Gertavian Blake

So here’s one that’s even taken me by surprise.

Three months ago I wrote a column on the Clippers hiring Vinny Del Negro to coach the team. Here’s the link. In it, I made a joke about the Clips—being the Clips—using their first-round pick in the next draft to select Gertavian Blake, a center from Jackson State. His was a random name I stumbled across and liked. Blake looks to be your average college big man. In the past, I’ve used other random athletes to fill holes/make points in columns, and, oh, 90% of the time I receive a giddy e-mail, thanking me for the second of fame.

Apparently, Gertavian Blake wasn’t happy. Or his friends weren’t happy. Or both.

Over the past couple of days I’ve received three of four e-mails from Gertavian Blake supporters, saying he’s a wonderful kid and I messed with the wrong guy and on and on. I am dumbfounded, because it was supposed to be tongue in cheek. Nothing more.

So, seriously, read the column. Am I off on this one? Maybe I am …

PS: Here’s the most recent Gertavian-related letter:

Hello Mr. Pearlman,

I read your article of satire of the L.A. Clippers. Whichever teams you like or dislike are truly a matter of your journalistic view.  As a fellow journalist, I found the article to lack true substance, nonetheless, the ridicule of Gertavian Blake (a young man who I know personally) at best, to be distasteful.  In Jacksonville, we cherish young men like Blake who are doing something positive with their life.  I am not sure how your Delaware community was where you grew up, but this shows the true disconnect in satire.  Most may relish in reading your article and take it to just be a distasteful joke. I can see how this would be quite common practice in the world of “public figures”. But to discredit a young man who’s integrity and intelligence obviously exceeds yours, just doesn’t seem too professional to me.

I must extend my apologies for the personal attack, however, when a young man’s name just “pops” into your head, it seems all too wrong. It is quite possible that had you never mentioned Blake’s name, and mentioned the name of some other young man, we may have never had this interaction. So to you I must say “thank you”, for making me aware of how often this type of discriminatory acts continue to be common place within the world of journalism. There was a time when the art of journalism sought to inform and uplift – but those must have been the days you skipped that class – so I guess I’ll just have to give you a pass.

I know you will continue to do whatever you want, but I felt it necessary to let you know that I support this young man 100% – just for being who he is, and not who you think he ought to be.  Kind of like I think you aren’t a great writer – but in the same manner, who really cares, right? The only thing you have is a forum in which you make your expressions. I hope you will choose to use this forum for good in the future .  Take shots at Bonds or the Rocket or the Cowboys, or whoever else you so choose. But leave out the innocent, who have yet to begin to make a mark in this world.  If you truly wanted to help this young man, you could contribute a scholarship in his honor to his school or community.  But you probably don’t think positive like that.  Making fun of innocent young men – Really?


PS. Feel free to pass this message on to any other writers you feel could use a refresher course in journalist etiquette.

13 thoughts on “Gertavian Blake”

  1. LMAO… Great article, didn’t see it until now.

    It’s a shame him or his camp are getting their panties in a bunch over this. I guess a sense of humor ran dry in their families as well as Basketball knowledge.

  2. I do understand the joke here but maybe you didn’t have to use the exact name of an active college player. I would understand them being angry and not seeing the humor of it.

  3. I get the point that you didn’t have to pick on the random kid – especially if it’s because of his name, which is beyond his control and which could, actually, be somewhat minimally considered discriminatory. But the reality is that he’s a college player, which means he signed on to be a public figure to a degree. With that comes an expectation of at least some level of recognition, perhaps by an SI writer named Jeffrey Gertavian Pearlman. Also, the dude can have a sense of humor.

    Also, does he not realize that you had at one time been mentioned as a potential NBA draft pick (leaving out, of course, that you were the one mentioning it)?

  4. Yeah, it was kind of mean to use the kid’s name as a punch line to your joke. A made up name would have left the piece’s humor intact.

    It’s easy to say that someone shouldn’t take offense at something, but if empathy is really an important part of your life (as you claim in your next blog post), than surely you undestand the difference between holding stars accountable and taking shots for sport.

  5. Actually, I revise my earlier comment. Sean’s right. If you looked in a random SI issue when you were 20 and saw that someone made fun of Jeff Pearlman just because he thought it was a random, silly name, you’d be downright pissed. You’d feel like someone treated you as if you were insignificant. So while I don’t think that you should start a scholarship and while Mr. Blake could certainly have laughed it off, perhaps an apology is in order after all.

  6. Eh, I wouldn’t have used an actual college player’s name, but the kid should have a sense of humor and appreciate having his name mentioned at all by Sports Illustrated.

    How many people now know who he is because of your reference?

    Just maybe the Clippers will draft him. Then, he can create a scholarship in your name.

  7. I think whenever someone criticizes you it is worthwhile to sit down and think if there is any truth to it. As the saying goes “perception is reality”. So if people perceive that you are running your mouth off in a column, than maybe you are. I’m not saying you are, just something to think about. Its better than being dumbfounded when someone gets offended at something you say, because if you dish it then you need to take it.

  8. The kid should be extatic with the guaranteed money, then put his head down and work…

    If he didn’t like the comments, production is the way he should answer.

  9. Nate: that kind of attitude presumes that most people aren’t idiots.

    Unfortunately, most people *are* idiots. “Perception is reality” only applies if you wish to cede approval of your life to idiots.

    Jeff is actually much kinder that I would be. If I’d written that column and gotten the letter that Jeff quotes above, my response would be, “Reading Comprehension 101. Please look into it.”

  10. I am the sender of this email.

    Although harsh, I think the true intent of the email was made, in that it will hopefully make us all think before we speak – especially in a public forum.

    Unfortunately, Jeff did not attach the private emails sent that included his apology for misrepresenting the young man, nor the private email that I sent apologizing for my harsh reaction.

    Nonetheless, just as Jeff had every right to express his opionion about a young man he admitted he really didn’t know, I think myself and others should also have the freedom to express our discontent (with or without the young man’s knowledge of the situation/article).

    I agree with Nate Jeff, don’t dish it if you can not take it. Technically, your article could have had the same affect using a fictitious name. Just as I have no control over the way you express yourself, you have no control over the way I perceive things.

    I disagree with Frank D. You can have an opinion and find something funny, but then the family is an “idiot” when they are offended?

    Again, just as was stated in my “private” email to you, “I am sorry if you were offended by my reaction”. I will indeed take a moment to self-reflect. Hopefully, you and others will do the same.

    PS. Thanks for the constructive banter over the last week. I have used this to help others in their interaction with the media.

  11. great article that was the first time his name had been mentionon the web besides on his self made highlight tape on you tube. He should be happy im sure he didnt complain LOL. Now he is an assistant coach at Richland High School were his girlfriend teaches english and just had his twins lol i guess theres no NBA for him

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