleil star (Selected by Jamie Altman): An absolute swindle in the ninth slot. Bill has about 100 different storylines—all riveting.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.40.25 PM• 10. Anne Byrn, superstar food writer (Selected by Lindsay Gillman): Lindsay was a little torn between Ann and Ellis Valentine. “Do you like food?” I asked. She nodded—and picked up Anne.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.41.06 PM• 11. Ellis Valentine, former Major League All-Star (Selected by Natasha Kervick): Ellis is one of the planet’s best people, but this was a shocker. A. Because Natasha nearly leapt from her seat when I mentioned I had a water polo star; B. Because I’m not sure if five of my students know the Expos were a team.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.41.57 PM• 12. Cody Decker, professional baseball player (Selected by Jacob Hutchinson): Probably would have been my pick at No. 1, just because I love the sagas of athletes fighting the good fight. Plus, he’s a Jewish baseball player. I’m a sucker for those dudes.

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-07 at 11.42.15 PM• 13. Meggie Steffens, Olympic water polo player (Selected by Jade Boren): Only in this strong of a pool can a two-time Olympian and America’s best water polo player go last. I actually think her contemporary status scared some off.

  • Ray Anselmo

    If I’d had the first pick, I would’ve had a hard time deciding between Shaw and Valentine. I wouldn’t have picked Bingham, because I would’ve been too stunned by her beauty to speak, let alone interview her.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life