JEFF PEARLMAN

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

“I want to write a book …”

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A couple of months ago, I received an advance copy of a sports book.

It was sent via mail, with an attached letter that used the word, “definitive” to describe the enclosed work. I started reading, read a little more, a little more—then turned to the acknowledgments section, where the author listed all the people he interviewed.

Total number: 63.

I was sitting in bed with the wife, and I looked at her, shaking my head. “This guy interviewed 63 people,” I said. “To write about a person in his 50s.”

As I write this blog post, I’m sort of losing my mind. I’m in the early stages of a new book project, and I’ve just finished going through my 18th sports media guide (see above photo), page by page, person by person. On my laptop, I have created a Word file for each listed player, coach, administrator—probably about 480 in total. After making the document, I try and locate the individual. Via Facebook, Twitter, Google, whatever. One by one by one. I have a couple of more media guides to go, and then I’ll take the next step—calling each person. Again, one by one by one. Not just the stars. Not just the veterans. Everyone. Free agents in camp for two days. Undrafted rookies.

It is slow.

It is annoying.

It is mind-numbing and spirit-sucking and, easily, my least-favorite part of the book process.

It’s also 100-percent necessary.

Back when I was young and dumb and ridiculously cocky, my goal was to become the best sports writer in America. Ultimately, I learned two important lessons: 1. There is no such thing; 2. If there is such a thing, I’m not it. What I can do, however, is outwork everyone; is make every extra call; track down all possible people; seek out nuggets and bits and shards of never-before-learned information. That, I continue to believe, is the great equalizer. Drive. Hard work. Doggedness.

I’ve had this chat with Jonathan Eig, my brother in books and obsessiveness. He’s one of the best around, and the reason is simple: He works it, and works it, and works it. So many people say, “I have a great book idea!” or “I want to write a book!”, and while I encourage folks to pursue what can be a truly rewarding experience, I also wonder if they believe it to be easy work (Think, write, submit).

Well, it’s not. At least not for me.

Now I need a drink …