Jeff Pearlman

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What it means

In the aftermath of the CNN column, I received a whole lot of positive feedback and a whole little of negative feedback. The positive was great—I still dig kind words, as we all do. The negative takes, however, are actually fascinating. In that, oddly, I get it.

The general thought is this: What kind of SI writer lowers himself to tracking down 23-year olds in their basements? What the $#@@ is wrong with you?

It got me to thinking about perception and reality—both of the self, and from others.

Throughout my career, I have never thought of myself as a “big-time” writer or even an “SI” writer. I’m just a guy who writes because he loves writing. No more important than the basement blogger, no less important than Lupica or Layden. I write because I enjoy it and—some would argue—it’s a talent. I’m better at expressing my thoughts via writing than speaking. Hence, me and the page.

For some reason, however, people don’t always like successful (if you consider me to be successful, which if definitely up for debate) mainstream writers. Or, for that matter, successful anythings. If you’ve attained success, you must be cocky, snide, rude, a dick. Maybe this sounds dumb, and maybe it is dumb—but sometimes it seems as if I’m no longer allowed to mix it up with others. In other words, if I’m a blogger and you’re a blogger, we can both have at it. But if I write for SI and you’re a blogger, my criticizing you is a form of bullying; of being excessively arrogant. Hmm … maybe I’m not stating this well. It’s kinda confusing to me.

It’s also like—if you’re me, and you take the time to read what people are writing about your work, well, you’re pathetic. It’s a big no-no, and I’m not sure why. Why is it wrong for me to see what people think of a column? And why is it wrong for me to contact people who get excessively rude? I mean, it’s OK for someone to call me a f^%$wad, but if I then reply to the person I’m the one open for criticism? Why? I don’t get it.

I am not famous or even half-famous. I am a writer with a wife and two kids who struggles to pay the bills and who’s always looking for the next book idea. I love exchanging thoughts and ideas, and can’t believe how fortunate I am to write for a living.

That’s it.

  • BK

    Love these columns Jp. Y should anyone take shit from jerks??

  • tom

    If you’ve attained success, you must be cocky, snide, rude, a dick. Maybe this sounds dumb, and maybe it is dumb—but sometimes it seems as if I’m no longer allowed to mix it up with others. sounds like why so many football fans hate brady and the patriots.

  • Joe

    Hopefully this won’t net my ISP a court order, but here goes.
    People seemed to be assaulting your opinion, not you personally. That Jayson Blair-esque touch of your daughter’s first experience with porn explains a lot about why people have problems with you. It’s true that you’re paid to write opinions. You do so in an irresponsible manner and get upset when people are angry with you. Your veiled accusations of Bagwell are particularly infuriating because you were in a position to report on steroid use when it was occurring. Were you so bad at your job that you never even heard about it? Did you bury the story to keep your job? Or are you now using hearsay as a justification for your stance on Bagwell’s HOF candidacy? In any of these cases, you’re engaging in hypocritical behavior. People call you an asshole because of the hypocrisy and because you get paid to engage in it. I guess I’ll call you an asshole as well.

  • jmw

    Joe makes an interesting point.
    “People seemed to be assaulting your opinion, not you personally.”
    I think there lies the truth.
    Writers, such as yourself, often lay out your opinions in an inflammatory manner.
    It is the same tactic Trolls use in forums.
    You can expect someone will become inflamed when you give strong opinionated columns.

  • Greg

    Joe’s interesting point is BS.

    When you’re sending porn links and calling someone an F-wad, well, you’ve crossed over from “I respectfully disagree with your opinion” to “I am a dickwad emboldened by the Internet who intends to use its anonymity to assault my target in any way I can.”

    No offense, but when you act like a spiteful, hate-filled troll and hide behind your computer while you spew venom, well, you deserve to be dragged, kicking and puling, into the light.

  • Sportswriting Refugee

    “People seemed to be assaulting your opinion, not you personally.”

    This is not true.

    Read the comments that ticks Jeff off. They aren’t the ones assaulting his opinion. They are the ones calling him an “asshole,” or a “dickwad,” or a scrawny “bitch” who “never played a down of football.”

    And on and on and on and on.

    No writer that I know, including myself, minds when people attack your ideas. Hell, you could even question whether a guy “played the game.” You would be wrong and a raging fanboi, but you can question it. But there is a way to do it with some civility. Otherwise, the point is lost.

  • jmw

    The point is when Jeff does the SI column there is no comment section for people to civilly respond.
    I have seen far too many of the SI writers write an uninformed, inflammatory column.
    If the only available outlet the reader has is an e-mail address that may not get read then frustration causes the improper response.
    To Jeff’s credit he at least has this blog (if someone knows about it) where someone can address the issue.
    I also feel that Jeff at least researches (sometimes misguidedly) the subject. Not every reader to SI understands that.

  • Frank D.

    jmw: I couldn’t disagree more, and this is why. Have you ever delved into the comment section of any big news organization’s website? Talk about a complete waste of time. After you pick through the spam, what you’re left with is postings that make Usenet in the 1990s look *polite*. Jeff’s whole problem with assholes with anonymity gets magnified a gazillion times on any large site’s comment section.

    SI decided they didn’t want to deal with the dregs of the internet. I can’t blame them.

  • Frank D.

    I write erotica. On the site where I post, there is a comment form; this isn’t a comment section, it’s a way to send me email. I can set that to allow anonymous emails, or to require an email address. I used to allow all. I changed that.

    Why? Because I NEVER got anything worthwhile anonymously. Not once. All the praise had an email attatched. All the *constructive* criticism. Even the polite, “I usually like your writing but this particular story sucked for you” stuff…none of it was ever anonymous.

    You know what I got anyonymously? Two things. First was the two-word “You suck!” emails. Second? The bible-thumpers. These people who think it’s their life’s mission to read smut…and then send the writers of said smut emails about how we need to repent or we’re going to hell.

    Life is too short to waste time with those sorts of people. People with something to actually *say*, good or bad, don’t have a problem putting their email addresses on, even when emailing a smutwriter :) like myself.

  • jmw

    Frank
    You are going to get the dregs in a comments section. At least allows someone an opportunity to express why the story, or other commenters, are off base. It also allows someone (maybe even the author) to explain why it is on base.
    It eliminates frustration.
    The dregs will find you either way.
    Some may only need that comment section to keep from being part of the riffraff.
    I always try to be respectful at all times. I have emailed some writers that have written very ignorant commentaries, I did it nicely, never got a response. For all I know it went to the great internet shredder in the sky and was never read. Frustrating.
    I also post anonymously, keeps Internet stalkers, like Jeff, from harassing me.

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

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