Alas, it’s me, Jeff Pearlman, typing these words.
I am not cool, not professional, not savvy. I smell a bit mildewy, I cut my own hair (poorly), my back hurts and I eat too many snacks.
But, if nothing else, I’m fairly honest.
My writing journey began in Mahopac, N.Y., a small town about an hour north of Manhattan. I started writing for The Chieftain, Mahopac High’s student newspaper, as a junior, and the following year I served as sports editor. I was a shit writer and a shit reporter, and I never kissed a girl or drank a beer, and I had a chronic nasal drip, but otherwise I was pretty spectacular at all things.
Really, what I had going for me was chutzpah. Upon arriving at the University of Delaware in the fall of 1990, I marched up to the offices of The Review, the weekly student newspaper, armed with a binder overflowing with clips from The Chieftain and my local town weekly, The Putnam Trader. Although freshmen weren’t typically allowed to write, I begged and pleaded and whined and bitched upon an editor started handing me some assignments covering the Blue Hen men’s lacrosse team. That led to more pieces, and more pieces, and more pieces—until, one day, the paper’s managing editor pulled me aside, said everyone at The Review hated my shitty attitude (it was, indeed, shitty) and wanted me banished.
I returned to my dorm room, sobbed, contemplated transferring, sobbed some more—then wrote an apologetic letter to the staff that led to my reinstatement. My journalism outlook improved dramatically in the spring of 1991, when I wrote a front-page piece, headlined DELAWARE V. DELAWARE STATE: THE SPORTS RIVALRY THAT NEVER WAS, that resulted in the First State’s two Division I colleges finally competing in athletics.
Over the next three years I rose up the masthead and covered (among other things) the Blue Hens’ first two March Madness appearances, Jimmy Carter’s visit to campus and the mystery of a guy who stole donuts from the cafeteria (we were pretty hard hitting). As a senior I was editor of The Review—and repeatedly exercised such brutal judgement that one longtime journalism professor told me I “was the worst editor in the paper’s long history.” In hindsight, he had a point.
I graduated in June 1994, and within six days was starting my career as the (Nashville) Tennessean’s food and fashion writer. I knew nothing about food and even less about fashion, but an editor liked my spunk and it was the only available slot. During my time with the newspaper I made a dizzying number of mistakes—ranging from misspellings to misidentifications to jarring lapses in judgement. Before long I was demoted to the police beat (“Jeff, focus on the facts), then shuffled off to sports, where I covered high school wrestling.
Against all odds and logic, in the winter of 1996 I was hired by Sports Illustrated to serve as a reporter (aka: fact checker). Beginning in boyhood my dream was to write for SI, and I was determined to make the most of the opportunity. I worked hard, stayed late, pitched and pitched and pitched—and within a fairly short span I was promoted to writer and covering Major League Baseball. My claim to fame came late in 1999, when I profiled a toothless Atlanta Braves pitcher named John Rocker who hated everyone. That story, headlined AT FULL BLAST, wasn’t particularly amazing. But Rocker said the things people were only allowed to utter once Donald Trump came along.
I tired of sports in 2003, took a job at Newsday (it was sweet—I roamed New York City and wrote lengthy features on interesting people), then watched as the newspaper turned into a ball of festering cat feces.
It seemed like a good time to try my hand at books.
Nearly two decades later, I’m the New York Times best-selling author of 10 books. My latest offering, THE LAST FOLK HERO: THE LIFE AND MYTH OF BO JACKSON, will be published in October by HarperCollins.
I have a wife I love and two kids who think I’m the coolest guy on the planet (this is not true). I wrote a weekly column for The Athletic, and contributed to a whole bunch of places, ranging from Bleacher Report to the Wall Street Journal to Sports Illustrated to CNN.com. I also co-host the Two Writers Slinging Yang podcast as a solo artist. I’m a habitual blogger, an addicted Tweeter. I rarely wear shoes, there’s a palm tree in my backyard and HBO created a TV show, “Winning Time,” based upon one of my books. I could complain about my receding hairline, my expanding gut, my crappy jump shot.
But I am blessed to have this career.
So thank you for reading my work.
Born and raised: The mean streets of Mahopac, N.Y.
College: University of Delaware.
Wife: The stupendous Catherine Pearlman.
Kids: Casey, Emmett, Enrique, Mel, John, John II, Steve, Edward, Bobby, Malik, Yoba.
Highest moment (not included cliched stuff like wedding, arrival of kids): My wife donating her kidney to a stranger. Full story here.
Lowest moment: Sitting in my NYC apartment in 1999 and being told my Grandma Marta was dead.
Five favorite musical artists: Hall and Oates. Tupac. A Tribe Called Quest. Blind Melon. MC White Owl.
Five favorite athletes: Ken Griffey, Sr., Garry Templeton, J.R. Richard, Wesley Walker, Ken O’Brien.
Greatest Athletic Achievement: Walking on to the University of Delaware track and cross country teams.
Lowest Athletic Non-Achievement: Placing last in the mile at the East Coast Conference indoor track and field championships, 1991.
Favorite writing spot: Anywhere with hot drinks, wood tables, outlets and some mojo.
Favorite word: Serendipity.
The things I love the most …: My family, writing, playing hoops.
The things I hate the most …: iPhones, loud iPhone talkers, loud iPhone talkers in coffee shops.