Jeff Pearlman

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You can’t let Chekov back on the bridge

So the son and I have been watching the Star Trek films in order (I wisely skipped the original, which is cardboard to classical music), and the other day we took in the second flick, “Wrath of Khan.” Which is amazing in all sorts of ways.

It’s amazing because William Shatner and Ricardo Montalbán are all in and the overacting and dramatic excesses are something to behold (I’m not being snide. It’s fucking brilliant). It’s amazing because DeForest Kelley is beyond outstanding as Bones. It’s amazing because I fell in love all over again with Nichelle Nichols, whose Uhura is sultry cool. It’s amazing because—with some glaring exceptions—the special effects hold up, and it’s amazing because (stop griping) it’s simply better movie making than anything George Lucas brought us.

And yet …

I have one gripe, and it’s a biggie. So early in the film, Khan and his confusing band of Mad Max-inspired merry misfits capture two Star Fleet employees—the requisite 1980s disposable black guy (who will die, because they always die) and Chekov, the Star Trek regular and a character who the audience knows can’t perish because, well, there are future movies to be made.

Anyhow, in a legitimately hard-to-watch scene, Khan takes the two men and inserts these … eh … mutant slug/snails into their brains. He explains that, before long, the men will obey his commands before ultimately losing their minds.

And … he’s right. The men obey his commands before starting to lose their minds. Hell, the requisite 1980s disposable black guy actually kills himself. But Chekov … Chekov survives. His brain has been eaten by the slug, he’s way off his rocker, the world is 1,000 shades of purple—but he does, in fact, survive. Which is wonderful. The world needs Chekov.

But then—like, within 20 minutes—he’s back on the bridge, helping with the mission. And I keep waiting for Captain Kirk to say, “Yo, yo—people! This bruh just had a slug eating out his cranium. Let’s maybe keep him in sick bay.” I keep waiting for Spock, the definition of walking logic, to say, “Jim, perhaps it would be unwise for Chekov to be here before subjecting himself to a CAT scan.” I keep waiting for McCoy—the fucking Enterprise medic—to say, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a slugologist. But that thing probably took away, oh, 70 IQ points. Maybe Chekov can just sit in the corner and make clay ashtrays.”

But, no.

Chekov is back.

Living the life.

My favorite game of pickup

I haven’t kept count, but if I had to guesstimate how many games of hoops I’ve played in my life, it’d surely number into the thousands.

Growing up, I played with friends on my driveway hoop.

In college, I played with my roommates outside Christiana Towers.

I played at the YMCA in Nashville. I played at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. I play most Saturday mornings at the courts by my house. I’ve played and played and played. With friends. With foes. In leagues. On a team called—really—the Runnin’ Jeffies.

My life has featured many passions, but basketball probably tops the list.

Earlier today, on the courts at Laguna Beach, I played my all-time favorite game. It was with my 13-year-old son.

Emmett and I play a ton of one-on-one hoops at the nearby court, and we’ve definitely had family games, but today was the first time Emmett and I played together, on the same squad, in legitimate pickup. We arrived at the courts planning on just shooting, but when someone said, “Let’s play” to a group of people—well, we jumped in. There were two young teens, so Emmett and another kid were split.

It was 4 on 4. Sun shining. Slight breeze. Ocean about 40 feet away. I yelled some instructions to Emmett, but mostly let him be him—feisty defense, pump fakes galore, lots of physical hand play. When he hit his first shot, he looked at me—suppressed smile. While he hit his second, less of a suppressed smile. More like, “Yeah, I’m doing this.” He set me up for an assist, was energetic and effective. On multiple occasions it hit me—truly hit me—that I was with my kid at Laguna Beach running a game.

It was bliss.

Ask your preacher

Just watched this utter insanity, and I want someone to ask the clergy involved these questions. Actually, I’m begging.

Ask these questions …

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—used his charitable foundation to buy all sorts of possessions for himself?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—has repeatedly lied about searching for survivors at Ground Zero after 9.11, and also lied about donating $10,000 to the 9.11 Fund?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—bragged about grabbing women by their pussies? That he’s mocked countless women as fat, as ugly, as stupid, as piggish?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—never went to church as a parishioner before he was running for president?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—spent 4 1/2 years saying the 44th president of the United States (an actual man of faith) was a Kenyan-born Muslim?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—is a lifelong conman? That he created a fake “university” to bilk the poor and middle class of their money?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—fucked a porn star 10 days after the birth of the son he ignores? Then paid her hush money to stay quiet?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—called for five African-American teens to die, even after they were found innocent?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—refused to rent apartments in his Queens development to people of color?

Are you concerned?

Are you?

On Bombshell, and the Tweet that didn’t come across so hot

So the wife and I just saw “Bombshell,” the new film about the whole Fox News-Roger Ailes-Megyn Kelly shit storm.

I didn’t have high expectations entering the theater, but it was pretty exceptional work. Charlize Theron, in particular, owned the screen, and if she’s nominated for an Academy Award you’ll hear no complaining from this website.

Anyhow, the flick sent me back in time to 2016—before the lawsuits were out, before women were standing up, before it all. When I, eh Tweeted this while working out on a treadmill at my nearby gym …

The backlash—well, it wasn’t wonderful. There was this. And this. And this. And this. I received hundreds upon hundreds of furious Tweets and Facebook messages. Things turned quite ugly, and it was the first (of many) times I simply walked away from social media for a few days. I needed the break.

But now, nearly four years later … I’ve gotta say … um … well … it still was a shit Tweet, because it put the onus on the women while ignoring the pressures they were clearly under. But—based upon everything we’ve learned—Fox News did, in fact, urge its women to wear shorter-than-short outfits. Fox News did emphasize skin and sex appeal.

Fox News did urge their on-air folks to, dammit, dress like hookers.

It sure did.

I regret the Tweet. It was sloppy and lacking any level of nuance. It ignored all the shit women in television go through on a daily basis. I hate that I wrote it, and learned a valuable lesson.

So … yeah.

My No. 1 wish for 2020

I have a wish for 2020, and it’s a simple one.

Put simply, I want people in this country to stop trying to “own” folks they disagree with.

I’m being 100-percent serious. I’m tired of Republicans trying to own Democrats. Tired of Democrats trying to own Republicans. I’m tired of hearing the president of the United States making me and my family members sound like traitors to the nation because we disagree with him. I’m tired of hearing my fellow liberals slam Joe Biden because (gasp!) he said he would consider having a running mate from the opposing party.

It’s exhausting. All of it. The outrage. The insults. The hashtags. The slamming. I’ve traveled to all but three states in this nation, and one thing I’ve discovered (truly) is—in person—we get along. That doesn’t mean we agree on every issue. Or even most issues. But in a room, with cookies and coffee (and juice for the kids) we are capable of having productive, insightful conversations about abortion and guns and college and child care and all sorts of issues. We can be polite. We can listen and say, “Look, I don’t feel you on this one. But I see where you’re coming from.”

Can we change in 2020? Unlikely. The well has been poisoned, and I’m not entirely sure how we clean it.

Personally, I believe it starts with ending Donald Trump’s presidency. And that doesn’t mean the next occupant of the Oval Office needs to be a Democrat.

It simply needs to be someone who respects the entirety of this nation.

Happy new year.

Dumb

If you have yet to read the recent letter Donald Trump wrote Nancy Pelosi, trust me and do so.

It’s terrific. Truly. Because it will make you feel extraordinarily intelligent. You’ll read it and think, “Wow, it’s true. Anyone can be president.” The document—written from the same perch occupied by Washington and Lincoln, Kennedy and Reagan—is penned at a fifthfourth-grade level, with the angry snipes of a pigeon stuck in an oil slick. It has 0 percent grace and even less elegance.

If the White House was once a sight to be accompanied by a symphony, it’s now a hovel to be accompanied by the theme to “Hee-Haw.” It’s the land of grifters and squatters and people dumb enough to think they’re sophisticated and smart enough to fool the dumb into thinking they are sophisticated. It’s a log of poop in a puddle.

Donald Trump’s letter wasn’t sleek. It wasn’t thought-provoking. It was the honking of a horn in morning traffic. It was a goose screaming at a passer-by. It was idiocy. Pure idiocy.

Read it.

This is our president.

A petition without apostrophe (or smarts)

So I’m from a small New York town, Mahopac. It was a pretty excellent place to grow up back in the 1980s. Trees. Pools. A big lake. Biking to town, buying bubble gum and a soda at Rodak’s Deli, coming home to catch fireflies in a cup or play pickup hoops in my driveway.

Ideallic.

But there was always this thing. This uncomfortable thing. And it was that Mahopac—my hometown—was sorta narrow. There were very few Jews, and even fewer African-Americans. A couple of Asian families, a couple of Persian families. But mainly white, Catholic, working class. That came with certain things. Beliefs. Expectations. A strict right v. wrong ethos that—to be honest—never really coincided with my family’s right v. wrong.

I digress.

Over the past few days, there’s been a petition going around suggesting that Mahopac High School (where I graduated in 1990) change its nickname from “Indians” to something else. Here’s the link. And, really, it’s a hard case to argue against. “Indians” just isn’t a thing any longer. They’re “Native Americans.” Or, if not “Native Americans,” the specific name of a tribe. And that’s a positive development—both in terms of historical accuracy and cultural sensitivity. Truth be told, it’s a long time coming.

But, of course, in 2019 the ignorant and sheltered among us feel more empowered than ever. Hence, there’s a follow-up petition headlined DO NOT CHANGE MAHOPACS MASCOT OR TOWN LOGO. And—because God is great—whoever started the petition doesn’t know that “MAHOPACS” requires an apostrophe. (I’ll take a stab that said person isn’t super well-versed in the history of the Native American people.)

But I digress. The anti-petition petition is a thing of beauty. Let’s count the reasons …

•••

1. If you’re going to make an argument on the value of a nickname and its relationship to a place for learning, don’t, eh, straight-up rip off a Wikipedia entry and pass it as your own

•••

2. If you’re one of the three people who decided to LIKE a post, at least make sure the post being liked: A. Uses “their” correctly; B. Uses “then” correctly; C. Doesn’t involve the image of a child who died tragically—while simultaneously saying “FU crybaby liberal.”

•••

3. Argue that “tradition matters” when you’re debating the tradition of a less-than-a-century-old school vs. the traditions of a peoples who were here looooooong before you were.

•••

4. This one I’ll just allow to speak for itself …

•••

5. My favorite argument—one that spreads across the petition—is “people need to stop being so fucking sensitive!” Um, you’ve started a petition because it’ll hurt your little butts to change the mascot of your football team. Let’s reconsider this one.

•••

6. I’ll let this one speak for itself, too.

•••

7. I’ll mention this again: At last check nearly 1,500 people took time from their busy days to sign a petition over a sports team’s nickname switch. Who’s triggered here?

•••

8. So here’s one that gets me. I can say, with great confidence, that 98 percent of the people signing this petition are either full-throated #MAGA or just Trump supporters who picked him because he wasn’t liberal. Either way, this idea that the potential changing of a mascot is somehow “losing our country”—while the sitting president has undermined both the FBI and the CIA while placing pressure on another country to dig up dirt on a political opponent while repeatedly lying about his role on 9.11 while spending 4 1/2 years insisting the sitting president of the United States was a Kenyan-born Muslim … well, um. Yeah. No.

•••

9. This actually makes a strong argument, unintentionally: Change the nickname to the Wappingers. Case closed, problem solved.

•••

10. If you don’t like the school mascot, don’t live here. Simple as that. Yes, you bought an affordable house with nice neighbors and proximity to your mother’s home in nearby Brewster. But no Indians, no Mahopac for you! Motherfucker!

•••

Anyhow, I’ve decided to take action into my own hands. Please sign my petition, giving anyone who signed the pro-Indians petition a free cookie!

God’s Got You

So my daughter Casey just texted me this image, taken of her high school locker.

The note was placed there by members of the school’s Cookies for Christ Club, which is—apparently—a real thing.

I am not happy.

But I am inspired.

I’m going to encourage my daughter and her friends to form a new club—Cookies for Christ’s Younger Gay Brother, Irv. They’ll bake cookies, place notes on lockers, talk about Christ’s younger gay brother, Irv. They can spread the word all around campus—that the lord and savior, Jesus Christ, had a younger gay brother named Irv. And that he was, well, young. And gay. And also liked cookies.

Of course, I’m guessing the members of Cookies for Christ wouldn’t feel so hot about Christ’s younger gay brother, Irv, walking campus and claiming to be Christ’s younger gay brother, Irv. But if people are willing to not only believe—but post locker notes!—about a virgin birthing an eternal-life child with a beard, well, I can believe he had a younger gay brother named Irv.

And Irv loves him some cookies.

Is there a school shooting?

Last night the daughter showed me the above image, which was making the rounds on Tik Tok.

I used the squiggle to hide our school district, but it’s a shooting threat aimed at her high school.

And here’s the crazy thing: We sorta yawned.

I mean, we asked about it. I tried calling the local police department, but then found out other parents already had done so. But were we absolutely freaking out? Were we wondering whether it’d be worth Casey staying home? Did we consider big action?

No.

Why? Because we’ve all become sorta numb to this shit. The school shootings, yes. The do-nothing response to school shootings? Yes. But also the LOOK AT ME! social media postings of kids who think it’s an absolute riot to scare old folks (like me) into freaking out. This isn’t the first time a classmate/peer of my daughter has posted some sort of I’M GONNA KILL EVERYONE message. Which is weird, because why would anyone actually post an I’M GONNA KILL EVERYONE message?

But they do.

And we nod.

And we shrug.

And we continue with our lives.

Until the day when it’s not a joke.

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