Mike was—to evoke my inner-Pulp Fiction—a bad-ass motherfucker; the Bobby Knight of magazine editors. I say this somewhat endearingly, somewhat hostilely. He was a very gruff, very tough, very crude man, who seemed to take great occasional pleasure in scaring the shit out of young writers. If you were, oh, Tom Verducci or Steve Rushin, Mike pretty much left you alone (rightly so). If you were 22 and new and a bit shaky, he could banish you to the doghouse for life. We had one writer, for example—a kid named Jamal Greene, who had a chance to be outstanding. Mike, however, never seemed to think Jamal had what it took to be an SI writer, and ignored him (today, Jamal is a Columbia law professor. I’m thinking he could have handled Brewers-Cubs).
Anyhow, I actually sort of enjoyed Mike. I think he liked me, and he was a general supporter of my rise through the SI ranks. He’d scream, I’d scream back, he’d scream again, I’d scream back. If you weren’t afraid of Mike, he sorta kinda maybe respected you. At least a bit.
That said, Mike was responsible for, without question, the lowest moment of my SI career. In the summer of 2000, I headed out to San Francisco to profile Bonds, who was in the midst of a monstrous season. Barry had not spoken to SI since Richard Hoffer famously (and rightly) brutalized him in a 1993 profile, but the ballplayer and I had a mutual friend who put in a good word on my behalf. I wound up getting some quality sit-down time with the slugger. He was, as always, moody and annoying and a pain, but our 50-minute (or so) talk was high quality. I even walked away sorta liking the guy.
That night, I wrote the profile. I was up until dawn, crafting, diagramming, typing, typing, typing. I probably sent the piece in at 4 am, slept for two hours, then jumped in a cab to head for the airport and, ultimately, my return trip home.
I was half asleep in the back seat when my cell phone rang. The number was 212-522-1212—Sports Illustrated. Surely, I assumed, they were calling to congratulate me on snagging an interview with the elusive superstar.
It was Bevans.
“Pearlman, are you fucking kidding me with this shit?”
“What do you mean?”
“If we wanted to give Barry Bonds a blowjob, we could have just brought him to the streets of New York.”