So one of my favorite media/social justice figures of the past decade has been Shaun King. And while I know many people who think Shaun to be a piece of shit/a conman/a [fill in the blank]—well, they’re wrong. One hundred percent wrong. The guy busts his ass, has an enormous heart, wears his compassion on his sleeve. He’s been battered, slammed, mocked, ridiculed—and he keeps coming back. Because he’s strong and smart and focused.
Truly, he’s a role model.
Over the weekend, however, I noticed Shaun (a Bernie Sanders advocate) leading a Twitter movement where he enlisted people to promise they would never, ever, ever vote Michael Bloomberg …
And I feel like screaming.
Look, Mike Bloomberg is filled with holes. Tons upon tons upon tons of holes. There is no doubt about that, and this piece lays them out very well. So I get it. Truly, I get it. In my ideal world, Chris Murphy is running against Trump in 2020, with Stacey Abrams as his vice.
But the world isn’t ideal. It just fucking isn’t. And while I hate being this guy—well, I’m going to be this guy. Bernie Sanders cannot win a general election against Donald Trump. Actually, wait. Stop. Scratch that. He can win a general election against Trump, because 2016 taught us anything is possible. But is an 80-year-old Vermont “socialist” (as he will be branded every … single … day) the guy to lead us into battle? Will he pick off moderate Republicans who are fed up with Trump’s bullshit and offended by his assholeness? Will he inspire moderate Democrats who sit on the left, but not too far left? No. No fucking way.
And that’s fine. Truly, that’s fine. If you like Bernie Sanders (and I like Bernie Sanders a lot), support him. Fight for him. Donate money to him. Insist he’s your guy in the primary, and stand by him until the end.
And then, if Bloomberg is the nominee, don’t stay home like a fucking asshole.
Bust ass for him.
Why? Here’s why: Because another four years of Donald Trump means one, if not two or three, Supreme Court appointees—which likely means the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Because another four years of Donald Trump means an even greater destruction of environmental laws and the devastation of our children’s collective futures. Because another four years of Donald Trump means an even greatest partnership between the DOJ and the White House. Because another four years of Donald Trump means more xenophobia, more kids in cages, more travel bans, more bullying, more thugging, more unjust imprisonments, more ICE raids.
Life sucks. It does. It’s a blowjob to the skull.
But to urge people to stay home if Bernie Sanders isn’t the nominee; to tell your one million followers that it’s your guy or nobody—well, it’s just fucking self-absorbed bullshit.
Self absorbed bullshit.
And worst of all—you have one million Twitter followers. You have an enormous voice. If Mike Bloomberg is the nominee, use that shit. Meet with him. Demand stuff. In writing. Make it clear that if X and X and X and X don’t happen, he will face the onslaughts of onslaughts. That’s power. Real power.
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.
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.’’
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.