JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Does nasty mail hurt?

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Jeff Pearlman needs to stop writing PERIOD! That includes articles, books, grocery lists, you name it! I never read one thing he’s evern written that was worth a bucket of spit!

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Over the course of my career, I’ve often had people say, “I don’t know how you deal with the angry letters—I certainly couldn’t.”

Indeed, in the 15 years since graduating Delaware, I’ve received a ton of so-called Hate Mail. I’m certainly not unique—most anyone in this business has experienced the same sort of thing. I believe my first professional hate letter came in the summer of 1993, when I interned at The Tennessean in Nashville prior to my senior year of college. The paper had allowed me to write a column, so I did one on how New Yorkers don’t understand what southerners are talking about. It was pretty silly and sort of offensive and poorly written. Anyhow, a secretary said, “Jeff, you’ve got a letter.” And there it was—a postcard with a heart stamp on one side and GO BACK TO NEW YORK, YANKEE JEW BOY FAGGOT on the other.

That was a harsh introduction to life as a writer. Through the years I’ve received angry letters of all sorts—anti-Semitic, racist, personal, ridiculous. John Rocker’s mother compared me to Jesus Christ, a Pirates fans recently called me “an ass**** d***wad,” a University of Delaware cross country runner (I had been on the team years before) called me “a disgrace to the school.”

So, does hate mail hurt? In a word: Yes.

Not that I cry over it. I don’t. But it never feels good hearing you’re a dolt, a moron, an anus. The worst, to be honest, is when people say you’re not a good writer. It’s a silly thing to be stung by, because I’ve lived my dream career, and I believe in my books, and an angry note shouldn’t scar that. But, still, I’m not a robot. I try and write with a lot of passion and heart. Gary Smith, my old SI colleague, once said that every word should have meaning, and I subscribe to that viewpoint (not always on the blog, to be honest, which I view as more vent diary than anything else). When I write a book, i read that thing, oh, 200 times before it leaves my hands the final time. When I write a column, I go over it and over it and over it and over it again. Mistakes are inevitable, and surely there are pieces I’d love to take back. But they all have meaning … all mean something to me.

I’m babbling. Fire away. Call me every nasty word in the book.

But whether you’re yelling at writers or athletes or garbage men or actors, it never feels good.