Jeff Pearlman

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Why Brian Johnson is my favorite former MLB player

giantsdodgersjohnson

Through all my years of covering sports, I’ve made very few athlete friends. Some of that is on purpose, and some of that is inevitable. From the writer’s vantage point, you don’t wanna befriend those you cover. Back when I was regularly doing baseball for SI, there was a beat writer who used to go to bars with the players. It was, in a word, pathetic.

On the other hand, players don’t go out of their way to befriend writers. We’re often the enemies—intruders, invaders, spies.

Fair enough.

That said, I have one pal who played. His name is Brian Johnson.

Brian was a catcher for eight seasons, best known for his time with the Giants and Padres. We initially met back in 2001, when he was in camp with the Dodgers. We only spoke briefly then, but reconnected years later when I was reporting the Bonds book. In short, Brian is the rare ballplayer who refused to go along with mindless convention. He didn’t just think baseball-baseball-baseball-baseball. He read books. He debated teammates. He supported gay rights. He pondered life after athletics.

Anyhow, I’m babbling. He’s a great, great dude, and in response to my gay baseball post, he wrote the following:

In reading your reader’s responses, it is amazing the selfishness in the ones opposed to it, and the selflessness of those that are cool with it.

How is it that, because you may be “uncomfortable” with someone, it somehow gives you a say as to how they choose live their life.

Those that oppose all things gay seem to regularly get grossed out at the visual that comes to their mind. Or, they use the Bible as if an unconditional and loving God makes exceptions for those that choose to love “certain people”.

Guys, get over yourselves because it is really not about you.


Believe me. Of the, oh, 2,500 men who have played in the majors since I started writing sports, 10 or 11 might share Brian’s beliefs. The rest see gays as these cootie-carrying freaks.

Sad, but true.

  • http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/ Paul Catalano

    Hey Jeff,

    Agree with what you and Brian said. Dont understand how in 2009, people can still feel and think this way. Drives me nuts. I wrote an article about it myself. Oh and love the Tim Hardaway picture.

    http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2009/01/pink-elephant.html

    PLC

  • Robert in Dallas

    I am all for gay rights, gay marriage and all of that good stuff. What gripes me is that you keep preaching tolerance of this and that, when you are just as bad as the anti-gay ballplayers that you criticize.

    Do you remember your post a while back about the people in Tennessee or some other rural area? You wrote that you were surprised that they could be such wonderful people, because they “don’t share your values” (they own guns – horrors!).

    When you wrote that, you sounded exactly as intolerant as a ballplayer who would say “Jim is a good guy for being gay.” The ballplayer assumes that a gay person is bad unless he proves otherwise. You assume the same thing about the gun-owning small town folk or anyone who do not “share your values” unless they prove otherwise.

    You really need to get off your high horse.

  • http://www.thatbootlegguy.blogspot.com/ Aaron C.

    Dude, Mychael Urban is so going to “un-friend” you from Facebook now that you’ve outed his friendship with Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder and the rest of the 2000-2004 Oakland A’s.

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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