Jeff Pearlman

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Not recognizing yourself

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When I write books, I don’t have all that much interest in interviewing the person I’m featuring. Roger Clemens didn’t speak with me for The Rocket That Fell to Earth—and I didn’t fret. Barry Bonds didn’t speak with me for Love Me, Hate Me—and I didn’t fret, either. As far as I can tell, people have warped views of themselves. We often see ourselves in the best possible lights. We talk trash about others, and we assume nobody could possibly be doing the same about us.

I bring this up because, a few minutes ago, I went on sportsjournalists.com (a site I enjoy for the industry buzz) and read this, RE: my Lupica post:

Two questions:
When is the last time anyone here bashed Lupica? It seems we’ve just ignored him for the past year or so.
Is this what you call the pot calling the kettle black? I mean, Pearlman calling out anyone for arrogance is fucking hysterical to me.

I admit, my skin is thin. Too thin, without any question. But this sort of stuff hurts—especially from peers. I handle writing criticisms pretty well. Whether I like them or not, they’re fair game, especially if I’m gonna rip athletes for their performances. But I’m a little stung whenever I read this kind of thing. I’m the first to admit that, back in my Tennessean and Sports Illustrated days, I was waaaay too cocky. I look back with tremendous humiliation. I actually thought being a writer gave me the right to strut; that a picture in the newspaper or a byline in a magazine had any real-world bearing. Of all the things I’ve experienced in my career, the best came in 1995, when Catherine Mayhew, a Tennessean managing editor, demoted me to the late-nights cops beat and said, “Learn to get things right.” It was a slap in the face—much needed.

But, as with most people, time brings perspective. As I sit here in Cosi, sipping from an iced coffee, writing for a living, I have much more respect and admiration for the 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds making $6.50 per hour, putting themselves through college, busting their asses, than I do for my daily endeavors. Sportswriting is fun and joyful and, occasionally, important. But the lasting impact is, at best, minimal. Fifty years from now, nobody’s reading my books or looking back at my articles. I’m well aware of that. With rare exception, we’ll all be forgotten with time. That’s OK, I reckon.

I’m babbling, because I’m a bit hurt. Do I have an ego? Sure. I still enjoy seeing my byline; still like seeing my books on shelves; etc … etc. I probably Google my name too often, and I long for the day when I’m walking on a beach and I spot someone with something I’ve written. What can I say? I’m human.

If I’ve been arrogant or dismissive to anyone reading this blog, I truly apologize. Maybe, in the act of jabbing Mike Lupica, I’ve actually become Mike Lupica.

If so, it’s not the way I want to live. I took the Lupica post down.

  • Staggering honesty. I appreciate it.

  • Preparation H

    http://www.thesportsdesk.org is the place to be.

    Enjoyed the candidness. Great bit about your M.E. demoting your arse to cops beat to get it right.

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