Letters

img_3580

With some obvious exceptions, one never knows which columns will result in myriad letters, which will result in nil. During my time writing weekly pieces for, first, ESPN.com and now SI.com, there have been countless times when I knew—just knew—something I wrote would lead to hundreds of letters in the ol’ IN box … only to receive two or three. Other times, I’ve written seemingly blah pieces that generate hundreds. Again, one never knows.

For example, this past Friday my SI.com column concerned Paula Abdul and Michael Crabtree. I thought it was solid … good … OK … fine … whatever. Being 100-percent honest, wasn’t sure what I’d write about that morning. I was on Cape Cod with the family, sorta out of the sports loop. Considered doing something on the splendor of Cape League baseball. Then changed my mind and decided I’d write an essay on the relationship between MLB and Topps. Finally, while sitting in a coffee shop, staring down a blank screen, I thought, “Man, this Michael Crabtree holdout is senseless.” So that’s what I wrote, and—BAM!—approximately 150 e-mails, 98% positive. I was shocked. Beyond shocked.

Anyhow, I was discussing this with L. Jon Wertheim, my friend and former SI colleague (I actually met my wife Catherine at Jon’s wedding. Catherine and Ellie, Jon’s wife, are best chums dating back to high school). Jon is one of the truly excellent people in the business—one of those rare folk who no one speaks ill of. I asked Jon, “What do you do when you get a lot of reader e-mails?” and he said, matter-of-fact-like, “Unless they’re especially rude, I write them back.”

I told him that I do the same. Which should strike absolutely no one as a big deal … save for the fact that far too few sports writers follow this path. I know I’m babbling here, but I don’t get it. If someone writes you a letter … says, “I loved your column—thanks for writing it,” how do you not fire back a quick THANK YOU? Yet time and time and time again, upon responding to someone’s note, I get, “Wow! I’ve never had a writer write back to me.” Pathetic. I don’t care if one receives three e-mails or 300 e-mails—you write back. You always write back. Perhaps you merely cut and paste a thank you message. Perhaps you get more detailed. But to not acknowledge readers (the people keeping this business afloat) is unforgivable.

Speaking of such, I have often debated with Jon (and others) how to react to the e-mails reading something along the lines of, YOU SUCK HAIRY DOG ANUS AND SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED TO PICK UP A PAYCHECK AGAIN, YOU SACK OF $#@@!!!!

I have determined that there are four ways to respond:

A.

Dear Jim:

Thanks you for the kind e-mail. I truly appreciate your inspiring words, and am thrilled my column impacted you in such a way. Have a blessed weekend.

Sincerely,

Jeff Pearlman

•

B.

Dear Jim:

Out of sheer curiosity, what would make someone write such a vile e-mail? We have never before met. You certainly don’t know me. I try my best, and it’s unfortunate you didn’t enjoy the column. But, really, why write with such anger? It’s only sports. (Please respond. I’m curious).

Sincerely,

Jeff Pearlman

•

C.

Dear Jim:

Suck my d%$#.

Sincerely,

Jeff Pearlman

•

D.

Dear Jim:

I received your e-mail today, and wish I could respond in greater detail. However, I am writing you from the hospital, where my beloved grandmother is on her final breath. They removed most of the tubes this morning, and we are here to help her pass on with dignity and, most important, love. It has been a terrible time for the family, as you can imagine. She is a wonderful woman who pretty much raised my siblings and I.

Anyhow, I briefly paused to check my e-mail, and read your note. I’ll try and respond after everything with Grandma clears up.

God bless,

Jeff Pearlman

•••

I’ve done, in varying forms, A, B, and C. But never D. I’m always tempted to try, but I would hate to jinx myself. I have no living grandparents, so it’s probably safe. Maybe next time …

6 thoughts on “Letters”

  1. I have gotten some bad ones. Most of the time, when I respond, they are so surprised that I am human… they come back with something nice. However, I’ve also had ones look up my workplace and phone number and post that info on message boards… god bless ’em.

  2. Seeing as though I never get ANY mail. It’s not of concern for me. However, if I did receive something, I would probably send cupcakes to the nice mailers. And the not-so-nice mailers would get a lemon snow cone.

  3. As a mailer I am always surprised and thrilled to get a response. Is that the same Jon Wertheim that covers tennis for SI? I am always busting his chops for his usual Williams digs. He ignores most of them

  4. I ALMOST always write back too. Unless they use ethnic slurs. Then, I don’t feel obligated to write back, but if I do, it’s usually something that demonstrates that fool, I get PAID to work with words and if it’s a battle of words, you really don’t want to fight with me because 9 times out of 10, I’m going to beat the snot out of you.

    Columnist and mentor Leonard Pitts gave me my best retort to readers who are beyond angry at words. on. a. screen. (Never have understood how words can make people so vile and mean): Why do you think it is that my opinion matters so much to you and yours matters so little to me?

    Oh, death threats. I don’t reply to those either.

    Oddly, most of the nastiest e-mails also contain the worst grammar/spelling. When I’m in a particularly petty mood, I’ll say – I think you meant they’re, not there, and I’m pretty sure you meant to write liar, not lyar, but I’ve learned how to decipher really horrible grammar and spelling so I think I’ve gathered the gist of the point you were trying to make.

Leave a Reply