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

An odd moment


Today something truly odd happened.

I was with my two kids at the Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y. We were sitting at a table in a store called RobotGalaxy—sort of the R2D2 answer to Build A Bear. A guy walks up to me and says, “Are you Jeff Pearlman?”

I looked him over a second—didn’t know the face. “I am,” said.

“Oh,” he replied. “I thought so. I recognize you from your column.”

I was taken aback. Sixteen years of writing, and I’d never been recognized. Ever. Then, without thought, I uttered something I truly regret. “Wow,” I said, “that’s scary.”

I didn’t mean to offend the man, and I didn’t mean scary in the you’re-going-to-stalk-my-house sort of way. I found it scary because, well, who would ever recognize someone like myself in a mall chock full o’ people? I’m not distinctive looking, not especially well-known, and I wasn’t wearing anything that said my name (why would I, unless I were working at a store?) or Sports Illustrated.

I suppose there was a moment of ego—Wow, someone recognized me! But it lasted for two seconds. Then I was primarily dumbfounded. Odd, someone recognized … me?

Now that I’m sitting here, jotting away, it actually reminds me of twhree other quasi-fame moments. Once, on an airplane, a flight attendant saw my name on a passenger list and said, “Are you the Jeff Pearlman who writes for Sports Illustrated?” That was cool. Then, roughly four months ago, I was involved in a very serious car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. I was headed up from Newark Airport, and it was dark and raining very hard. I lost control of my Mazda, spun twice across three lanes and slammed into a wall. The vehicle was totaled, but I was merely dazed. As I sat at the side of the road, the cold rain pouring down, a police officer asked for my license. “Hey,” he said, “did you write The Bad Guys Won?” At that moment—my car destroyed, my head spinning—the words somehow served as a momentary Band-Aid.

My favorite so-called moment, however, came in 2000, a bunch of months after the John Rocker story came out in Sports Illustrated. I was in Minneapolis for a Twins series, and took the shuttle bus from the airport terminal to the Avis lot. The driver of the bus saw my last name and said, “I hope you’re not the Pearlman who screwed John Rocker?” I didn’t say anything, and he proceeded to go on a rant—that guy Pearlman is a jerk; that guy Pearlman deserves to be fired; etc … etc. As I was leaving the bus I thanked him for the ride and slipped him one of my business cards.

I was about 10 seconds off the bus when he yelled, “It was nice meeting you, Jeff!”