JEFF PEARLMAN

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

Matt Caputo and Tim Gunn

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Tim Gunn is a advisor to the contestants on Project Runway. My wife, who absolutely loves that show, acts as if Gunn is one of the great men of our time. Somewhat recently she uttered to me, “Tim Gunn said something that sounds simple, but it’s really worth living by.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“When in doubt,” Catherine said, “always take the high road.”

At the time, it seemed too simplistic to even note. Like, duh, of course we should take the high road. But for some reason the words have stuck with me. I think about it often, and have had Gunn enter my head during certain mini-junctures of my life. Maybe Catherine’s right—maybe Tim Gunn does personify a certain greatness.

I bring this up because, earlier today, I failed to meet Gunn’s standards. I wrote a post about Slam Magazine, and sort of dogged a story written by a young writer named Matt Caputo, pride of SUNY Purchase. At the time I didn’t think it was a big deal, but Matt was hurt. Actually, it seems, more than hurt. Wounded. We exchanged some angry e-mails, he lanced me on Twitter. The whole thing was stupid. And ugly. And dumb.

And, sigh, my fault.

Taking the high road is hard. R-e-a-l-l-y hard. I work in a business where you are called upon to be critical. Of athletes. Of coaches. Of GMs. And, sometimes, of writers and broadcasters. I’ve done it quite often (some would say waaay too often), and on certain occassions I come to regret my words. This is one of them.

Matt is a strong writer and, by multiple accounts, a good dude. It also turns out that the thing I criticized him for wasn’t actually his fault. So I would like to use this post to apologize to him.

I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, though it may. Too often, I think I fail to understand my voice. I don’t mean to imply—in any way, shape or form—that I am important or powerful or impactful. But I remember coming up myself, much as Matt Caputo is right now, and looking up to guys like Steve Rushin and Rick Reilly and Leigh Montville and Tim Layden. To me, these men were larger than life—they’d written for Sports Illustrated; they had best-selling books; etc. They were my heroes, and had they ripped my work publicly, well, I would have been crestfallen.

Again, I’m not saying I’m Rushin or Reilly or Montville or Layden. But I’m also not naive enough to pretend I haven’t had some success in this game, and that there are probably younger writers who look at my career and, perhaps, think, “That guy’s where I’d like to be.” (Note: You can have my dog right now). But, because I am a bonehead, I don’t usually consider such a perception. I don’t take enough responsibility for the weight of the words on this blog, and I too often forget that, when I throw a dart, it can stick.

Rip away. I deserve it.