Jeff Pearlman

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Author Archives: Jeff Pearlman

About Jeff Pearlman

Jeff Pearlman is a writer.

Death of a roommate

Back in the fall of 1990, upon arriving as a freshman at the University of Delaware, I was assigned a triple inside Russell Hall A.

This was not ideal. The rooms were made for two, and three was painfully crowded. But, as a newbie, I didn’t have a leg to stand on. So I showed up and introduced myself to a pair of strangers—Anthony Marciano from Tuckahoe, N.Y. and Chris Moger from Long Island.

We basically had a bunk with vertical beds, then a single cot. For some reason (I don’t recall the negotiations or logistics), Chris took the bottom bunk, Anthony took the top bunk and I got the single. And—all things considered—it worked out fairly well. Anthony was this cocky, endearing kid who always had a lacrosse stick in his hands. He was charismatic and smooth and funny. He actually took care of me when I got wasted for the first time—a story I’ve retold quite often through the years.

And Chris—well, Chris was quiet. Sorta brooding, in a James Dean way. In fact, when I’ve thought of Chris through the years, I always have James Dean in my head. This image, to be precise. He just had a bit of quiet confidence to him. Coolness, without barking. Never mean. Never particularly giddy. Came. Went. As life often goes.

By the middle of the year, our triple was a double. Chris moved out, and at the end of 1991 I believe both he and Anthony transferred to other schools.

And that was pretty much that.

•••

I received this e-mail yesterday. Out of the blue.

Anthony and I haven’t stayed in touch much. Chris and I stayed in touch not at all. I believe there was a quick Facebook exchange a decade or so ago, but nothing more. If you think about it, that’s the way so much of life works. For every lifelong friend who sticks, there are a solid 500 Chris Mogers who come, stay for a bit, then leave. The girl you hooked up with in the frat basement. The guys you used to run pickup with. Your favorite barista—who one day doesn’t report to work. The supermarket checkout clerk you chatted up about her future. The barber. The waitress.

Your freshman roommate.

I didn’t really know how to respond to Anthony’s message. So I Googled “Chris Moger,” and found this.

And what struck me, nearly as much as the awful illness, was the sad reality that I really would have liked Chris Moger. He wasn’t James Dean. Or even imitation James Dean. I mean, perhaps he was during a time period when we’re all young and insecure and trying to offer the world a glimpse of something desirable. But the Chris I was introduced to via the Fundraising page was a middle-aged family man. A husband. A dad of three. A guy who lived for his kids, worked hard, wore plaid pajamas come Christmas and probably looked forward to family vacations and relaxed evenings in front of the TV with a beer. He was a kid who became a man, and that man was someone I would have very much enjoyed.

Anthony wrote me this morning …

I am legitimately gutted.

The kid one bed over is gone.

I wish I’d known him.

MLB’s coward problem

So, like every other American sports fan, I’ve been observing the whole Houston Astros scandal with shock, bewilderment, amazement.

But my greatest reaction: Incredulousness.

It probably truly kicked in last night, when I saw Mike Piazza on ESPN discussing how this whole sign stealing thing made him “sad.” Then, this money quote: “In my era, it never would have happened.’’

Wait.

What?

In your era it never would have happened? In your era it never would have happened? In your era it did happen. In major ways. And not only did it happen—you were involved in it. I don’t care how many tests Piazza didn’t fail (in the era of joke testing), his PED usage was A. widely regarded B. widely accepted; and C. widely ignored. I wrote about this in my Roger Clemens bio, “The Rocket That Fell to Earth” …

So, please, spare me every retired Major Leaguer who uttered nary a peep as [fill in the blank with a very high number] of your teammates roided up/PEDed up before your eyes and inside your clubhouses. Spare us the “In my day …” monologue, when your day put cheating on the map. Or, put differently: Phil Hughes, I’m still waiting for your anger over Melky Cabrera.

And while we’re at it—all these current players now jumping on the “Fuck the Astros” train: Can we acknowledge that, were you on the Astros in 2017, you’d have said shit? Hell, look at the Houston roster from that season. You have every genre of player: Vets like Carlos Beltran and Justin Verlander and Brian McCann. Young scrappers like Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. Journeymen like Josh Reddick and Luke Gregerson. And no one—not a man—said a thing until Mike Fiers waaaay after the fact.

Why? Because (and this comes from someone who has covered sports for 2 1/2 decades) the greatest myth about athletics involves leadership. Truth be told, what sport teaches people is the value of following along. Listen to your coach—and don’t question him. Take orders from the veteran—and don’t question him. Keep your head down. Don’t say anything controversial to the media. You’re always playing for that next contract. Be a team guy. Be an organization guy. Don’t think—just do.

This whole idea of “creating leaders” is myth. That’s why, when athletes retire, they give speeches that usually encompass some regurgitation of the same four of five cliched lessons that can be found on an old Wayne Dyer pamphlet.

That’s also why, when a scandal of this magnitude breaks, everyone only piles on after it’s safe and clear. Notice how, suddenly, there’s this avalanche of outrage from guys like Jerry Blevins and Mike Clevinger; Chris Archer and Danny Valencia. They can bark, because others have barked.

Here’s a suggestion to all these players. Hell, to all of humanity: Ask yourselves what you would have done were you a 2017 Astro.

Ask yourself whether integrity would have inspired you to speak up.

Ask yourself.

The old blind man in Starbucks

I entered a busy Starbucks this morning, and there were no available solo tables. So I plopped down at the big communal spot in the middle of the store, alongside an older man with gray hair and a blue sweatshirt.

Now, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my years of coffee shop writing—it’s, well, if you aspire to get work done, don’t talk to elderly folks sitting next to you. I know that sounds dickish. I know. But it’s pretty much true.

And yet, I also think the ignore the elderly is a sin worthy of 1,000 leeches. Especially when someone is alone, nursing a drink.

So I introduced myself to Robert.

He’s 87. Parents were born in Mexico, mother came to California to give birth to him. He worked in construction, used to go to movies every Friday with his wife. Then, when they started getting too violent, he would escort her into the cinema and wait in the lobby.

Robert worked in construction. When his wife died 12 years ago, he stopped going to the cinema to wait in the lobby. He loves that “Big Bang” show, which he watches on CD. No, DVD.

I had a book out, and he said, “Don’t worry—I won’t read your stuff.”

Why? I asked.

“I can’t see any longer. Lost my vision.”

I’m sorry, I said.

“That’s OK,” he replied.

Then he got up and left.

To drive home.

The root canal

Woke up this morning knowing I was about to have a root canal.

I hate dentist visits, because I hate everything about the experience. The sounds. The smells. The drill, digging into my teeth. That shot of absolute pain when nerve is touched. God, I loathe all of it.

So walking into a root canal was no joy for me. Truth be told, I was sorta terrified.

Then it began.

Then it ended.

There was no pain. Not much fuss. I sat there, listening to music, squirming under the idea of inevitable pain but ultimately greeted with the happy reality that the numbing agent worked and all was good.

So—go root canal!

Luke Kuechly

In case you missed this, Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly today after eight NFL seasons. His announcement via Twitter was emotional, moving, fascinating—and made me tremendously happy.

I don’t know Luke. I’ve never met Luke. But I’ve met enough retired NFL players who went at the game as Luke did (hard, always charging always going 100 percent) to know this was a smart move when it comes to the longterm quality of his life.

Or, put differently: Football destroys people. Their minds, their bodies. One can argue it doesn’t destroy their wallets—but that’s only until said player needs medical help 10 years after his last game, and the NFL denies coverage. Then the wallet takes a pounding as well.

Too many players lack what Kuechly seems to have: Awareness that the game is short, and life without it should be fruitful and long. There are so many beautiful things this world offers that are made inaccessible to people who suffer brain damage or battered knees. There are places to fly to, restaurants to enjoy, puzzles to solve. There are mountains to climb and oceans to swim and children to pick up.

The NFL has never shown much concern for its players, so it’s satisfying to see a player show concern for himself.

God speed, Luke Kuechly.

God speed.

Being nicer

So if you happen to be a reader of this blog, you might know that last week I experienced something of a social media spiritual awakening.

I decided I no longer wanted to be the Twitter idiot, and that I no longer wanted to be on social media all the time. So I took a bunch of days off, and plan on being significantly more aware of the message I’m sending on; on being … nicer.

Today, I was granted a test.

Upon signing on to Twitter for the first time in a while, I was greeted by this DM:

I Googled the guy’s name, and all his information was readily available. Address, place of employment, place of education. And the Ghost of Jeff Past may well have exploited that. I have certainly written my fair share of blast back entries, featuring the identity of someone who told me to fuck off or kiss his ass or whatnot. And, inevitably, those dialogues end with the culprit begging me to remove his information. It’s always alongside some apology, and I always—always—take the stuff down.

But I don’t wanna be that person any longer. I don’t want you to lose your job—even if you’re a mean asshole. I don’t want to cause someone damage because he/she misfired or vented on Twitter.

So, maybe this is growth for me.

I hope so.

I need to fix me

I need to fix me.

That sounds sappy. Love Guru sorta thing. But, truly, I need to fix me.

I bring this up after a long talk with the wife this evening, about social media and the need to engage and engage and engage. Today, in particular, was sorta ugly, in that I felt compelled to engage on something dumb Tweeted by a former Major Leaguer named Aubrey Huff.

Why enter a fray? Honestly, I don’t know. A desire to be heard? Perhaps. Boredom during long writing days? Certainly possible. An inane craving for attention? Gotta be a part of it.

Whatever the case, I’m sick of me and social media. Truly, truly, truly, truly sick of me and social media. It’s an addiction, of sorts. Not crack or cigarettes, but something equally distracting and hard to shake. Back in the olden days, when I needed a break from writing, I’d take a walk, read a book, pet the dog, go to the couch and watch TV. Now, I stay in one place and Tweet, or update Facebook. It’s preposterous, and stupid, and would probably be far more embarrassing were it not such a widespread problem.

My wife often says to me, “You’re a nice guy—why do you want to come off that way?” And it’s a question without an easy-to-offer answer. Why? Wish I knew. Truly, wish I knew. But something inside of me feels broken, and I need to fix it. Maybe that’s therapy. Maybe it’s a stricter adherence to discipline. Maybe it’s simply thinking whether I want to be attached to something this juvenile and pathetic—merely in the name of re-Tweets and viral high fives …

Well, I just deleted that Tweet.

And starting right now, at this moment, I’m deleting my approach to social media. Or at least drastically changing it.

First, I’ll be gone until next week. I’m not Tweeting, not reading Twitter. Nothing.

Second, I’m done with arguments here. You wanna slam me? Slam me. It’s your right. But you won’t get an angry reply.

Lastly, I want to be better. A better person. A better role model to my kids. I’m a writer. Not a Tweeter. I write books and articles, and I love it. But this shit is just soul-sucking inanity. Who am I helping? What am I benefitting? Besides PR during book release time, what’s the gain?

I always urge Casey and Emmett to get out, see the world, run, smell, eat, dance.

It’s time I follow my own advice.

It’s time I fix me.

PS: And, yes, I have made pledges like this before. But I’m in genuine pain.

Killing to feel tough

In case you missed this, Iran just launched a bunch of missiles at some U.S. bases in Iraq. Not too many details are known, but it was a certain retaliation for the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

This is not good.

It’s also what happens when you elect a president who is consumed—in every possible way—with proving how tough he is. From the very beginning of his business career. Donald Trump’s obsession have taken two forms:

• Money

• Image

I get the first. Don’t appreciate it, but get it. The second one, however, is transparently sad. Donald Trump created The Donald—smart businessman who vanquishes opponents and fires anyone who can’t get the job done. He struts into conference rooms, slams down phones, swats people away with folded newspapers. He’s fuck you and step back and get out of my face.

But it’s not real. It never has been real. Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” was written by someone else. The classes at his huckster “university”—taught by others. His campaign slogan (“Make America Great Again”) was thought up by an adviser. His primary running point (Mexico and the wall) is the handy work of Steve Bannon.

It’s.

All.

An.

Image.

So, surely, after killing Soleimani, Trump lathered in the swag. He was The Man. Not like that pussy Obama, or that pussy W. Nope. The Donald finished the job. Destroyed a terrorist. Saved America.

Only, well, governing involves nuance, texture, thought, evaluation.

Without it, you’re just a fraud thug in a fancy suit.

without it, you get people killed.

The Truth of Star Trek V

So tonight, in our quest to watch all the Star Trek films, the son and I wrapped Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

The movie was William Shatner’s directorial debut, and—save for about 30 percent of the experience—it’s a steaming pile of dog poop. Which isn’t to say that’s entirely Shatner’s fault. I mean … um … eh … yeah. It’s entirely Shatner’s fault. The plot sucks. The writing is even worse. The special effects are a dropoff from earlier renditions. What’s most striking (at least to me) is the jarring lack of self-awareness brought forth by Shatner.

At the time of the flick’s 1989 release, Captain Kirk (Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) were 58 and Bones McCoy (DeForest Kelley) was 69. Yet there they are—running, punching, jumping, sprinting to the ship, escaping explosions, seeking God and demanding answers. Fuck, I’m 47 and still recovering from a pulled groin that happened three weeks ago. It’s laughable.

But here’s my favorite thing about Star Trek V: Everyone involved knew it blew, but no one could admit such. Just check out some of the promotional appearances from the time. Like this gem. And this one. They’re all happy, smiling, loved working for Bill, awesome working with Bill, terrific movie …

It was all Hollywood nonsense. It the later years, members of the cast admitted Star Trek V sucked. Hell, in the Michael Seth Starr biography, “Shatner,” cast members spare no criticism. “It failed because of the story concept,” said Walter Koenig, who played Chekov. “I don’t think it was well thought out.”

“All we needed was a good script,” added James Doohan (aka Scotty). “Unfortunately, we didn’t have one in V.”

Shatner said he ran out of money, resulting in an ending that looked stupid and unrealistic.

The reviews were not great.

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