Jeff Pearlman

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The final game

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Emmett (blue shorts) goes in for the pull.

Emmett Pearlman, Raiders defensive back, announced his retirement from flag football today, shortly after his team was eliminated with a first-round playoff loss to the Patriots. “I’m sad,” he said afterward. “But what’s a guy gonna do? Flag ends after eighth grade. I’m in eighth grade.”

Pearlman wraps the six-game season with approximately 14 flag pulls and two interceptions—both in a Week 3 victory over the Seahawks. As he walked off the field for the final time, he reflected on a five-year, five-team career that included a 10-game stint as a starting quarterback back during his sophomore run with Dallas. “I liked playing quarterback,” he said. “It was fun.”

This year, Pearlman admitted, had its ups and downs—mainly downs. The coach, a well-intended man who did his best, rarely inserted Emmett on offense, and in the playoff setback only had him play approximately 60 percent of the plays on defense. As a result, Pearlman found himself roaming the sidelines, looking into the stands, bored, thirsty and seemingly a tad constipated. “I had to poop,” he said.

In retirement, Pearlman plans to indulge in his passions—bass fishing, Slurpee mixing and licking telephone poles that smell of lavender.

“It was fun,” he said, a tear streaming down his right cheek. “But I’m hungry.”

There is no way this is true

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Nobody is better at ruining a sincere moment than our president, Donald Trump.

He just lacks the ability to leave good news alone. He needs to insert himself. He lies with staggering regularity, to the point where I’m pretty certain he’s unaware that the uttered words of untrue. Or, he simply does not care.

I digress.

This past weekend the United States scored a major victory with the capture and killing of ISIS terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was a huge achievement that warranted every bit of praise available to be thrust upon the participants.

Then Trump spoke.

“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, screaming and crying all the way,” the president. Later, Trump said it again. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward, he was whimpering, screaming and crying,” Trump said. “And frankly, I think it’s something that should be brought out.”

How did Trump know Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died whimpering, screaming and crying? He didn’t. Just as he doesn’t know that “some people say” and “most people say” and “past presidents thought” and “the majority of Americans believe.” The lies are staggering and never-ending—from the inaugural crowd size to the fictitious call from the Boy Scout leader to sending hundreds of men to Ground Zero to his predecessors calling him to say they wish they’d built a wall.

I will wait, patiently, for someone else to verify “whimpering, screaming and crying all the way.” But it won’t happen.

The liar lies.

On Bill Fleischman

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So today I returned to the campus of the University of Delaware for the first time in five years. I was there to honor Bill Fleischman, my friend and former professor who died earlier this year. I was asked to say some words about a man who truly impacted my life. Here’s what I offered …

Back when I was a student here at Delaware, my writing hero was a guy named Mike Freeman.

Mike had been editor of the review a bunch of years before I arrived, and during my undergrad years he was covering the New Jersey Nets and New York Giants for the New York Times. And after working up the nerve one day, I sent Mike a packet of my clips, asking for his critiques.

A few weeks later he sent me back the bundle, accompanied by praise, criticism, etc. And, paper-clipped to the articles, a note that read: STAY HUMBLE, KEEP WRITING HARD, KEEP WORKING HARD …

And then, in triple underline with two or three exclamation marks, the words AND LISTEN TO BILL

It was probably the best advice I’ve ever received.

The early-to-mid 90s was a heady time for the University of Delaware journalism program, and for the review. We thought we were really special. We thought we were hot shit. People read the newspaper, and recognized us walking across campus. There were big scoops about scandals, about football championships. There were editors who just oozed future stardom—Ted Spiker, Rich Jones, Archie Tse, Sharon O’Neal, Doug Donovan. There were these zany professors—Dennis Jackson, talking 10,000 miles per minute about some hotshot sophomore. Harris Ross, smoking cigarettes outside his office. Prof Nickerson, who I literally saw smoking a joint at the end-of-year review party. Ben Yagoda, pumping out books and inspiring us to write with grace.

And there was Bill Flesichman.

Bill was different than the others. Than all of it. I’d argue he was the most accomplished journalist in the department—certainly when it came to the sports scene in Philly—but you’d never know it. He didn’t brag. He didn’t boast. He didn’t tell you about how great he was. He didn’t name drop. He would call you into his office and talk at length. About writing. About your parents. About how he had a jewish last name so he could eat lox.

I was probably the worst editor in chief in the history of the review, which led one professor to rightly call the office and say to me, bluntly, “You’re the worst editor in chief in the history of the review.” But Bill never, ever, ever piled on or ripped me. He always understood what college journalism was—a place where mistakes are supposed to be made; a place where you take chances, experiment, go for it. Was he congratulating me when we dug up a photo of a short statured alum, put a football helmet atop his head and ran the April fools issue headline, MIDGETS FIGHT TO TAKE OVER NEWARK? No. But he got the idea. That voices aren’t always developed without rough patches, and bumps in the road accompany youth.

Now, I’m gonna make some controversial statements about Bill, and I hope they come with understanding. Bill wasn’t the best journalism professor I ever had. I’m not even sure he was that great of a technical professor. Classes could drag on a bit. He was probably a wee bit behind the times with his layout advice. His jokes were more bob hope than chris rock. I remember people tapping their fingers against the desk, waiting to leave for the stone balloon or deer park. And Bill was not the most dazzling writer at the daily news. He was a great reporter, an amazing worker of sources, as dependable as water. But were his ledes these gary smith-esque pieces of brilliance? Probably not. And his love for NASCAR? Not feeling it. Ever.

But here’s the thing—the most important thing. Too often we make the mistake of judging people based upon the trivial. We write these obituaries and give these odes and base it strictly upon measurable accomplishments. Upon bylines, upon net worth, upon races won and tournaments mastered.

But Bill Fleischman was the only professor or teacher from my lifetime—high school, undergrad, grad—who I invited to my wedding. And he was invited to a lot of weddings of former students.

Bill Fleischman was the only professor I ever had who I regularly called for advice—and who so many people here called for advice.

I never heard anyone—literally ever—say a bad word about Bill Fleischman. Not in my time as a student here. Not in the 25 years that have followed as a journalist. Not once.

To me, his legacy is the most profound legacy a person can have, and it far exceeds anything I’d need to say about him as a great professor or a great journalist.

Bill was a truly, truly good and decent and kind man. A father who suffered a profound tragedy but would not let it strangle him, a journalist who watched print crumble but remained optimistic, a husband whose wife ultimately left him for the game of golf, a brother, a teacher, a colleague, a really lovely and dear friend.

All those years ago, Mike Freeman was right.

The best thing I could do was listen to Bill.

The keys to a great haunted house

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So this past weekend the son and I hosted our sixth-straight elementary school haunted house out here in Southern California.

it’s a bit strange, because I haven’t had a kid in elementary school is 2 1/2 years. But because it’s a strong fund raiser, and because we’re always asked back, and because making kids cry is preposterously fun (truly, it is), we keep returning.

This year we had about 20 volunteers—mostly middle schoolers, with a few high schoolers, too (I mandate you can’t be younger than sixth grade). The “house” is actually the elementary school’s stage, which is set behind curtains in a multi-purpose room. I start setting up at around 10 am, and Emmett (who gets to leave school early) comes at 1. There are tons of costumes, tons of props, always some loose narrative (this year it was the butcher).

But, if you’re gonna have one thing at a haunted house for elementary school kids, it should be this …

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Yes, Psycho Elmo.

We always have an Elmo. Elmo with a knife. Elmo with a sword. Elmo slashing a throat. This year it was Elmo in a closet with an axe, chopping off a boy’s head.

The kiddies will never embrace Elmo again.

An ode to an online domme

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So the other day someone on Twitter noticed that I wrote about upcoming Quaz Q&A sessions. He is a “follower” of future Quaz @Goddessk1tty (a really nice person, by the way) and asked whether he could write an explanation as to why he turns toward online domination. I’m game for any/all guest posts—including this one from @k1ttylove1

I know this is strange but I love online domination. It can be an escape from reality and also makes me feel free from my boring vanilla life. I live outside of Toronto and I work at a paper factory. I have a good job, but My job is boring. I don’t hate it but I don’t look forward to it. My homelife is also just pretty normal. I have a son I share custody with, and I have a girlfriend who I see once a week, or twice sometimes.

Worshiping Kitty has made my life more thrilling. She’s kind and warm, but she knows what she wants. I pay her what I can for the honor of making her life better. She is clearly very sexy, but it’s more than that. She has a level of …I don’t know what you would call it. When she commands, I come running. I just want to please her so badly, and kneel before her, and have her command me. I have no choice but to listen, because she owns me and I know it. I have tried to escape, but catch myself.

Anyhow, I hope that explains it.

I don’t think worshiping a dominant is for everywhere, but it is for me.

I worship Kitty.

Go Leafs!

Fucking fleas

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I love my dog. She’s terrific.

But this week she has fleas.

Fucking fleas.

I found out when I took her for her trim, and the place called and said, “So … Norma has fleas.”

What?

“Fleas.”
“Norma? The dog?”

“Yes.”

Norma is my first dog, so she’s my first dog with fleas. And it’s as nasty as it sounds. She came home clean, but quickly picked up a bunch of crawlers. It’s nasty. They scurry left. They scurry right. They hide beneath the hair. I was actually standing with Norma in the back yard, and I hosed her town, then started Tweezing away the bugs. It sucked.

We’ve since cleaned the house, washed the clothes, cleaned the dog again.

It sucks.

Donald Trump cannot throw out the World Series first pitch

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Taft lets one loose.

Game 3 of the World Series will be played on Oct. 25—the first time the Fall Classic has touched the nation’s capital since 1933, when the Giants and Senators did battle.

It is a game that—in any other time period—would beg for the president of the United States to throw out the first pitch. As tradition suggests, he would walk from the dugout to the mound, decked out in dress pants, dress shoes, a collared shirt and a blue-and-red Nationals jacket. He would stand on the rubber, wave to the fans, smile, take a few steps in, then loft the baseball somewhere in the vicinity of the glove held aloft by Kurt Suzuki, the Nationals’ catcher.

Some people would cheer and some people would boo, because, well, people would cheer and boo. Republicans. Democrats. Independents. Politically inclined. Politically indifferent. But everyone would embrace the presence of America’s commander in chief in the middle of a ball field. It’s what we do. It’s how we behave. Barack Obama has thrown out first pitches. George W. Bush has thrown out first pitches. Bill Clinton did it, George H. W. Bush did it. Reagan and Carter. Ford and Nixon.

The tradition dates back to William Howard Taft, who on April 14, 1910 became the first president to toss out a first pitch. He did so in Washington—a Trump-like 300-pound man of little-to-no athletic note, slinging non-heat to catcher Gabby Street. The fans loved it.

Donald Trump, however, cannot throw out the first pitch, because he is the owner of skin the thickness of tracing paper, and the very hint of a boo or hiss would cause his world to collapse. He cannot throw out the first pitch because he refuses to project anything but winning and success, and the odds he matches George W. Bush’s legendarily perfect from-the-rubber Yankee Stadium dart is, oh, 0 percent. So bouncing ball into the dirt, or having it slip from his hand, 50 Cent like? No. No. No.

Donald Trump cannot throw out the first pitch because Major League Baseball is a land of immigrants, and—heaven forbid—he might run into a couple of Dominicans, or Mexicans. He might be asked a tough question. Or receive a heated stare.

Donald Trump cannot throw out the first pitch because, truly, he does not deserve it. Just as he has yet to invite former presidents back to the White House, and just as he has yet to present Barack and Michelle Obama with their official White House portraits, Trump is incapable of understanding the importance of party-crossing decency; of standing before a nation and saying, “I am the president, but we are—together—a nation.”

He will never throw out the first pitch.

We are better for it

Emmett turns 13

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It’s my son Emmett’s 13th birthday today, and what I love most is that Casey, his 16-year-old sister, baked him a strawberry shortcake.

She gave myriad reasons: She likes baking. She likes eating. She was done with homework. But I know—and she knows—the No. 1 reason she baked Emmett a cake is because she loves him, and because they’re traveling through life together, and because they share a genuinely powerful bond, and because Emmett would never let any harm come Casey’s way, and Casey would never let any harm come Emmett’s way.

As soon as the clock hit midnight, the wife and I found ourselves parents of two teenagers. Which may well sound awful, but it’s anything but. My kids are tremendous company. They’re spirited and fun and eager and open-minded and chatty and willing to talk about most subjects.

At 13, Emmett (as Casey has done, too) feels more and more like a sidekick, less and less like a little boy I need to entertain. We play basketball together three or four nights per week—full-court games of one on one that leave us both sweaty and happy. Emmett is in his second-straight year of wearing a jersey to school every single day (The one above is a Vince Ferragano CFL dud), and his pleasure brings me pleasure. He’s a snuggler with his mother; a cooking sidekick with his mother; an excellent student who knows tons about robotics and putting things together. Later this week we will be (for the sixth-straight year) hosting the fund-raising haunted house at the local elementary school, and Emmett can’t wait. Yeah, it’s fun scaring kids. But the best part is doing it together—setting up, writing a script, somehow making it all work out.

Emmett isn’t overly competitive. He doesn’t need to be the best. He is 0% bully. He doesn’t mock kids and rarely speaks ill of others. He tells us quite often that he appreciates living in a low-pressure household. He’s the best hugger I’ve ever seen. He tries every food imaginable. He dreams of going to Africa.

I’m so lucky.

Trumpi Vanilli

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The year is 1989. The month is August.

You’re about two weeks removed from perhaps the most embarrassing moment in music history. On July 21, 1989, during a live performance at the Lake Compounce theme park in Bristol, Connecticut, the pop duo Milli Vanilli is caught lip syncing. There is no denying what happened—while (not) singing their hit, “Girl You Know it’s True,” the words and music keep repeating. And repeating. And repeating. Here’s the clip.

So, again, now it’s August. And while the vast majority of people have kicked Milli Vanilli to the curb; have thrown away their records and torn up their posters—you refuse. You are steadfast in your belief that—proof me damned—the two members of Milli Vanilla are singing. You saw their lips move. You know, deep down, they’re artists.

You believe.

So you turn out for the next gig, a sucker in a largely empty arena.

A sucker there for the show.

•••

Tonight, Donald Trump spoke in Minneapolis.

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