The best thing. Ever.

So the other day my daughter Casey was looking to make a purchase on eBay. She was using my computer, and upon completion I said, “Let’s see how much my books are selling for here.”

I typed in my name, and wound up here. As expected, some of my stuff can be had for $4.09, some can be had for … good God, what?!?!?!

A digression, but do not—under any circumstances—pay $51.97 for my Clemens book. Or $5.97, for that matter.

Anyhow, I noticed that one autographed book was available, which made me curious. When did I sign it? Where did I sign it? How long ago did I sign it?

It turns out the offering in question was “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Anti-Hero.”

And it was autographed to a good friend.

Now, one might think this cause for bruised feelings. Nope. Just the opposite. I laughed my ass off, then showed the wife—who laughed her ass off. Books are great, and signed books are often greater—but far too often we feel guilted into keeping them around, for the mere sake of keeping them around.

My signature has no value.

But a good laugh—priceless.

The Cam Newton kid

In case you missed this, a few days ago Cam Newton appeared at the NFA 7v7 East Regional held at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s a football tournament, and the former NFL MVP’s foundation sponsors some of the participating teams.

In other words, Newton was involved because he wanted to help, and be of service, and be decent to young boys involved in the sport he loves.

Which makes this so fucking infuriating …

I am father of two kids—and if either one talked to an adult the way this teenager spoke to Newton … man, oh man.

Phone—gone.

Social media—gone.

Any sort of allowance—gone.

Every effort to apologize in person to Cam Newton—enforced.

I’m not kidding. Just watching the clip, I found myself overcome by anger. It doesn’t matter if Newton is an all-time great quarterback (which he is) or a dentist or a garbage collector or an accountant or a sports writer—there’s just no excuse for speaking to him with such blatant derision and disrespect. And I wonder, truly: Where does that come from? How does a young person see Cam Newton at a football camp he’s helping to fund … and think, “You know what I should do? Insult him in front of my peers and have it explode across social media. That’ll be great.”

Again, it’s infuriating.

I haven’t seen the kid identified, and that’s a good thing: He’s young, he’s full of adolescent goop, he’s probably (I’d hope) a bit ashamed.

But there’s no excuse here.

It was terribly wrong.

Johnny Damon

In case you missed this, Johnny Damon was arrested yesterday for drunk driving. The details are here.

Portions of social media took great delight in the news, especially two details: A. Damon’s blood alcohol level was allegedly .30, which is insanely high; B. Damon’s wife was also arrested and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence.

It hardly helps Damon’s (public) case that he was a hard-core MAGA guy who was vocally all in on Donald Trump.

But here’s the thing …

I take no joy in Johnny Damon’s arrest. I am not happy looking at his pathetic mug shot; at the receding hairline, the thatches of gray, the neck lines. I’m not happy with any of it.

Why? Because guys like Johnny Damon made deals with the devil. They didn’t know it at the time, but they did. Basically, the contract read like this:

You will be gifted with an ability to hit a round object with a wood stick. You will be gifted with the ability to run swiftly around four planted objects. As a result of this ability, you will achieve tremendous fame. You will have lots of sex with gorgeous women. You will make millions of dollars.

But, when it ends—it ends hard.

Johnny Damon’s last Major League game was played nine years ago, when he hit .222 in limited time with Cleveland. Since then, he’s done … little. A lot of golf. A ton of public appearances and speeches. More golf. Then more golf. And … more golf. He’s surely recognized every day (“Hey, I was at that game in …”) and simultaneously reminded every day that he’s now Superman without the cape, Batman without the car, a lifetime .284 hitter who, were he given 500 Major League at-bats right now, would probably chime in at about .120.

I’m not saying he deserves a ton of sympathy, but being an ex-athlete is (unless you’re prepared—and probably one in 100 are truly prepared) an awful existence—far worse than most people seem to understand. You spend your days frozen in the past, both by the fans who remember you 50 pounds lighter and by yourself, dreaming of sunny afternoons at Fenway Park, when your days were planned and your future seemed limitless.

Alas, the devil always collects.

As he has with Johnny Damon.

A letter from Snowflake

In the wake of Ted Cruz’s controversial decision to leave the frozen tundra of Texas for a Cancun getaway, his poodle Snowflake asked to write a guest post for jeffpearlman.com.

Here’s Snowflake …

Listen up, bitches.

I’ve been hearing a lot of shit talk about my owner, beard wolf guy, and his ugly-ass woman wife who hired the illegal immigrant to speak habla espanol to me and pick up my fudgie doodies in a plastic bag. And I understand, because he’s annoying and smelly and always watching Jared Kushner-Gary Coleman porn after 11. But here’s what y’all don’t understand: beard wolf guy has the biggest heart. He wasn’t going to Cancun to escape the cold. He was going to find the warmth. And while I was saddened to see the news that he abandoned me, Snowflake, home all alone, it’s not true. Not at all!

Before leaving, I heard him on the phone device, telling the illegal immigrant to speak more habla espanol with me and walk me every other morning and turn the thermostat up to 30. He also ordered her to vacuum under the couch and don’t dare touch his Ding Dongs (This part confused me).

Like I said, beard wolf guy has the biggest heart. I’ve seen him bargain down the price of Girl Scout cookies. I’ve seen him pretend to know the name of a baseball player. Once, when he wasn’t home, I peed on the bed he doesn’t share with his wife. He looked mad, and then told me that when he becomes big president of the United States, he’d lock me in the White House basement with the ghost of Lincoln. I was sad. But then he laughed. Or sneezed. Maybe sneezed.

In conclusion, I love the beard wolf guy. And I’d like all of you to love him too. Tonight, when you hit your (very cold, icy) knees, please ask God to love him.

1 … 2 … 3 … Cancun!

In case you missed it earlier this evening Ted Cruz was spotted on a flight to Cancun.

Normally, this wouldn’t be much of a big deal. After trying to overthrow democracy, one must be exhausted. So—Cancun! Pools! Beaches! Makes perfect sense.

But, at the same time Cruz was finding his seat, the people of Texas were experiencing a legitimate state of emergency—tundra-like conditions, massive power outages, nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help. And considering Ted Cruz was elected to the U.S. Senate by the people of (wait for it) Texas, you’d think he’d deem it wise to stick around and help come up with a solution.

But … nope. Not Ted. As we speak, Ted is at some resort, temperatures in the high 70s, wondering whether to order the non-alcoholic pina colada or splurge and down a Zima.

Here’s the worst part: This isn’t a surprise. If there’s one thing we’ve seen over the past bunch of years, it’s that he highest-level Republican office holders think their followers to be dolts (probably because their followers are dolts). Donald Trump can make millions by being president—none of the MAGAs blink. Ted Cruz can abandon his peeps for a getaway—none of the MAGA’s blink.

It’s special.

Rush Limbaugh is dead

Rush Limbaugh is dead, and according to social media I’m supposed to be happy.

Limbaugh was, at best, poison. A Rolling Stone piece posted earlier today was headlined RUSH LIMBAUGH DID HIS BEST TO RUIN AMERICA, and i don’t entirely disagree. Limbaugh was largely responsible for turning political disagreement into vile hate; into transforming “a guy whose opinions I don’t share” into “he wants to destroy our country.” Limbaugh was a vile man whose utterings on gays, blacks, foreigners, women, democrats … well, they were disgusting and gross and viciously impactful. People listened.

Millions of people listened.

But here’s the thing: I’m not celebrating Rush Limbaugh’s death. Nope. I’m actually devoting any of today’s Rush-related energies to trying to figure out how, exactly, this happened. How Rush became Rush and his brain (and heart) were overtaken by the impulses to attack, belittle, injure.

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Limbaugh worked as the Kansas City Royals’ director of promotions. And he was, by myriad accounts, really nice, really agreeable and really good at his job. He was embraced by the franchise, and those who worked for the franchise—of all colors, of all nationalities. The back-in-the-day Limbaugh had a pep in his step; an instant warmth that radiated. And I’m not just spewing nonsense—over the course of researching a Bo Jackson book (my current project), Rush’s name has come up quite a bit. Always positively.

But the dream, apparently, was radio. Conservative radio, in support of his hero. Ronald Reagan. Which is fine. Four decades ago, it was this sorta mushy landscape where people spoke in sane tones, in reasoned sentences, in the way two normal humans dialogued when they disagreed agreeably.

What happened next—I have no idea.

Rush became RUSH. Larger-than-life. LOUD and BOLD and ANGRY and (worst of all) POPULAR. He spewed hate, and believed what he was saying. He fed off the anger, the disdain, the fire. And if some of his words weren’t true? Well, hey. It’s entertainment. Just entertainment.

I’m not happy Rush Limbaugh died. I’m more curious.

Why did this happen?

It’s all such bullshit

RIP

In case you missed this, a couple of days ago Vincent Jackson, former star wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was found dead inside his room at the Homewood Suites in Brandon, Florida.

Jackson was 38; a three-time Pro Bowler who last stepped onto the field almost five years ago. And while much remains unknown in regards to the cause of death, Jackson seemed to be struggling. His family had reported him missing, and he originally checked into the Homewood Suites on Jan. 11—more than a month before his passing.

Earlier today Ryan Leaf, former Charger quarterback, posted this—a sentiment that largely mirrored how I’ve felt since the news was first reported.

Or, to put it differently: Nobody in the NFL seems to give a shit.

Nobody.

Seems.

To.

Give.

A.

Shit.

Oh, they pretend to.

The Chargers Tweeted out this statement, likely written by the PR intern (who didn’t know Vincent Jackson) …

And the Buccaneers Tweeted out this statement, likely written (for the owner) by the PR intern (who didn’t know Vincent Jackson) …

But the hard reality is, the NFL doesn’t care about its former players. It talks a good game, it brags, it boasts—but it also leaves these men battered, broken, confused, lost, aimless and—often—penniless. It has shown little true regard for helping African-Americans join the coaching ranks, and its much-needed after-you’re-done-playing programs barely exist. As for paying retirees who struggle with CTE? The NFL does everything it can not to pay. Always. Repeatedly. Without a sliver of compassion.

If we’re keeping this real, the moment Vincent Jackson exited the game he lost 90 percent (minimum) of his identity. He was no longer No. 83, dashing down the field, hurdling would-be tacklers, helmet glistening in the sun, 60,000 fans screaming, autograph seekers stalking, meals paid for, women aplenty.

Nope—without the helmet and pads, and with a common name, you suddenly find yourself invisible and painfully obsolete. You have no real-world experience to offer. Your back is killing you. Your knees are killing you. You struggle to remember names and dates. The mansion you bought is starting to crumble. Someone else has been given No. 83.

You’re nothing.

And the NFL knows it.

Balls.

Kinzinger: Guts.

Just read a very interesting piece in the New York Times about Adam Kinzinger, the Illinois Republican congressman who is catching all sorts of shit for supporting the impeachment of Donald Trump.

He was lambasted by relatives.

He was lambasted by people like Larry Smith, chairman of the La Salle County G.O.P., which censured him last month.

He was lambasted by Donald Trump.

Why?

Because, despite knowing the vomit he would take, Kinzinger opted to vote with his conscience.

That’s a rare thing these days. And, in particular, a rare thing in the GOP.

Back when I was growing up, the Republican Party modeled itself upon the ideal of being rugged and rough and standing up to the bully. It was Ronald Reagan, rescuing the hostages from Iran. It was Ronald Reagan, demanding the Berlin Wall be torn down. It was Ronald Reagan, saying communism was an evil enemy. And though one might argue much of that was style over substance, well, it resonated. Republicans loved Reagan because he didn’t take any shit. He stood for something. He was, in their eyes, manhood. Machismo.

Nowadays, however, to be an accepted Republican means to kneel before a lifelong conman whose record of swindling the masses can be traced from Queens housing developments to a spring football league to shady New Jersey casinos to a fake “university” to an airline that went bust to a four-year presidential experience that netted his hotels and facilities millions upon millions of dollars.

Even if one disagrees with Kinzinger (and, issue-wise, I disagree with him on a lot), how can you not admire the guy for knowing he would get filleted—but doing what he believed to be correct? For Christ’s sake, it’s the very thing we teach our children. Be principled. Be strong. Be brave. Don’t follow the bully—create your own path.

I actually just read the LaSalle County G.O.P. Twitter feed, and I’m genuinely horrified by the level of (to be blunt) pussy-dom. Heaven forbid someone not line up in front of the ex-president. Heaven forbid someone see thousands of MAGA lemmings attack the U.S. Capitol and blame the man who sent them there.

Heaven forbid someone have some balls.

There is no reason for a second Justice League film

In case you missed this, earlier today the world was introduced to the trailer for the second Justice League film. Here’s the link.

And, in response, I say this: No.

No.

No.

No.

No.

The first “Justice League” came out four years ago, and it was an absolutely dreadful piece of humorless dog excrement, filled with chunks of carrots and shards of broken beer bottle. So you’d think, considering the universal panning of that flick, things would be drastically different for No. 2. New director. New vision. New approach. New everything.

Nope.

The trailer tells me all I need to know, and all I need to know is that this will be yet another ode to overzealous CGIing, another appearance of the worst cinematic Superman rendering in the character’s history; another chase-fight-monologue-chase-fight-monologue snooze fest.

I get why the idea of the Joker entices some.

But … actually scratch that. I don’t get why the idea of the Joker entices anyone.

This movie can’t possibly be good.

I slammed my head into a chair. It hurt. A lot.

So last night the dog ran outside, which she wasn’t supposed to do.

I chased her, and she moved. I chased her again, she moved some more.

Finally, she stopped, and I bent down to grab her when—POP!

No, not POP!

WHHHHAAAAAAAM!

My forehead slammed into the top of a wood chair, and it hurt like a … well, like a piece of wood pummeling your forehead. I snapped back, reached for my skin and felt blood trickling. Lots of blood. So I yelled at the dog to come inside (this tactic worked far better than chasing her), then entered the bathroom. Blood was all over the place, so I plugged up the wound with some tissues, found a Band-Aid and applied it to the opening.

Now, I’m on my 23rd hour of mild-to-severe headache.

Maybe it’s a concussion. I don’t believe so, because I’ve got no other symptoms. But it hurt and it sucks and now I’m probably branded with an eternal forehead scar that screams to the world, BUY A GUINEA PIG.

Oy.

Her fault

A letter from Mike Pence

My Fellow Americans:

It has been brought to my attention that my name has been mentioned quite a bit this past week. Some of my colleagues have even suggested that President Trump was willing to have me killed because I failed to follow his commands and hand our administration another four years.

To this, I say: Mother?

Mother, where are you? I need you, Mother. I need you to cradle me against your bosom and feed me the milk of 1,000 llamas. I need you, Mother, to rock me in your arms and tell me we’ll be together forever, holding hands and praying to Jesus Christ and plucking magnolias in a field of endless bliss. You told me, Mother, that everything would be alright as long as I eat my radishes and say my prayers and never, ever, go near another woman. You told me I could always be a good boy, and have chocolate pudding on a cloud with Grandma and Pawpaw. You told me this would all work out, and everyone would love me just as they loved Peter after he scaled the mountain of sacred hearts.

Mother, I need you more than ever. Because these people want to nail me to a cross and spoon out my innards with a Taco Bell spork.

Mother?

Mother?

My parachute pants

Back when i was a middle schooler in the mean streets of Mahopac, N.Y., parachute pants were the thing.

You might remember. You might not. Plasticy. Lots of zippers. Myriad colors. All around the hallways of Mahopac Junior High, kids sports parachute pants. They weren’t merely a craze. They were the craze.

I however, was always afraid of crazes. I wasn’t the kid who followed trends. And it wasn’t because I thought I was too cool. In a way, it was the very opposite. I viewed myself as painfully uncool, and deemed any efforts to fit in as ones that would ultimately lead to life-threatening humiliation.

So …

Parachute pants were this thing. And I resisted and resisted and resisted. But they stuck around until, one day, I said to my mom, “I think I’d like some parachute pants.” So we went shopping. Probably to Marshall’s. There were two pairs that fit—black ones that were appropriately snug, silver ones that I’d grow into by (at the latest) my mid-30s.

“The black ones are too tight,” Mom said. “They won’t last a month.”

We purchased the silver ones.

That night, I went to the roller rink—clad in T-shirt and uber-baggy silver parachutes. My emotions were somewhere between euphoric and terrified. I felt like a cool kid. I felt like a fraud. I felt like a cool kid. I felt …

I saw this kid, Louie Hanner. He smiled at me.

“Hey, Pearlman,” he said, “your pants look like your legs are wearing tents.”

Chuckle.

Chuckle.

I went home.

I threw the pants in my closet.

I rediscovered them, oh 15 years later.

They were outstanding snow pants.

Some serious Albertsons bullshit

We have two supermarkets within a 10-minute drive from our house—Ralph’s and Alberstons.

I prefer Ralph’s.

The wife prefers Albertsons.

I’d argue there’s no clear-cut dominant grocery shopping experience. The selection at Albertsons is a bit better. The employees at Ralph’s are a bit more familiar (meaning, people who work there tend to stay a long time). I like the deli at Ralph’s. I like the bread at Albertsons.

Again, it’s a coin toss.

Well, was a coin toss.

This evening I was talking with one of the Alberstons’ cashiers, who said staffers have been ordered to remain quiet and say nothing if a customer isn’t wearing a mask. He said he’s not allowed to ask someone to put on a face covering; certainly can’t demand one leave the store unless she/he breaks out a mask. “We used to be able to speak up,” he told me. “Now the company policy is clear: We can’t say a thing.”

This marks the second time I’ve been told this by an Albertsons worker—and I find it absolutely infuriating.

Many of the clerks are minimum-wage employees, working nine- and 10-hour shifts, masked 100-percent of the time. They stand there, often with only a single break, and face one customer after another after another. Here in Orange County, where morons (when it comes to COVID) reign in staggering numbers, that means standing inches away from myriad patrons who (“Hey, it’s a free country! MAGA!”) refuse facial protection.

So, to the Albertsons powers that be, I say, “Shame. Truly, shame.”

And don’t expect me back until this policy changes.

Gary violated the code

So the other day I received an e-mail from Gary, who clearly did not enjoy “Three-Ring Circus” …

His review/smackdown did not bother me. Once upon a time it would have. But as I sit here, at age 48, I’m very comfortable with criticism, and people expressing criticism. Why? Because we all criticize. A movie. A meal. We tell our friends. We vent on Twitter. We post a one-star Yelp review. It’s the American way in 2021, and at least Gary told it to my (digital) face, and used his full name.

But here’s when it all went wrong. I replied to Gary with this …

And now it’s Gary’s turn. He has two options:

• 1. The, “Wow, you’re a better man than I am …” cliched note.

• 2. The “No seriously, go fuck yourself. You’re a whore …” cliched note.

Either one works in this situation.

But silence?

Damned silence?

Gary has crossed the line.

On the passing of Pedro Gomez

Pedro Gomez: Always positive.

The Super Bowl was over, and I was scrolling through Twitter this and Twitter that—when everything stopped.

Pedro Gomez, ESPN’s excellent reporter, had died at age 58.

I am devastated.

In this itinerant business of reporting, where you’re in Cleveland one day, Detroit the next, San Diego the one after that, life can often feel like an eternal return to summer camp. You enter a press box, and there’s ol’ Joe. You walk through a tunnel and, “Hey, Sally—how have you been?” You arrange meet-ups outside a locker room; dinners at the nearby Cheesecake Factory. You compare hotel rates, rental car checkout speed. You debate frequent flyer programs and fast food quality and which laptop works best.

In other words, you bond, because the people typing to your left and right know exactly what you’re going through. They get the irritation over being blown off for an interview. They grasp what it is to have a local TV reporter swoop in and ruin your one on one chat.

In the summer of 2005, the person I felt a kinship with with Pedro.

He was a relatively new ESPN reporter, charged with the absolute worst assignment of all time: Covering the day-to-day existence of Barry Bonds, San Francisco’s notoriously ornery (and juiced) slugger. It was, truly, the gig from hell: Bonds hated the media, treated the media like shit, scorned the media, went out of his way to make the lives of media members worse. Craps, as a guy working on my second book, “Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Anti-Hero,” I knew it all too well.

Bonds was unforgiving and brutal.

But here’s the crazy part: Despite every one of his peers expressing their sympathies, Pedro retained an indefatigable positivity. He knew the job was thankless and uncomfortable, but he never shied away, never backed down, never seemed bitter or upset. Here, this is from a 2015 interview Pedro did for my Q&A series, The Quaz

In short, he was a pro’s pro.

In the hours since the awful news broke, one journalist after another has chimed in on Pedro. And what I love—truly love—is that very little of the sentiment is about his work. Nope, what people seem to remember most is his kindness, his empathy, his warmth, his compassion. Long after our Bonds experiences ended, Pedro and I retained a friendship. It turns out he retained tons of friendships with tons of journalists. He was that type of guy.

RIP to a tremendous reporter, and a better person.

PS: This thread for Howard Bryant says it all …

Why did Drew Pearson call Jerry Jones “Mr. Jones”?

So earlier this evening, while watching the NFL’s myriad video clips of former players learning about their Hall of Fame selections, I was struck by a tiny moment involving Cowboy legend Drew Pearson.

Pearson was understandably emotional, and he thanked two people in the room—Roger Staubach, his friend and former quarterback, and Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner.

He referred to Staubach as “Roger.”

He referred to Jones as “Mr. Jones.”

To be clear, I am not trying to shit on Drew Pearson. The guy is an all-time great player, and it’s a crime it took this long (he played his last NFL game in 1983) to score an induction.

But the language was a nod toward something that has long bothered me about the relationship between NFL players and NFL owners. Specifically, African-American NFL players and white (because they’ve been 99.999999 percent white) NFL owners.

Drew Pearson is 70-years-old; a successful and well-regarded businessman; an emblem of class and decency and kindness and charity. So what is it that compelled him, almost instinctively, to refer to Jones (who didn’t even own the Cowboys until long after Pearson retired) as “Mister”? I’m genuinely curious about this, because it happens all the fucking time. Players call owners “sir” or “mister” or (and this one is beyond awful) “my owner.”

Owners call players by their first names. Active players. Retired players. All players.

I know … I know. Jeff, why does everything have to be about race? Why is it always …

Answer: Because so much is (in fact) about race. Particularly in the world of organized football, where the power dynamic has forever been defined by the wealthy white man kicking back as the up-from-nowhere black man has his body abused, his mind abused, his future (often) destroyed while people (mostly white) pay outlandish amounts of money (70 percent of which goes to the wealthy white owner) to watch it all unfold. William Rhoden touched on this insanity in his book, “Forty Million Dollar Slaves,” and while it’s an uncomfortable and unpleasant topic to ponder while sitting before your $1,000 flat screen dipping chips into salsa, well, it’s painfully real.

There’s obviously much to unpack with this one. But does Jerry Jones deserve more respect than Drew Pearson? No. Is he more important than Drew Pearson? No. Is he more dignified than Drew Pearson? No.

Last I checked Jerry Jones was a #MAGA-voting, Trump-donating hypocrite who simultaneously expressed love for his African-American players while backing policy after policy that defies their general interests. Or, put different, he was against kneeling—until he saw kneeling would make him a buck.

So, for me, it’s Jerry.

And Mr. Pearson.

Yes, Tom Brady is amazing. But …

Fisk: An unbelievable run at a very old age.

Tom Brady is about to start a Super Bowl at age 43. Which is unparalleled and amazing and worthy of great praise.

It is also, in my opinion, only the second most-breathtaking athletic feat accomplished by a 43-year old.

A distant second.

Back in the lord’s year of 1991, Carlton Fisk was the Chicago White Sox 42-going-on-43-year-old catcher. He played in 134 games—starting 106 behind the plate and 12 more at first base. Which is unbelievable, and would be unbelievable had the future Hall of Famer batted, oh, .210 with six homers and 40 RBI. Bust Fisk, being both prideful and skilled, remained a legitimate offensive threat. His 18 home runs tied for third on the club, as did his 74 RBI. He committed six errors, two of those (I believe) at first.

Now, the football fan will argue, “Oh, baseball. Big deal …” But the modern NFL is a far cry from the sport’s inglorious heyday, when quarterbacks like Terry Bradshaw and Doug Williams were bugs to be splattered on a windshield. Just go to YouTube and watch a game from the 1970s or ’80s. Quarterbacks get hit when they should get hit, they get hit when they shouldn’t get it. They get hit standing, hit leaning, hit sitting. It was, bluntly, brutal.

Now, however, quarterbacks like Brady are (rightly) protected. If the Buccaneer veteran took, oh, five legitimately hard blows this season, I’d be shocked. It’s a different game; one that values its marquee stars and stands terrified of future CTE lawsuits.

Catching 106 games, by comparison, is hell—and certainly was hell in 1991, when there were no rules protecting backstops from getting run over. Fisk entered 1991 having played 19 seasons (plus parts of 1969 and 1971)—a jaw-dropping number, if one considers the mere act of squatting, standing, squatting, standing, squatting, standing. In the blistering heat. In the bitter cold. On early afternoons following night games. Chasing knucklers in the dirt and fastballs above a batter’s head. Back in the day, being a catcher meant enduring concussions and ignoring them. It meant rubbing dirt on bruises, covering blood with a paper towel and wiping it away.

Jeff Torborg, Chicago’s manager, conceded one thing to Fisk’s age: When Charlie Hough, the tricky knuckleball pitcher, started, Ron Karkovice (age 27) usually got the start.

But maybe that was merely because Torborg feared having too many years on the field.

Like Fisk, Hough was also 43.

Brooke Singman, it’s not worth the paycheck

Singman:

So earlier today Fox News’ website posted a story with the headline, BIDEN FLYING TO DELAWARE DESPITE CDC WARNINGS TO AVOID TRAVEL.

And to the bylined author, Brooke Singman, I deliver this message of love and peace: It’s not worth the paycheck.

It’s just not.

Brooke, you have a terrific resume. You attended a fantastic college. You’re obviously smart and talented. But this shit—propaganda nonsense for a “news” entity that revels in the manufactured outrage—isn’t worth debasing yourself and all you’ve worked for. Or, put different: When Donald Trump was president, your outlet ignored the fact that he (and this is me screaming) HELD A MASKLESS RALLY IN OKLAHOMA THAT LED TO THE DEATH—THE FUCKING DEATH!!!!!!!—OF HERMAN CAIN!!!!!???!!?!?!?!? Or that he (more screaming) ACTUALLY MOCKED MEMBERS OF THE MEDIA WHO WORE MASKS!!!!!! Or that he (one more yell) WENT MASKLESS ALL THE TIME, AND HOSTED A SUPER-SPREADER EVENT AT THE DAMN WHITE HOUSE!!!!

Deep breath.

Deep breath.

I’m guessing this wasn’t your idea. I’m guessing some asshole editor (with a mortgage, bills aplenty and three kids at home to care for) said, “Hey, how about a story about Joe Biden flying?”

And you probably replied, “Um, he’s the president. Flying on Air Force One. He wears a masks everywhere he goes. He’s not holding a rally. And, oh, he was vaccinated.”

But then Editor with a Mortgage countered with: “But Sean …”

And you said, “Sean who?”

And Editor with a Mortgage said, “Are we really doing this?”

And you said, “Yeah, we are.”

And Editor with a Mortgage said, “Look, you know who holds the power around here.”

And you sighed, and retreated to your laptop, and took a pull from your Camel Blue*, and tried your best to write a sensible and straight news story about something that actually is sensible, but isn’t news.

And then you thought about Bruce Tarr.

And wondered whether he has any openings.

. * Doubtful you actually smoke.

Matt Gaetz would do anything for love—and he will do that

“I love you, snuggles.”

So Matt Gaetz, Florida congressman and lover of ferns, was asked whether he would step down if called upon to represent Donald Trump during his impeachment trial. The second impeachment trial, lest you be confused.

Here was the printed portion of Gaetz’s reply, per the Washington Post:

“If the president called me and wanted me to go defend him on the floor of the Senate, that would be the top priority in my life. I would leave my House seat; I would leave my home; I would do anything I had to do to ensure that the greatest president in my lifetime … got a full-throated defense.”

The rest of the audio went unreported. We here at jeffpearlman.com have retrieved the transcript …

“By full-throated, I mean full-throated. But not just that. Tongue, fingers. Everything. I would run naked down the streets of Washington, D.C., singing old Carpenters songs while waving a MAGA banner. I would cover my body in melted chocolate and deliver the hardened byproduct to Mar-A-Lago. I would shave my head, take the hair, place it in a cake pan and bake it at 500 degrees. I would name my hair cake the I Love Donald Trump Hair Cake. I would eat it, vomit it up, eat it again. I would pay William Hung $30 on Cameo to sing, “Donald Trump is innocent, and you all bitches.” And it would be in that funny William Hung Oriental accent that Mr. Trump likes hearing. I would have sex with sheep. Two sheep. Is that sheep, or sheeps? I would change my name to Elizabeth Warren, dress in an Elizabeth Warren jacket and run for her senate seat. I would poop and eat it. I would eat your poop, too.

“If the president calls me, I will slice off three of my toes and raise them as pets. I will snuggle with Ted Cruz as we watch ‘American Pie 3.’ I will stand atop the Lincoln Memorial and scream, ‘Ralph Sampson was better than Olajuwon! Ralph Sampson was better than Olajuwon!’ I will kill pets. I will sling rock. I will start my own hip-hop trio, and name it ‘Gaetz What?’ I will admit that Donald Trump is my one true love. If, eh, he wants me to admit it.

“Mr. President, call me!”

Hollyboob

In case you missed this, the HOLLYWOOD sign was briefly transformed into the HOLLYBOOB sign.

I love it.

I am, however, also reminded of the fraud I perpetrated as an elementary school student—when I lied about knowing what the word “boob” meant.

This, I recall vividly. A bunch of kids joking on the playground, staring at a girl (one apparently going through early puberty) and remarking on her physicality. “Whoa, check out her boobs!” someone said.

“Wow!” another added. “Those boobs are big!”

“Yeah,” I’m sure I added—staring at her feet. “Boobs!”

For young Jeffie, it wasn’t mere boobs. I didn’t know what a cock was—but pretended to. Didn’t know what “vag” was referring to—also pretended to. If a girl was rumored to “put out” or “give it up,” my immediate thought was a baseball player with either big power or a propensity to surrender runs late in a game.

So, I did what people my age did, and faked it.

One day, I finally understood what boobs referred to.

Thanks, Google.

There’s no such thing as bad publicity

You live in Whitehall, Ohio. Your house needs to be painted. Only you’re tired of boring paint jobs—one stroke after another after another. Blah, blah, blah. You’ve been through that all before. The painter shows up, lays down some plastic, fills the paint trays and gets to work.

So.

Fucking.

Boring.

“I want something different!” you declare.

“I want someone different!” you doubly declare.

So you dial 614-900-6985, and a man answers the phone.

“Faulkner Painting,” he says. “This is Troy Faulkner speaking.”

Wait. You’re the owner of Faulkner Painting?

“Yes, I am. Can I help you?”

Troy?

“Yup.”

The one who [looks at his Twitter feed] stormed the U.S. Capitol while wearing his Faulkner Painting jacket?

“Um, yeah. That’s me.”

Holy craps—that was epic!Did you know you’d be getting all this attention?

“Honestly, I just wanted to overtake the Capitol, hang Nancy Pelosi, skin AOC, spill some Democrat blood, eat a danish at the motel continental breakfast and then get back here to Whitehall. I was scheduled to paint an apartment complex the next morning. “

So why’d you wear the jacket?

“It was cold outside. Plus, what else is a guy supposed to wear when he’s anticipating carrying a severed congressional head in his pocket?”

Good point.

[Awkward pause]

How’s Monday look? I need my house painted?

“That depends. Can you swing $500,000 in bail?”

My favorite concert experience

Styx, 1997

On June 28, 1997, Tommy Shaw left me tickets to attend that night’s Styx/Pat Benatar concert at Radio City Music Hall, with backstage passes for after the gig.

My friend Robyn Furman and I attended the show.

We skipped backstage.

There was, after all, a fight I wanted to watch.

I thought about this all today, as the Styx classic “Lady” played as I drove. That show—that night—was one of those magical little slivers of time that keeps a guy’s memories afloat. I was 25, living in New York City, working for my dream magazine, Sports Illustrated. I’d struck up a friendship with Tommy from back when I was a Tennessean music writer, and every so often he’d ask if I wanted tickets.

Radio City was a no-brainer. I accepted the tickets.

Styx isn’t my all-time favorite band. I wouldn’t even say Styx is a Top 10 all-tme favorite band. But this was the Return to the Grand Illusion reunion tour—a reuniting of Dennis DeYoung with his estranged mates. It also served as a PR tool to promote an exceptionally good live album that had just been released.

Anyhow, the show was as good as the venue; DeYoung’s voice as strong as it had been in the mid-1970s, when Styx was moving up the club ladder in Chicago. Every sports fan loves a good comeback saga, and this—musically—was a good comeback saga. A band, slightly past its chronological prime, making another run at it, playing before a packed house inside an epic building, with thousands singing along to “Babe” and “Too Much Time on My Hands.”

In a way, I fell for the grand illusion. Watching Styx, I believed this was the type of return built to last. The guys seemed happy. Together. One. Music can do that to a spectator’s judgement. You see what you want to see. You believe the magic. You feel the love.

Alas, that was the last time I’d see the legitimate Styx lineup perform together. They pieced together a pretty meh studio album, then DeYoung left again—this time for good.

Like a bloodied ear, detached from the lobe.

The Costco Tragedy

We can all agree living through a pandemic blows.

From sickness and death to isolation and depression, it’s been one eternal slog of shit. You think hope is coming, then it dims. You think the nation’s attitude is improving, then you see some maskless bobo strutting through the toothpaste aisle of your nearby CVS.

It’s the worst.

In a nation of 330 million, however, I do believe we can all agree there is one COVID-19 byproduct that is—hands down—the absolute worst.

The end of free samples at Costco.

#RIP

The Costco free samples were life. Dignity. Hope. Explosive joy and the tie that bound rich and poor, dumb and smart, Jew and gentile, MAGA and those with all 32 teeth. Save for (maybe) that first bite into a Fig Newton, no pleasure could match turning the corner in your local Costco and seeing a short (they’re always short) woman pushing forth a tray of … anything. Chicken meatballs. Chocolate bars broken into eighths. Quesadilla triangles. Almonds sprinkled with vanilla powder. You could receive the worst information imaginable (“M’am, I’m sorry but your husband didn’t make it …”) and as long it were followed by, “Would you care for a piece of fresh brie? On sale for $14.99 …”—well, the world was just fine.

Now, however, because COVID sucks and progress is slow and people still refuse to wear masks, the Costco samples are gone. Possibly forever. I actually hit up the store today, and while the short women still stand at attention, they are mere props, offering nothing beyond a smile and (if requested) a route toward locating that 50-pack case of dental floss you desperately sought.

One day, when a John Meacham (or a Bobby Meacham) sits down to write about this period in American history, he will highlight rescue workers, political strife, a confused population.

And he will write of the death of the Costco free sample.

As well as the hope that vanished with it.

My, how the GOP has changed

David Duke campaigning in 1991

Thirty years have passed, which implies progress.

I mean, generally that’s how it works. We improve with the upping of years and the ticking hands of a clock. In technology. In science. In understanding our fellow humans. In treating people with dignity and equality.

And yet, when it comes to the modern Republican Party; the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Lauren Boebert and Mo Betta Brooks and (the lord and savior and Jim Jones of it all) Donald Trump, time has a way of reversing itself, a la Superman flying backward around the planet to expunge events that displeased him. Progress is not a thing to celebrate, but to reject. Equal rights are to be scorned. Sensitivities are to be mocked. There is this thing—”The good ol’ days”—that were good, dammit. Good for white people. Good for racists. Good for sexists. Good for homophobes. Good.

Wait. I digress.

Thirty years ago, in the state of Louisiana, two people ran for governor. One was a notoriously corrupt Democrat named Edwin Edwards, whose track record was that of a kind man whose body was stuffed with, oh, 30 percent slime. The other was David Duke, registered Republican and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

I repeat, for the hard of hearing: The Republican was a Klansman.

At the time, George H. W. Bush was president—a Republican looking to pass his conservative agenda. One can assume David Duke (evilness be damned) would have pushed along Bush’s priorities far more than Edwards. The president, however, was no racist. He knew some acts were not worth the price of his dignity; knew urging people to support a thing who believed blacks were akin to primates was no way to govern. So, ultimately, George H. W. Bush told his supporters to vote Edwin Edwards. And the Democrat won—handily.

Again, that was 30 years ago.

As we speak, Greene, the congressperson out of Georgia, has been exposed as all sorts of crazy and deranged. She accused a Jewish-operated space laser of starting the California wildfires. She harassed a Florida teenager whose school was shot up. She suggested that Muslims do not belong in government. She she would feel “proud” to see a Confederate monument if she were Black because it symbolizes progress made since the Civil War. She said Nancy Pelosi is “guilty of treason” and would “suffer death or she’ll be in prison.” She called multiple mass shootings “false flags” and endorsed a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton partook in satanic child sacrifice rituals.

Were this 1991, Bush would have not merely distanced himself from Greene—he would have urged her ouster from congress and the Republican Party. But here we sit, in the modern Palin phlegm stew, and Greene hasn’t merely been embraced by the GOP. No, she was assigned a spot on the House Education and Labor Committee. And, were that not bad enough, she received a call from Donald Trump yesterday, encouraging her tremendous work.

She is David Duke.

Without the KKK hood, but with all the evil.

Matthew Stafford, meet Richard Todd

Todd (left) and Stafford: Veterans brought in to win.

So a few moments ago I learned of the trade that brought Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Rams in exchange for two first-round picks, a third-round pick and Jared Goff, the 26-year-old signal caller.

My initial reaction was, “Holy shit! The Rams got themselves a quarterback!”—and I texted a friend raving about the deal.

Then, however, I thought about Stafford, age 33 and a collector of few-to-zero meaningful NFL wins. I thought about strong arms being a v-e-r-y different thing than victorious arms; thought about all the hits he’s absorbed; all the bad habits he’s probably embedded into his psyche.

After that, I thought about Richard Todd.

Back in the late 1970s-through-early 1980s, Richard Todd was the Jets’ cornerstone—a hard-throwing University of Alabama product who replaced Joe Namath and guided New York from embarrassing slugs to the 1982 AFC Championship Game (one the Jets admittedly lost when, oof, Todd threw five interceptions). By 1984, however, New York decided to go with a younger QB, Ken O’Brien, and Todd was shipped off to the Saints for a first-round draft choice.

At the time, the people of New Orleans were giddy. In the gap between Archie Manning’s (wasted) prime and the consummation of the deal, the Saints had gone through crap quarterback after crap quarterback after crap quarterback. Now, though, with a loaded roster and a win-at-all-costs mantra, New Orleans was ready. Todd clearly served as the final piece of the puzzle—a natural-born leader, a guy who survived and thrived in New York, a tough dude who proved he could win in both college and the pros.

Then—pfft.

Todd wasn’t merely bad—he was dysentery. Over 14 starts in 1984, he threw 11 touchdowns with 19 interceptions, and the Saints finished 7-9. The following year, Todd lost his only two starts, adding four picks to three touchdown passes. He was eventually replaced by the immortal Dave Wilson. When asked about the faded arm early in 1985, Coach Bum Phillips could only say of Todd, “He’s one of our quarterbacks right now.”

[Translation: Fuckity fuck. I traded for a battered Earl Campbell, and now I’ve got this stiff, too.]

It is entirely possible Stafford becomes the Rams’ savior; takes a franchise one player away from the Super Bowl and lifts it to the highest level.

It is also entirely possible Stafford is the new Richard Todd.

Only in a bigger market.

PS: The Jets, being the Jets, used the first-round pick snared from the Saints to select Ron Faurot, Arkansas defensive lineman. His NFL career lasted 20 games.

Confessions of a Jewish space laser operator

My Jewish space laser went off, and all I got were the accusations of Marjorie Taylor Greene

Earlier today it came to light that Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia representative and 2024 GOP presidential frontrunner, blamed the California wildfires on a Jewish space laser operated by the Rothschilds.

She was scorned and ridiculed by the evil mainstream media, and I am here to step up and be truthful.

On the one hand, Representative Greene is incorrect. The Rothschilds did not let loose a Jewish space laser upon the state of California.

On the other hand, she is right about the laser and the Jews.

It was me. I’m sorry.

Total accident.

•••

It all feels like it was just yesterday …

I had recently left the annual meeting of the Elders of Zion, where we drank the blood of Jesus (real, not imaginary), sharpened our head horns and plotted a takeover of Oak Hill Middle School in (not coincidentally) Greene’s hometown of Milledgeville, Georgia. The plan was to turn all of Oak Hill Middle’s students into Satan-worshiping homojewials, then have them return home and eat the innards of their younger siblings (household pets, if they were only children) before kneeling and committing themselves to the singular worship of Yentl Mendel.

En route to the school, however, I found myself suddenly distracted by the book in my pocket, “The Big Plan: How We Jews Can Get All the Money.” Specifically, it was a passage on page 27—the one that (as all Jews know) breaks down how to perform the step-by-step ritual circumcision of every Georgian’s cow.

In reading the book, I failed to notice that my Jewish space laser had been discharged in the direction of California’s forests—thereby commencing the wildfires.

I tried putting them out (I swear, I really did), but then the guy next to me dropped two pennies on the floor, and I forgot what I was doing and scurried to fetch them.

Oy.

Ted Cruz loves the popular girl

Back when I was a high school junior, I wrote an article for the Mahopac High School student newspaper about cheerleading.

My controversial take—cheerleading is an activity, not a sport—did not sit well with the sport activity’s participants. On the day The Chieftain came out, I was sitting in the cafeteria, eating my lunch, when a swarm of rah-rahs surrounded me. It must have been a Friday, because the girls were all wearing their cheerleader uniforms, hair puffed up (it was the late 1980s), perfume aplenty.

And as I sat there, I heard nothing and saw everything.

Legs.

Breasts.

Breasts.

Legs.

This was the greatest moment ever—because I had the cheerleaders’ attention.

I thought of this earlier today, when I saw a funky Twitter exchange between Ted Cruz and AOC. This dialogue came immediately after Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Tweeted her thoughts on the stock market craziness …

Cruz, in agreeing with AOC, wasn’t just agreeing with her. He was looking to ride the wave. To have a young, fiery member of congress acknowledge him; applaud him; say, “Hey, Ted, I see you. I see you.” Because Ted Cruz, like idiot me in 1989, wants to not merely be seen, but be cool. It’s obvious every … single … time he evokes AOC in a Tweet (which is quite often). It’s the ol’ third grade thing—telling the girl you like she has the cooties.

It’s pathetic.

My favorite lawsuit

In case you missed this, a recent lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California claims that Subway has been lying, and there’s no tuna in its tuna.

Gasp.

This is supposed to be a scandal. It’s not. The scandal would, in fact, involve Subway’s tuna actually being tuna, because that would be utterly disgusting. Were Subway’s tuna truly tuna, the truly tuna tuna would be sitting out in one of those little plastic truly tuna tuna tuna contains alongside the infamously nasty Subway cutting board (one word: turkey shit shard) for, oh, 10 hours. Which simply cannot be good, because out-of-the-can tuna has to be refrigerated, or else you’re eating some pretty vile and unhealthy and outdated shit.

Wait.

Where was I?

Oh. Right. I’ve had Subway’s tuna before, and it’s definitely not tuna. First, it’s kind of sweet, and tuna ain’t sweet. Second, it has the texture of a glob of fresh-from-the-ocean seaweed Which, again, real tuna does not. Third, it simply does not taste like tuna. Which isn’t an insult. Because tuna—in the supermarket aisle 6 form—is rancid. Subway’s truly tuna truly isn’t actually rancid. It’s like apple sauce of the sea. Minus the apple.

So, yeah, Subway—own this shit. Bring it! Fight! “Our tuna isn’t tuna, motherfuckers! It’s better than tuna! And don’t fret over the 12.5 percent formaldehyde.!

That’s just our way of saying, “We love you!”

Pay $2,000. Be a Writer.

Hunter S. Thompson: Confused what the f— happened to his mag.

My friend Chuck Creekmur posted this on Facebook recently, and like the great Chuck, my first (second, third, fourth, and fifth) instinct was to gag …

My sixth instinct was to think, “Nah, this can’t be true.”

My seventh instinct was to do the Google Yup, it’s true.

Rolling Stone, the all-time, all-time, all-time legendary magazine, the place that brought us Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe, has now become the journalistic version of your once-steady Facebook friend who has discovered “a GREAT way to lose weight and feel AMAZING! DM me for details!” It wants you to be a part of its new Culture Council—just fill out this form and we’ll get back to you about becoming a member of one of the amazing institutions of modern writing.

[oh, and slip us $2k, because we’re out of cash]

I hate to be this guy, but it’s time for Rolling Stone to call it quits. I mean, I could deal with the reduced magazine, the weird paper quality, the decline in quality, the wavering focus. Those all come with the modern landscape of journalism—where shit be crazy.

But charging folks to write, with the promise of exposure?

Somewhere on a cloud, Hunter S. Thompson’s weed just turned to sludge.

Dino Dicks

So a few minutes ago I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, reading before bed, when I came upon this gem of a story.

Yes, you can purchase a glow-in-the-dark dino dick.

I suppose the dino dick was designed to be a dino sex toy. But, like many random things in life, I’m guessing it’s morphed into so much more. Don’t know what to buy Pops for Father’s Day? Get him a Dino Dick. Uncertain whether your kid is interested in sex? Get him (or her) a dino dick and ask—Rorschach-like—what they see. You don’t wanna bring chocolate this Easter? Dino Dick. Santa has been pretty predictable these past few years? Dino Dick. Everyone has claimed a dish to make for Thanksgiving? Rest assured, no one has claimed Dino Dick.

It’s funny, because Dino Dick would be more adorable without the dick head—because dicks are more weird than cute. But the idea works, because humanity is strange.

So, hey.

And seven others

Today is the anniversary of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.

It is also the anniversary of the deaths of seven others.

John Altobelli.

Keri Altobelli.

Alyssa Altobelli.

Sarah Chester.

Payton Chester.

Christina Mauser.

Ara Zobayan.

I was thinking about this last night; about the way we report—then remember—the tragic and sudden deaths of famous people. It is always, without exception, BOLD NAME … and others.

OTIS REDDING, band …

SKYNYRD BAND, 6 …

Sometimes the non-famous don’t even make the headlines. When the singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash in 2001, one had to wait an entire paragraph before learning that, “six men, including three from the Los Angeles area, and another woman also died, authorities said.”

And, to be clear, I understand. The members of Otis Redding’s band were accomplished musicians, but hardly household names. The guy maneuvering the plane when Ronnie Van Zant went down in 1977 was some anonymous pilot who spent his days flying namelessly through clouds. Aaliyah’s fellow passengers were her colleagues, but … we all have colleagues.

The thing is, if you really think about it, a famous life is no more valuable or worthy than an anonymous life. We all wake up, brush our teeth, eat our breakfast, go about the routines of existence. If one of those existences is shooting baskets against the Suns, and another of those existences is, in the case of Christina Mauser, coaching kids—well, there’s no realistic or worthwhile measure of importance. A celebrity dies: We weep by the millions. A teacher dies: We never hear about it.

So I guess, on this sad day when we remember (rightly) a basketball legend and his wonderful daughter, let’s also reflect that the Altobelli family was decimated, and that Sarah Chester was a longtime elementary school teacher who had retired to raise her family (including her daughter Payton, an eighth grader), and that Christina Mauser was a mom and wife and basketball coach, and that Ara Zobayan—the pilot—loved soaring through the skies.

Think about the fragility of life.

Then live yours to the fullest.

Old

So yesterday I was DMing with a young journalist who told me he was in elementary school when my John Rocker piece ran in Sports Illustrated.

Ugh.

Ugggggghhhh.

Uggggggghhhhhh.

Aging is a trip, and until you start aging (which I define as clearing 35) you’re relatively unaware of its car crash-like impact on the mind and body. I actually remember being, oh, 19 … 20 … 22 … 24—and seeing “old” as this place waaaaaaay over there; a place that existed for others to gray and wrinkle and gradually fall apart. Aging was something that happened to my parents, my uncle, my grandparents. They were aging, but I was (in a weird way) forever cocooned in Young Land—a place where running never hurts the knees, where basketball never damns the lower back, where thoughts never slip the mind, where women are always hot and nights are always endless and drinks always easily digested.

Where funerals belonged to others.

Then I started to age.

You first notice by the way people address you. Suddenly, you’re ‘Mister’ and ‘Sir.’ I mean, I’d been ‘Mister’ and ‘Sir’ on occasion in my 20s, but the formalities would be dismissed with, “Bro, I’m 24. You don’t have to call me ‘Sir.’ Now, at 48 … I still don’t want to be Mister or Sir, but both feel appropriate. Even, at times, a bit (oy) comfortable.

Then you begin to realize you’re on the wrong side of the Young v. Old fence. At dinners. At parties. The Young are over there, by the grilled cheese and fries table, staring down at their phones. The Old are over here, remembering that game when Montana hit Taylor across the middle. You can try and jump over, but the fence is electric, and the result (even if successfully scaled) is inevitably weird and uncomfortable. The Young know you’re Old. The Old know you’re old. So no matter how many Doja Cat references you try and drop—well, your fate is sealed.

You’re here now, and no amount of plastic surgery or camo leggings or Tik Tok videos can change the harsh geography of your life.

The only solace: They’ll be here, too.

Even if they don’t see it.

The Steve DeBerg Bowl

DeBuc v. DeChief

When it comes to sports, my brain is wired in weird and quirky ways.

I don’t remember numbers as numbers—I remember numbers as uniform digits. So 243319 isn’t 243319—it’s Freeman McNeil with the Jets, Ken Griffey, Sr. with the Yankees, Tony Gwynn as a Padre . I don’t think of towns and cities as towns and cities. I think of them as, “Home to the Cannons” or “Where the Mud Hens” roam.

And, when it comes to matchups between teams, I always like to imagine it as the [fill in a random, top-of-the-head guy who played for both clubs] bowl.

Examples:

Mets play Yankees—it’s the Rafael Santana Bowl.

Brewers vs. Cardinals—the Ted Simmons Bowl.

When the Raiders and Broncos meet up, it’s Mike Harden’s game. If it’s Knicks v. Celtics, I’m talking Gerald Henderson. Heat and Nets—Pearl Washington. Packers and Vikings: Favre. Redskins and Jets: Art Monk. Mavs and Lakers: A.C. Green.

On.

And on.

And on.

Which is why, as of this moment, I am declaring Super Bowl LV to be The Steve DeBerg Bowl.

Yes, Steve DeBerg.

If you don’t remember, or don’t know, Steve DeBerg was one of those guys who lasts forever, plays for a gazillion teams, is replaced by stars (in his case, Joe Montana with the 49ers, John Elway with Denver, Steve Young with Tampa Bay)—and happens to be pretty damn good. Yeah, DeBerg threw a ton of interceptions. And his arm wasn’t of Joe Flacco quality. But the dude lasted 17 NFL seasons, including 4 1/2 with the Bucs and four more with the Chiefs. His 196 touchdowns and 204 interceptions are big numbers that speak less of mediocrity and more of durability and desirability.

Put different: Teams wanted Steve DeBerg.

So celebrate, dear Steve.

This Super Bowl, you can’t go wrong.

PS: Wisely, and correctly, noted by a Facebook pal …

Why do you write guest stuff for Deadspin?

So over the past few months I’ve written three guest pieces for Deadspin.

Generally, the world has shrugged. Because, hey, who cares if Jeff Pearlman (or Jeff Anyone) is writing anywhere?

In a few cases, however, folks have expressed some irritated surprise. “Deadspin? After the way things went down? After the way all those staffers either quit or were dumped? Deadspin!?” (If you need a deeper understanding, here’s a piece Slate ran last March, explaining much of what transpired).

To which I reply: Yeah.

And here’s the thing: I get it. Truly, I do. I actually loved much of what old Deadspin produced; love many of the amazing writers the site brought to the forefront. From Will Leitch and David Roth to Drew Magary and Brian Hickey, it was irreverent and smart and oftentimes groundbreaking. It was a site that did things other sites wouldn’t touch. Hell, I probably had 20 bylines on the old Deadspin, and while it paid me (collectively) little, I enjoyed the exposure and encouragement to write hard. (FYI: Many of the old Deadspin staff reunited to start a new site, Defector)

But … I dunno. As I sit here, at age 48 (almost 49), the freelance world has dried up. There simply aren’t all that many opportunities to write; certainly in regards to getting paid. Print magazines have shriveled and blown away. Whereas once joints like Spin and Details and Maxim were requesting pitches, now—almost nothing. Scratch the almost—nothing.

Three points on Deadspin:

  1. The editor, Eric Barrow, is a wonderful guy.
  2. They call.
  3. They pay.

And here’s the thing. Not all that long ago Sports Illustrated laid off one terrific writer after another after another. Legends. Near-legends. People like Chris Ballard and Grant Wahl, who devoted decades to doing tremendous work. As a magazine alum, it pissed me off. But when they recently enlisted the likes of my pal Howard Beck (amazing hire), I was thrilled. Was Howard not supposed to take a job because SI is run (on the business side) by greedy assholes? Are we to demand he refuse the paycheck? Of course not. Not even an issue.

I can go on and on. I spent two years writing for Bleacher Report before the website slashed me because I was (in one editor’s words) “too old.” Was I mad at others for sticking around? For taking my place? Fuck no. A couple of years ago a bunch of us served as The Athletic’s first team of national columnists—myself, Phil Taylor, Lisa Olson. One day (without much warning) The Athletic sliced us all. Slice, slice, slice. Callously. Did it hurt? Sure. Does that mean no one else should work there? Absolutely not.

The New York Daily News’ sports department is a travesty. A once-great section has largely turned to dust (ironically, it’s run by a former Deadspin guy). The paper’s best sports columnist is a man named Bradford William Davis. He’s outstanding. Should he have not accepted a high-profile Big Apple gig because the newspaper’s management is trash? For Christ’s sake, no.

The reality is, we’re all hypocrites to one degree or another. I certainly am. My first four books were published by HarperCollins—owned by the awful Rupert Murdoch. When I was pumping my Barry Bonds book, I appeared on Hannity (admittedly, a regret). We live around the corner from a Chick-Fil-A—a company that simultaneously has a brutal record on gay rights and makes one hell of a sandwich.

I loved the old Deadspin.

I’ve written for the new Deadspin.

Such is life.

Hank Aaron was never angry or militant.

So a few hours ago I was reading this excellent Hank Aaron ode from Bradford William Davis, columnist for the New York Daily News. And midway through the piece, he alluded to a Tweet from Chipper Jones, longtime Braves third baseman and relatively new (and deserved) inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame …

And, as Davis rightly noted, the Tweet screams something that needs to be addressed.

Actually, it screams many things …

First, you’d have to live in a triple-layer tortoise shell to believe Hank Aaron—recipient of death threats, of hate letters, of endless genres and devices of racism—wasn’t angry. Even more to the point, how is (the illusion of) “never” being angry a compliment in this regard? It actually reminds me of about 50 different scenes in (I know … I know) “The Help,” when maids and butlers and yard workers and the like take all sorts of shit—then smile when White Boss Person strolls along and either says or thinks some variation of, “What a delightful non-angry negro.”

Second, Chipper Jones clearly sees militant as a negative. As in, “Thank God Hank Aaron was never militant.” It’s a super white conservative way of looking at the world—aka “Those BLM protesters are far too militant” and “Colin Kaepernick sure is militant.”

Militancy is viewed as a violent act; as a way of brown-skinned people to destroy things. The people storming the Capitol were exercising their rights. But African-Americans speaking out, marching, picketing? Militancy.

That’s why, in the aftermath of Aaron’s death, I was anxious for media outlets to find ballplayers who were moved by Aaron’s courage; who understood what militancy means; who could look at Aaron’s smile and see the pain behind it.

I’ve got no beef with Chipper Jones.

But he knows not whereof he speaks.

Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds

RIP

The immortal Hank Aaron died earlier today, and I find myself thinking of Barry Bonds.

Which is a little bit of a bummer, but also worth discussing.

On Aug. 7, 2007, I was in attendance at a standing-room-only Pac Bell Park when Bonds hit his 756th career homer off of an obscure Washington lefty named Mike Bacsik. Like all members of the media, I was positioned in the press box, and as ball left bat I’m quite certain most of we ink-stained wretches looked up, watched the path of yet another Barry dinger and found ourselves picturing the same word floating inside our heads: Meh.

It’s not that the moment wasn’t, well, a moment. It was. Here, take a gander …

The thing is (or, the thing was) Barry Bonds cheated. He knew it. We knew it. Everyone pretty much knew it. And if you’re one of those folks who doesn’t consider PED to be cheating—well, at the very least Barry Bonds lied in his repeated insistences that he never used steroids or HGH.

And perhaps that’s not a big deal. Hell, hundreds of players were lying about PED. Still do.

But this, to me, was different. Is different. Back in the summer of 1974, as Hank Aaron approached Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, the Braves slugger received a horrific onslaught of racist letters, racist phone calls, racist threats. Don’t believe me? Here …

And, in large part because of that, Aaron’s 715th home run wasn’t merely a baseball moment. No, it was a civil rights moment—a black man, in the deep south, proudly rounding the bases, not knowing with 100-percent certainty that he would return back to home plate without a bullet being fired from somewhere in the stands.

When Aaron finally retired after the 1976 season, he did so with 755 home runs—a number that mattered (culturally, historically) in the way Roger Maris’ 61 home runs mattered and Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak matters. The figures aren’t mere figures. They represent something. In Maris’ case, it was a near-breakdown in pursuit of a standard. In DiMaggio’s case, it was consistent, undeterred excellence. And in Aaron’s case, it was, well, overcoming. Fighting. Defying. Not allowing hate to slow a person’s pursuit of legend.

For me, 755 remains the greatest record in American sports history.

That, truly, is what pisses me off about Barry Bonds. He cheated, and pretended he didn’t cheat. He lied, and pretended he didn’t lie. In the leadup to 756, he spoke with deference and respect about Aaron, but displayed little of it. Deference and respect doesn’t mean cheating and lying to break a landmark record. It also doesn’t mean putting a legend on the spot, as Bonds (and Major League Baseball) did when Aaron (who refused to attend the games during Bonds’ chase) was asked to issue a congratulatory video statement.

The truth is, Aaron had little-to-no respect for Bonds. He found him (as we all did) unlikeable and rude. He also didn’t believe his records were legitimate; didn’t think they passed the sniff test. For me, the congratulatory video has always stood as an awkward relic from a painful span in the game’s history. A record illegitimately wiped off the map, and the victim praising the culprit.

And now, on the day one of baseball’s all-time greats passes on, I ask you—dear reader—a simple question: How many lifetime home runs did Barry Bonds hit?

Because I was his biographer. And I have no friggin’ idea.

It doesn’t matter.

Mike Pompeo and a douchey Tweet

The past two days have been blissful.

Trump is gone. The Biden administration is here. Adults are working once again in government. The media is no longer being savaged by the White House.

Truly, bliss.

But my visit to Happy Island was briefly interrupted by the misfortune of seeing this Tweet from the unemployed Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s 487th and last Secretary of State …

There are a bunch of things that got me with this one, beginning with: Aren’t you supposed to be rooting for Joe Biden to succeed? I mean, you were the United States secretary of state. I’m presuming, based off of that title and that authority, you want the administration to do well. Right? Because if the administration does well, the nation does well. Right? Right?

I mean, I guess that’s a warped expectation, considering your silence as Trump spread the stolen election lie. And considering your silence in the aftermath of the U.S. Capitol attack. And considering your unwillingness to help members of the incoming administration get their bearings. And considering your super-weird final days Twitter string of oddball exaggerations and chest puffings.

But the idea that, one day after a new president begins, you’re counting down the time until you can run, and brag, and boast, and lie?

It’s just so pathetic.

So little.

So un-American.

Eric Bieniemy is black

Eric Bieniemy was a tremendous college football player at Colorado.

Eric Bieniemy spent nine years as an NFL halfback.

Eric Bieniemy coached running backs at Colorado.

Then at UCLA

Then with the Minnesota Vikings.

In 2010 he became the Vikings assistant head coach.

Then he returned to Colorado as offensive cooridator.

Then he spent four seasons as the Chiefs running backs coach.

Then, beginning in 2018, he was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator—where his team (his offense) won the Super Bowl.

His players rave about him.

His results are remarkable.

But, year after year, he fails to land a job as an NFL head coach.

Because he is black.

Period.

Double period.

The vast majority of NFL owners are arch-conservative white men who voted for Donald Trump and who believe—as Mike Pompeo recently noted—multiculturalism is a bad thing. They enjoy having their muscular negroes blacks African-Americans run the ball, and they’ll even tolerate kneeling (for now) because not tolerating kneeling went poorly. They’ll take their grandsons into the locker room after the game and have their muscular negroes blacks African-Americans pose for pictures with the tykes.

But hire a negro black African-American head coach?

Get real.

Jen Psaki

Earlier today Jen Psaki, the new White House press secretary, held her first session and began with this: “I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play.”

She then answered questions, and promised another briefing for tomorrow.

I’m not sure how much this stuff resonates for those of you who haven’t worked in media, but for me—well, it’s an enormous relief.

Over the past four years, Donald Trump and his cold crush crew devoted themselves to not merely spreading phony information, and not only belittling, demeaning and endangering members of the press, but creating this movement around the idea of #Fakenews. And while, on the surface, one might ask, “Well, isn’t pointing out phony reporting a good thing?—that’s never what #Fakenews was about.

Nope, #Fakenews was the Trumpian firing squad at any information (true or false) that made the president look bad. So if a report was 100 percent spot-on, but Trump didn’t like it—#Fakenews. And if members of the media showed up at, say, a rally, and Trump wanted red meat, he’d snarl, “#Fakenews!” and have his followers hiss and boo and, on occasion, throw elbows. Before long, Trump’s mindless slaves echoed “Fake news! Fake news! Fake news!” in a creepy, straight-out-of-a-horror-flick sorta way. And when thousands of goons stormed the U.S. Capitol two Wednesdays back, they made certain to bash camera equipment and scribble MURDER THE MEDIA on a wall.

So, yeah, as a veteran reporter, hearing Jen Psaki express openness and compassion toward the working press was extraordinarily meaningful. Hopefully, over time, even Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters will see that not all news is #Fakenews.

And that a valued press is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy.

So, I cried?

Cried this morning watching the inauguration.

So?

I cried because I’m happy. I cried because I think Joe Biden is a person of genuine integrity. I cried because of Kamala Harris and all she represents.

Mainly, I believe I cried out of exhaustion.

Four years of Donald Trump was just … a lot. The meanness, followed by the pettiness, followed by the ugliness. The nightmarish impact he had on social media. The ineptitute when it come to governing, mixed with an authentic cruelty. I just … it was hard.

So I cried.

Proudly.

A quick word from Jared Porter’s penis

Dear Readers:

It’s me—Jared Porter’s penis. I’m down here. Down here! Standing next to the toothpick. Yes, that’s me. The l’il guy.

So listen, I’ve been catching a ton of shit these past 24 hours, what with Jared being fired by the New York Mets because he sent photos of me to a woman reporter. And I just want to say—in my defense—I was against the plan the entire time.

I swear to God:

The. Entire. Time.

I actually remember the precise moment I knew Jared had lost his mind. We were sitting in his Chicago apartment, having just finished watching “Rookie of the Year.” That’s the one about the Cubs pitcher, not the Twins manager. Jared was two or three glasses of wine in, clearly feeling a little frisky (Gary Busey can do that to a guy), and he grabbed his phone, unzipped his pants and stared down my way.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He didn’t reply.

“Jared! What are you fucking doing!?”

Again—no reply.

Then, he took my picture. Two or three of them. Click, click, click. Without my consent. Which, legally, is OK. I am his penis. We’re attached and all. But then I watched him punch in a phone number, and attach one of the shots … of me.

“Jared! Don’t do this!” I screamed.

“Jared! Don’t hit send!” I pleaded.

“Jared, what in fucking fuck’s name are you—”

Too late. He sent it.

I could tell, as soon as the image jumped from his phone to another phone, Jared was nervous. He kept waiting for a reply. Staring and staring and staring, like a puppy looking for a Milk Bone. He finally gazed toward me and said, “She hasn’t replied yet …”

Um, duh.

“Jared,” I said, “take a close gander this way. Seriously, look at me. I’m 3 inches erect. I look like a mushroom who survived a car accident. The botched circumcision repair was OK, but I’d have preferred the doctor be licensed in something beyond otolaryngology …”

I could tell Jared wasn’t fully absorbing the information.

“Jared!” I yelled. “No woman wants to see a picture of your penis. Or Brett Favre’s penis. Or … anyone’s penis. In my day, if you liked a woman you tried small talk, and maybe—just maybe—a dinner invitation. But even then, she does not, under any circumstance, want to see your dick on her iPhone. Trust me.”

Jared looked up.

“Do you think,” he said, “this will come back to bite me?”

“Nah,” I replied. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”

19

Today marks my 19th wedding anniversary to the lovely, savvy, sophisticated, beautiful Catherine Pearlman—the best person I know and the only human alive who would tolerate my uncut toenails for nearly two decades.

When you’ve been married this long, people start asking about the keys. What are the keys to a happy marriage? How do you survive without killing one another? What’s the difference between a good marriage and a great marriage?

My reply: Luck.

I mean that: Luck.

Luck. Luck. Luck.

With some exception, people get hitched when they’re young. You’re in your 20s or early 30s, all excited and giddy. You do the whole one-knee ring thing, then you call all your relatives, then you plan a 150-person event that costs way more money than intelligent life can justify. You concern yourself with chicken or steak; with this person sitting at that table; with band or DJ; with an ice cream bar or just cake. Then—when the $100,000 four hours come to an end—you fly off to a honeymoon. You’re in the sun, drinks a flowin’, love in the air. Everyone gets excited, because you’re a young couple with a limitless future and an abundance of hope.

Marriage!

Marriage!

Marriage!

But here’s the catch: The wedding, the honeymoon, the youth—they’re all fleeting mirages. You don’t know one another so well. You have yet to encounter legit crisis situations. You’re worried about dish patterns, not a death in the family, or financial hardship, or a 400,000-dead pandemic.

Again—it all comes down to luck.

I got preposterously lucky. The person I chose to marry (and the person who chose to marry me) is a once-in-a-lifetime gem. She’s big-hearted, compassionate, generous. She’s as competent as any human who walks the planet. She repairs stuff when it breaks. She cooks like Julia Child. She donated her kidney to a complete stranger. She’s the mother of the century.

Best of all (and most important of all), we’ve grown together. We’re not the same people we were 19 years ago, but we’ve moved in the same direction. Through two kids, two dogs (RIP, Norma), a move from New York to California, different jobs and books and career paths—we’ve maintained genuine love and understanding. I still wake up mornings anxious to look at Catherine’s face. I still come home from trips (when there were trips) anxious to tell her what I found. I want to know what she’s thinking about; what she’s feeling. It excites me. All these years in.

These past 10 months have been a beast. It’s the test of all marital tests—how would you survive if you were with your spouse (and children) every … single… day, sans break?

Answer: With the same feelings I felt for Catherine 19 years ago.

When I was young and foolish and madly in love.

Today I wanted to scream

This morning the wife and I drove down to Dana Point to rent a kayak.

It’s, truly, the coolest deal ever: $30 for an hour of paddling through the marina and (if you choose) into the
wide-open Pacific. There are sea lions aplenty, all sorts of birds, a warm breeze, a sense of wonderment.

Just. The. Best.

Anyhow, we parked, walked into the rental space—and in front of us in line where four people. A dad. A mom. Two kids. None wearing masks. And it was bullshit, because everyone else inside was masked. The employees were masked. The other renters were masked. But not these mug cracks, because—hey! MAGA! Or, hey, It’s a Free Country! Or, hey, I’m a stupid-ass mofo!

Whatever the case, the rage rose through me. All I wanted to do was chew these people out. My instinct was to do it loudly and clearly: “So, just so we all understand, everyone here needs to wear a mask, but you’re exempt? Why?”

Alas, I said nothing.

I should have. I really should have. But the kids were young, and there’s something line-crossing about humiliating Mommy and Daddy in front of their tykes.

So I walked away. Enraged.

Joe Biden is the right person

Illustration by Alison Cimmet

During the Democratic race to figure out who would take on Donald Trump in the 2020 election, I was all over the map.

I started as a Joe Biden guy—because I love Joe Biden and I’ve always found him to be incredibly decent and honorable. When he started sucking in the debates, however, I shifted. First, to Kamala Harris before I saw how poorly her campaign was being run. Then Cory Booker. Then Mayor Pete. Then back to Kamala. Then Elizabeth Warren. Then Mayor Pete. Then Warren.

Then, toward the end, I was—once again—all about Joe Biden.

As I am today.

In my lifetime, there have been right moments for presidents and wrong moments for presidents. I believe, after Richard Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford was precisely what America needed. I believe, after the Iranian crisis neared an apex, Ronald Reagan was what America needed. I believe, after 12 Republican years, Bill Clinton was what America needed, and in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s eight, eh, not great years, Barack Obama was what America needed. That doesn’t mean I favored (or didn’t favor) their presidencies. It just means the timing lined up.

Right now, at the start of 2021, Joe Biden’s timing lines up.

Joe Biden is old. Joe Biden’s record has holes. Joe Biden stumbles and stutters and is throwing 85, whereas he once hit 98 on the radar. I’ve often said he’s Dwight Gooden with the Devil Rays, but now—seeing him in action during the transition—I’d say he’s more Dwight Gooden as a Yankee. Mike Schmidt ins’t swinging through his heat, but the guy can still go seven innings and hold a team to two runs.

I digress.

In the aftermath of the (ongoing) Donald Trump hellstorm, the thing this nation needs is steadiness and agreeability. We need someone calm, mature, professional, empathetic. And that doesn’t mean I want Joe Biden to give in to Republican madness. It doesn’t mean I relish Biden trying to appease Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. But I do want him to talk to Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; to at least make the effort to listen and—maybe, just maybe—come to some agreements for the betterment of America.

The last four years have been … e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g. The meanness. The pettiness. The sniping. I’m tired of it. You’re tired of it. Biden, if nothing else, isn’t petty. He’s a deal maker; a hand shaker; a political leader who counted John McCain (before he died) and Lindsey Graham (before he turned into Darth Vader) among his closest friends.

I’m not sure this nation can be fully repaired.

But at least we have a grownup back in the White House.

One willing to hear what others have to say.

Lauren Boebert won’t last

I don’t think Lauren Boebert lasts as a congresswoman.

It’s not that she’ll quit and it’s not that she didn’t fairly win an election. She certainly did.

No, she won’t last because she’s sinister.

I don’t say that lightly. There are political figures I like and political figures I dislike. There are political figures I think highly of and others I think little of. Truth be told, I can actually respect (begrudgingly) someone as vile as Mitch McConnell, because for all the bullshit and nastiness and partisan crud, he is (and I hate to admit this) wildly successful.

But Boebert … Boebert is something different.

If you put a gun to my head (which Lauren Boebert would clearly enjoy), I believe she had some prior insights into the Capitol raid. I believe (as is being reported) she gave a tour to people involved. I believe, when she Tweeted that Nancy Pelosi had left the chamber, it was done with evil intent.

Again, she’s sinister.

The thing is, that sorta shit catches up with a person. Lauren Boebert walks with swagger and talks with swagger and acts as if she’s the new sheriff in town. But, truth be told, she seems weird and unhinged in that QAnon-guy-down-the-street-with-the-Trump-on-Rambo’s-body-flag type of way.

If, as I suspect, there’s more to the Capitol raid than we know, I believe she’ll be one of the first to go down.

I will cheer.

Donald Trump even screwed up boy bands

In case you missed this story—and you almost certainly have missed this story—there’s some major political turmoil within (gasp) the Backstreet Boys.

Stay calm.

As first reported by Buzzfeed’s Matt Stopera, it appears Brian Littrell (aka: the forgettable one) is not merely all in on MAGA, but all in on QAnon.

First, as relayed by Buzzfeed, there’s this …

Then, even worse, there’s this …

Save for Nick, who seems to avoid all things political, the other Boys didn’t hide their anger/disgust toward Brian. Particularly noteworthy is Kevin Richardson, Brian’s cousin, an open Biden/Harris backer and a guy who (hint, hint) Tweeted about the sadness of losing a friend to the MAGA/QAnon madness.

And here’s the thing that gets me. That really gets me. Boy bands are a pleasurable illusion. They’re enlistees in a fantasy land, where four or five handsome dudes hang out, create some harmonies, present beautiful women with bouquets of flowers and never dare break your heart. They don’t fart or burp or even use the toilet. There is no such thing as snot, or a tushy crack, or hepatitis C. They don’t fuck, they make love. They don’t make out, their lips softly touch your lips. They always walk together in a straight line, telling innocent jokes and wrapping arms over shoulders, arms over shoulders.

This is the boy band illusion.

This is the boy band illusion.

This is the boy band illusion.

The Backstreet Boys, in particular, mastered the art. Several years ago, when Nick Carter (the cute one) was accused of raping a woman, the news was swiftly (diabolically) brushed beneath the table. Rape? Nick could never rape someone. Not with those doe eyes.

So they continued being the Boys—performing daily in their Las Vegas residency, packing the room with mid-40s women looking to relive a fantasy, singing over recorded tracks of “I Want it That Way” and “Quit Playing Games With My Heart.” My daughter and I actually attended a show, and it was preposterous, stupid, mindless fun.

AKA: The reason boy bands never die.

But now, all has changed. Members of a boy band can age. Members of a boy band can get married. Members of a boy band can even be gay. Fuck, members of a boy band can be accused of rape. But when your entire illusion rests upon the pillar of WE’RE ALL BRUHS, having a member support a government overthrow and a racist aspiring dictator simply does not work. At this point, it is impossible to believe Kevin and Nick and A.J. and the other guy (Howie! Right—Howie!) want to spend any time with Brian and his nutjob political beliefs.

It is impossible to believe in the Backstreet Boys.

PS: And here’s the crushing part: My awesome sister-in law met Brian several years ago. He gave her a bagel, and this blog post followed. Yesterday I had to tell Jessica, a new mother (of my first niece!) about the whole Brian shit-show. Here was our exchange …

A stupid man

Tommy Tuberville is a freshman senator from Alabama.

He is a stupid man.

Tuberville’s claim to fame is being a former football coach and, in Alabama, Auburn’s former football coach. He was out of work and seemingly bored, and the Republican Party recruited him to run against Doug Jones, the moderate Democrat who sorta won the seat by a fluke (aka: The existence of Roy Moore).

So Tuberville ran—and won—by doing four things:

• Pledging complete loyalty to Donald Trump.

• Never debating Jones.

• Dropping a fair number of “Jesus” references.

• Saying almost nothing.

And now, because Alabama is Alabama, Tommy Tuberville is one of 100 United States senators. He is a bit regal looking, has a warm smile—and is, genuinely, uniquely, breathtakingly fucking stupid. If, per chance, you think I’m exaggerating, take earlier today. When he said this about the upcoming inauguration …

Yup. Why not delay, until the pandemic that Donald Trump has completely ignored improves?

Brilliant.

Donald Trump wanted to talk terrorism

“I will fight to keep you safe (from brown people only)!”

I was thinking about something.

Really, I was thinking about irony. Missed irony.

Donald Trump was in Texas the other day to discuss “my” wall and terrorism. He was there to brag about all his efforts to keep the bad people out. The rapists. The criminals. The people who want nothing but death, violence and destruction for the United States of America. He wanted people to know that, under his watch, America would be safe. Because he, Donald Trump, was all about making America first.

As this was happening, thousands of white people—white conservative Americans in MAGA hats—are planning attacks. It’s been well documented and explained. There are now 20,000 troops in Washington, protecting the city from yet another crushing wave of white conservative Americans in MAGA hats. Just like the white conservative Americans in MAGA hats who destroyed the Capitol and went room to room, seeking out political figures to batter.

I know people who love Donald Trump, because he pledges to stomp out BLM, to stomp out Antifa. He will do anything and everything (deploy the military, drop the hammer) to make sure these violent actors are out of the picture.

So he went to Mexico to brag about all he’s done.

As our country—inspired by the president and his lies—is about to burn.

Rats

So I noticed the pellets a few days ago while taking out the garbage by the side of our house.

Mouse poops, but larger. Thicker. My immediate thought: “Weird, those must be big mice.”

Then, it hit me.

Rats!

Fucking rats.

I put out these enormous traps last night, and this morning two were filled with the lifeless remains of my least-favorite (save for snakes) animals. It’s actually a jarring thing—picking up a dead rat caught in a trap. His eyes are open, so he’s looking at you. Or, at least, it seems as if he’s looking at you. I actually go with the plastic bag-over-hand technique, wrap up the guy, tie it up and toss.

The problems, of course, are myriad.

• One rat leads to two, two to 100.

• Rats shit everywhere.

• Rats like crawling beneath hoods and eating the wires of cars.

• Rats are gross.

This morning, for the first time in my life, I found myself sponging rat head blood off my sidewalk.

This isn’t the way I needed to launch a Thursday.

One good thing

Life as we know it.

Right now, America sucks. I feel it, you feel it. I’m not sure if we’ll look back at this period as another 1960s, or the beginning of the end, or the beginning of an eye-opening. Like many of you, I feel the weight of Donald Trump, the weight of the Capitol attack, the weight of QAnon losers and yet another day of COVID deaths and the inability to go anywhere.

So, in the name of positivity, I offer a sliver of (admittedly personal) light.

Save for an experimental two days, my kids have schooled from home since the beginning of the outbreak. My daughter Casey, a high school senior, does most of her work from her bedroom, with myriad trips downstairs throughout the day. My son Emmett, a high school freshman, does all of his work at the kitchen table.

And.

I.

Genuinely.

Love.

It.

I’m being selfish in that regard. I know it. And, certainly, I’d prefer my kids be at school, engaging and interacting and experiencing the requisite beats and rhythms of adolescence. They’re missing out on stuff that, once gone, is never again available. That’s a tragedy, and it sucks for all of our kids.

That said, when I walk into the kitchen my son often greets me with some weird hip-hop reference, and jokingly calls me “J-Dogg.” When I knock on my daughter’s door and enter, there’s always some scented candle burning; always some random life observation that sparks joy. I always take my son’s dirtied plate and bring it to the sink. I always take my daughter’s dirty bowl and bring it to the sink. My son talks about his friends. My daughter has a stream of comments about politics and Tik-Tok. We discuss issues. We chat about news. My son felts animals. My daughter writes to her prison penpal. Meals—once pretty organized—have largely turned into an ongoing buffet. My kids make themselves breakfast. We usually eat dinner together in front of the tube—casual, chilled. Bed times are increasingly flexible. We debate over who needs to take the dog out to poop. It’s pattern, sans pattern.

I hate this pandemic. Actually, to be blunt, right now I hate this country, and everything that’s happened. I will look back at this year and remember the misery, the sadness, the anger.

But I also think—deep down—I’ll miss it.

I’ll miss being together.

Goodbye, fun

So, unlike the vast majority of my Knicks-loving peers in Mahopac, N.Y., I grew up a New Jersey Nets fan.

I’m not sure why. Buck Williams was cool. Dug Pearl Washington and Mike O’Koren. I think, mostly, it was because the Nets weren’t the Knicks. They were the underdogs. The lessers. The Knicks were Ewing and Oakley. The Nets were Dawkins and Chris Morris. They played in an impossible-to-reach half-empty arena built atop swampland. Their uniforms were goofy. Their GM at the time—the legendary Willis Reed—was a Knick legend whose personnel judgement was, to be polite, lacking.

Or, put differently: The team used the 14th pick in the 1994 NBA Draft to select George Washington center Yinka Dare, a player they had neither worked or nor interviewed; a player whose college coach made clear leaving for the pros was a terrible mistake.

Wait.

I digress.

What comes with rooting for the losers is the unbridled joy when a spark happens. Meaning—you’re the Nets. You never make the playoffs. Then, one year, you sneak in as an eight seed and steal a first-round win. That’s a magical moment, one that goes terribly unappreciated in this win-at-all-costs-and-nothing-less culture.

I bring this all up because, moments ago, the Nets surrendered every asset they possessed (picks, young players, dozens of gift cards to Junior’s) to Houston in exchange for James Harden, a talented, accomplished, interestingly groomed scorer who passes as often as he cries during “A Walk to Remember.”*

And, with that final step, the Nets are no longer my Nets. They are the bully. The favorites. The expected-to-stomp kings of the Eastern Conference. And while I actually understand the deal from the organization’s (wrongheaded) perspective, it reminds me far too much of the Knicks’ 2011 acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, when the organization sent Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, New York’s 2014 first-round draft pick, the Warriors’ 2012 second-round pick, the Warriors’ 2013 second-round pick and $3 million in cash to Denver. The end result of that trade: The arrival of a selfish, dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-shoot me-first superstar, the departure of a young, fun, spunky gaggle of players who ran the court, moved the ball and kept fans glued to the TV.

These Durant-Harden-(wherever-the-hell-he-is) Kyrie Nets are now the clear favorites to face the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

But, I fear, the fun just left the building.

. * I’m guessing he never cries during “A Walk to Remember.” But I sure do. Especially when Mandy walks down the aisle, leukemia-ravaged but strong as a motherfuckin’ oxen. Go Mandy!

We should all be so censored

Earlier today, while speaking on the House floor on national TV, with seemingly millions of people watching worldwide, Marjorie Taylor Greene—Georgia congresswoman and freakalicious QAnon potato nut—wore a mask reading CENSORED.

I was able to watch her on YouTube.

On the Washington Post website.

On the New York Times website.

On Fox News

On CSPAN.

Here’s her Twitter feed.

On.

And on.

And on.

I bought her a new mask.

Steve Womack: The big pussy

Steve Womack: Another way to call a cat a kitten.

In case you missed this, earlier today The New York Times reported that—in a last-gasp effort to have the election overturned—Donald Trump called Mike Pence and said, “You can either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

According to the 45th president’s shameful world view, being a patriot means surrendering righteousness and dignity to serve the singular needs of an aspiring authoritarian scumbag desperately clinging to power. It means allowing the bully to bully you. And being a pussy means doing the right thing.

And, if we’re being honest, Mike Pence has been Donald Trump’s (to be bigly un-PC) pussy for four years. He has served the president as a prostitute serves her pimp. Trump commands, Pence obeys. No matter the circumstance. No matter correct v. incorrect.

But this time, for probably the first time, Pence stood his ground. He is no longer Washington’s biggest pussy.

Instead, we have Steve Womack, a congressman who has represented Arkansas’s Third Congressional District since 2011. He is pictured above.

Before today, I’d never heard of Steve Womack. And reading his website bio—well, the guy seems somewhat impressive. Womack (according to the site), “retired from the Arkansas Army National Guard in 2009 at the rank of Colonel with more than thirty years of service. His deployment to Sinai, Egypt in 2002 marked the first time a National Guard unit performed the mission of the Multinational Force and Observers. Womack’s Task Force received accolades from the highest levels of military and civilian leaders.”

Again, not too shabby.

This evening, however, Womack earned his new badge: Pussy Sans Honor.

In case you missed the story, new metal detectors have been placed outside the U.S. Capitol’s house chamber—a reasonable and sane safety measure considering last week’s catastrophe. But a small handful of Republican representatives (led by the clownish Lauren Boebert) flipped out upon being asked by police to have their bags checked before walking through (Boebert carries her gun everywhere, because she’s insane). Some were snippy. Some were visibly agitated.

Then there was Womack.

“You are creating a problem you do not understand the ramifications of!” he yelled at the police manning the detectors, then shouted at the officers to “get back!” and “don’t touch me!”

And if you think about it … if you really think about it—what the flying fuck is wrong with these people? With this guy? The officers are just doing their jobs. They’re paid a salary and told to do X and Y and Y and Z. They don’t make the rules, they didn’t decide, “It’d sure be fun to dig through Womack’s pockets.” They’re just employees—still surely reeling from one of the worst weeks of their lives.

And for Womack—defender of the working class—to chew these folks out, all because he’s put off by the suggestion (post-violence) that maybe we should worry about more violence … it’s infuriating.

Just suck it up, wait on the security line and be you.

It’s not that hard.

Donald visits (The) Alamo

Donald Trump is visiting Alamo, Texas today.

Not The Alamo, as he certainly thought.

Alamo.

Here’s how this happened:

Trump: “I want to show my supporters the power of revolution.”

Rudy Giuliani: “Easy call—take a visit to the wall., sir”

Trump: “I need more than just the wall. I need something that screams, ‘Fight for Trump! Revolt! Charge ahead!'”

Giuliani: “Oh, this is too easy. Let’s make a visit to The Alamo, sir.”

Trump: “I don’t need to rent a car.”

Giuliani: “No, The Alamo—

Trump: “Fuck Georgia.”

Giuliani: “It’s in Texas, sir.”

Trump: “I knew that.”

Giuliani: “The Battle of the Alamo led to Texans beating back the Mexican Army. The symbolism alone is perfect, sir.”

Trump: “Call me sir.”

Giuliani: “I just did, sir.”

Trump: “This sounds great, Rudy. Let’s go on Tuesday.”

Giuliani: “I’m on it. All we have to do is take Air Force One to Alamo, sir.”

Trump: “The Alamo, or Alamo?”

Giuliani: “I’m pretty sure it’s both, sir. Place and town.”

Trump: “Of cour—wait. Stop. Rudy, stop! You’re tickling Mr. Happy Stick.”

We won! We won! Now let’s die!

I enjoy the state of Alabama.

I mean that, and not in the typical snide New Yorker/Californian sense of, “I enjoy the state of Alabama because the people are so stupid.”

Nope, I literally have enjoyed much about Alabama. During my 2 1/2 years in Nashville at the start of my career, I spent some wonderful times in the Yellowhammer State—including finishing the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville. It’s a state rich in history, and while much of that history isn’t exactly, eh, flattering to the inhabitants, it’s history nonetheless. And it’s riveting.

That said, what the fuckity fucking fuck is wrong with these people?

In case you missed it, tonight the University of Alabama’s football factory team defied no odds because they were destined to win some random person who doesn’t follow sports’ expectations and demolished Ohio State to capture yet another national title.

And then, the people of Tuscaloosa stormed the streets and … and …and … and …

Threw one hell of a COVID party.

My pal Russ Bengtson is 100 percent correct: We are, factually, just the absolutely hands-down stupidest country in the history of countries. And, tonight, Alabama proved itself the absolutely hands-down stupidest state in the hands-down stupidest country in the history of countries.

It is inexplicable:

Step 1: Your heavily favored team, with a coach making $9.2 million per year, beats an OK team.

Step 2: You’re national champions—yet again. Yawn.

Step 3: You know we’re in the midst of a nationwide pandemic that (ahem) has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Step 4: But … your heavily favored team, with a coach making $9.2 million per year, beat an OK team! It’s time to party!

Step 5: Halfway out the door you grab your mask.

Step 6: Then you say, “Fuck it.”

Step 7: You party with 300,000 other maskless fools, half wearing MAGA and STOP THE STEAL T-shirts.

Step 8: Five days from now your raccoon burger has no taste. “That’s weird.”

Step 9: You’re fucking dead.

Roll Tide!

There was no byline

In case you missed this in all the madness, one of the U.S. Capitol invaders from last week scrawled MURDER THE MEDIA on a door.

There was no byline.

That sounds like I’m trying to be cute—a quick four-word punch to grab the reader’s attention. But, truly, that’s what grabs me about black MURDER THE MEDIA on white door: No byline.

The swine innard who pulled out a pen to scrawl MURDER THE MEDIA lacked the courage to add his/her name. We don’t know where the person is from, how old he/she is, how we can reach out via e-mail or Facebook or Twitter. We know nothing, save for iffy penmanship. The writer is long gone—perhaps back on a ranch in Oklahoma, perhaps back in a board room in Trenton, perhaps laughing his/her ass off at the mayhem that was brought to the nation’ capital.

There was no byline.

We, members of the media, are required (with rare, unfortunate exception) to have bylines. Whether you’re writing for Sports Illustrated or GQ or the New York Times of Fox News’ website, you have to place your name alongside your words. It’s not merely an identifying element, but an ode to our profession’s longstanding code of accountability. Yes, I wrote the Seahawks won’t win five games next year—here’s my name and Twitter handle. Yes, I wrote Donald Trump is a tremendous leader—here’s my name and Twitter handle. Yes, I’m a columnist for the Washington Post. You know how to reach me.

I’ve told this story many times, but back when I was a young sports reporter for The (Nashville) Tennessean, I covered a high school football game between Goodpasture Christian and David Lipscomb. It was my second-to-last week at the newspaper, before heading off to New York and Sports Illustrated. That night, I went out to the field and watched David Kirkau, the Lipscomb quarterback, play poorly. My next-morning article included the line, “The Mustangs’ David Kirkau, meanwhile, had an up-and-down sort of day—as in, his passes either went up too high or down too low.”

The ensuing phone calls were nonstop. How could you write such a thing? Who the hell do you think you are? Hence, the following Saturday night Larry Taft, my editor, sent me out to Lipscomb to cover the school’s playoff game. It would be my last-ever Tennessean assignment. “You always show your face after a story like that,” Larry told me. “It’s the professional way to be.”

He was 100-percent correct. I will never forget that night. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach, I strolled down to the Lipscomb sideline to prepare for aftermath interviews. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of players. Kirkau, the quarterback, stepped forward. “Don’t you ever come back here again!” he said.

The next day I left for Sports Illustrated. I’ve long believed David Kirkau thought he forced me out of town.

Whatever the case, I was accountable.

He knew how to find me.

Meanwhile, the MURDER THE MEDIA douche hides. Like a coward.

Sorry, Eric Munchel

Cell number TK

Hey, Eric Munchel. A few days ago you were breaking into the Capitol, decked out in paramilitary gear and carrying plastic restraints.

Now you’re in jail.

It’s weird. I don’t hear you yelling any longer. I don’t see you screaming, pointing, seeking out Democrats to tie up and, perhaps, kill. I don’t see you behaving like the ISIS thugs you probably once bemoaned. I can’t find you on Parler, because it’s pretty much gone and besides—being in jail and all—you don’t have your phone.

The photo atop this entry is your mug shot. Your mug shot. Remember how cool you felt last week? Storming through Washington after (and this is mere guess) a hearty breakfast of raw pig meat, carpet cleaner and a refreshing cranberry juice spritzer? Remember when all those MAGA folks looked up to you as a leader? As The Man? That was friggin’ awesome, bruh! You brought it like a mofo! Hells yeah! Trump till I die!

Remember?

What are you gonna do now?

Where are you gonna go?

That job at the bar—gone. That ability to roam the nooks of the Internet, unseen—gone. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be tarred and feathered as the dickwad who stormed the Capitol, armed with plastic restraints, then allowed his ID to be revealed nationwide. For fuck’s sakes, it’s been more than 40 years and we still don’t know who the Zodiac Killer was. But, in less than a week, Eric Munchel has been arrested.

I’m actually curious, as I write this and as you sit on a cold toilet, munching on the corners of a ham-and-mold white bread sandwich alongside your cellmate, Tattooed Larry the 500 Pound Sodomite: Do you have any regrets or doubts? Is there a part of you thinking, “Eh, maybe we took this too far …” or “Perhaps spirited debate would have served us better …”?

Or are you sleeping soundly on your steel cot, dreaming of a conjugal visit from Donald Trump and an eat-for-free lifetime pass to Mar-o-Lago?

Fight on, Eric.

Fight on.

The Jets will sign Taylor Heinicke

Welcome to the Jets, Taylor.

I have seen the future for the New York Jets, and it is this …

Part 1: The team decides Sam Darnold is no longer its quarterback of the future. He is traded to Washington for a third-round pick and a wide receiver with one hand.

Part 2: The team hires its new head coach, Josh McDaniel.

Part 3: With the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, the New York Jets select … Cameron Hearn, punter, Sam Houston State. In the second round, they honor the memory of Alex Van Dyke by selecting Alex Van Dyke again. They are later informed Alex Van Dyke is still very much alive.

Part 4: The team signs free-agent quarterback Taylor Heinicke to a guaranteed five-year, $100 million deal with a $30 million signing bonus. Heinicke is given uniform No. 14, “to honor my hero, Neil O’Donnell.”

Part 5: Heinicke reports to training camp, and on the first day breaks his leg trying to dislodge a soda from the official Jets vending machine with his left foot.

Part 6: With Heinicke out, the Jets sign free agent quarterback Geno Smith, who is immediately installed as the team’s starter.

Part 7: The Jets start the season 0-14, and the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft is a generational quarterback who can throw the ball 200 yards on a dime and has legs made of titanium. “He is the best prospect who has ever lived!” raves O.J. Simpson on Twitter. “Even the Jets can’t screw this up!”

Part 8: The Jets win their final two games, thereby surrendering the No. 1 overall pick to the Giants.

Part 9: Sam Darnold leads the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns, and the Washington Artmonks win the Super Bowl by overcoming Chiefs halfback Le’Veon Bell’s 435 rushing yards.

Part 10: With the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select … Jose Romo-Martinez, punter, Delaware State. In the second round, they draft a llama. Just for fun.

Part 11: I jump off a bridge.

Ed Schmidt and a lesson that stuck

Mr. Schmidt: Great beard, great ice cream generosity

Back when I was a kid in Mahopac, N.Y., I had a youth sports coach named Ed Schmidt.

I can’t remember whether this was baseball, basketball or soccer, but at the end of the season Mr. Schmidt (a warm, gregarious man) treated the entire team to a post-final game visit to Carvel.

We all lined up to order. One kid ordered a cone. Then another kid ordered a cone. Then another cone. And another cone.

When it was my turn, I ordered a vanilla shake.

Later that evening, my parents inquired about my ice cream experience.

“What type of cone did you get?” Dad asked.

“I had a milkshake,” I replied.

Mom and Dad both frowned—and I’ve never forgotten the stern-yet-not-mean lecture. “When someone is kind enough to take you out,” Dad said, “you don’t take advantage of that. Mr. Schmidt bought you ice cream with his own money. You shouldn’t have taken advantage.”

You never know what small lessons stick.

That one has.

[And I still love a good shake]

Mitt Romney’s Cock

Mitt Romney: Integrity

So, to be honest, I wasn’t planning on writing about Mitt Romney’s cock, but then I noticed Roger Stone was yet again trending on Twitter. It was for writing this offering on Parler about the Utah senator …

I, personally, do not know what Mitt Romney’s cock smells like—but I imagine his entire body boasts the scent of dignity, decency, authenticity, mixed in with a mild splash of vanilla.

I say that as someone who, in 2012, believed he hated Mitt Romney. That’s when the Massachusetts governor was running against Barack Obama for the presidency, and I deemed him as this evil, sinister, wicked Republican who wanted to erode the republic with tax breaks for the wealthy and an anti-gay, pro-life agenda.

I was, in fact, wrong.

Mitt Romney is pro-tax cuts. He’s pro life. Truth be told, we share very few policy beliefs. But Romney also happens to be honest, sincere, forthright. Yes, he screwed up by meeting with a newly elected Donald Trump shortly after the 2016 election. And, yes, there are holes in his resume (Important note: one could say the same for Obama, Biden, Harris, JFK, FDR, on and on and on). But when far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far too many Republicans have cowered in Trump’s shadow and groveled at his feet, Romney has stood up to the conman in chief at a time when it would be far easier to nod, sigh and accept his party’s satanic morphing.

In short: Mitt Romney has been a statesman.

Roger Stone, on the other hand, is an attention-seeking whore puddle, looking to remain in focus as an ever-fading spotlight dies out. He wants to matter. No, needs to matter. So if that means serving as Donald Trump’s pimp, so be it. And if that means taking to a fringe corner of social media to question the scent of Mitt Romney’s genitalia, well, OK.

Come day’s end, Mitt Romney will be remembered as a man who stepped up when most of his ilk hid.

And Roger Stone will be remembered as a cock.

Or, more likely, not remembered at all.

The last hand I shook

This is a photograph of the last hand I shook.

It belongs to Chili Davis, longtime Major League slugger and current hitting coach for the New York Mets.

I spoke with Davis last March, outside the batting cages at the Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie. We stood in the sun as the familiar bat-on-ball sound of WHOP! WHOP! WHOP! rose from behind. He was friendly and talkative and as lovely as his reputation suggested (Davis has long been known as one of sports’ genuinely good guys). The conversation lasted for, oh, 15 minutes, and—because COVID had just started being this … thing we were all aware of—I thanked him for his time, turned to walk off, then …

Chili Davis reached out to shake.

I was a tiny bit taken aback. But, in hindsight, it’s sorta cool.

I grabbed his hand. Or he grabbed mine. For those two seconds I was shaking hands with Chili Davis. When the moment ended, I walked off, found a bathroom, washed my hands and—shortly thereafter—learned that spring training was coming to an abrupt halt, and I’d be returning home.

One day, I imagine, we’ll probably all be back shaking hands, and no one will think much of it. But, just maybe, this is the end/beginning of a cultural shift. Perhaps the hand shake will forever be a thing of the past, and from now on we’ll nod, or elbow bump, or just bow clumsily.

If that’s the case, I’m golden.

I wrapped with Chili Davis.

What I wrote

I have kept a regular diary beginning in 1996.

Earlier today, I was curious what I wrote after the 2016 presidential election.

I wasn’t wrong.

11/8/ 16

Devastated.

That’s what I am right now. Devastated. Donald Trump, the world’s biggest conman, has just been elected 45th president of the United States. He is an ignorant, ugly strongman wanna-be who just fooled a majority of Americans into voting for him. He will be a disaster of the worst kind and I am utterly shocked.

I feel like crying, because this country elected a man who ran a campaign fueled by bigotry. He is the worst person I’ve ever written about. A con scum piece of shit, and now he’s president.

How do I talk to the kids about this?

John Minchillo could have died.

This is one of the most jarring sights from Wednesday’s hellscape. I just saw it this morning, and I’m still shaken.

The man in the black is John Minchillo, an Associated Press photographer who was sent to cover the nightmare and—having experienced conflict zones in the past—knew how to dress for the occasion. Somehow, because the adrenaline was flowing and violence was on tap and the specialty of the day was Sadistic Governmental Overthrow Via A Bunch of Brainwashed MAGA Dickheads, the collective decided Minchillo—father, husband, respected journalist—was Antifa.

Why was he Antifa? Apparently because … he was Antifa. And Antifa must be stopped. So let’s get the Antifa guy! Let’s hurt him! Let’s drag him off! He’s Antifa! The enemy! Antifa! Fuck Antifa! Here’s Antifa! Right in front of us—Antifa! Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!

Somehow, Minchillo survived. There are 1,000 different twists and turns that result in his death.

And I’d like to make a few points:

A. These are the primary people criminals who went after him. No, who attacked him. An innocent journalist, doing a job protected by the First Amendment of the document you supposedly hold so dear. They are not patriots. They are terrorists, and they must be reported and punished.

B. This is on the President of the United States, who has devoted more than four years to insisting we, the media, are the enemy of the people. This is on you, Donald Trump. Which is actually funny, in that you live and die with media attention; with the very thing you attack.

C. There was one guy, in a MAGA hat, who went out of his way to protect Minchillo. And, on the one hand, he deserves no credit. He was a part of this. A participant. A member of the brainwashed mob. Yet, on the other hand, something struck me. In that moment, he wasn’t consumed by the hatred and ignorance. He saw a human being attacked, and somehow snapped out of the trance long enough to think, “No, this isn’t right.”

And maybe, if we’re lucky, that moment of empathy can be as contagious as the spewing of hate.

Maybe.

Empathy from one guy.

Eric Trump’s inglorious end

Two days ago, Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought Eric Trump on as a guest, thereby resulting in the above slice of documented heaven.

I love this snippet in the way I love fresh blueberry muffins, a cold Coca Cola, the final episode of Happy Days and a Mr. T movie marathon, and I actually think it can ultimately serve as an important historical document filed under the heading: DON’T BE A BRAGGY DOUCHE IF YOU’VE NEVER ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING AND YOUR FIRST INSTINCT IS TO GO ON TELEVISION AND THREATEN FOLKS.

Or something like that.

I’m sure, when Eric Trump stood before the camera, he was flying high. Twelve cups of coffee down, maybe a (sniff, sniff) line or two. A quick handy from the wife. That gorgeous hunk of Hannity cooing sweet pudding pops into his ear piece.

Plus, the big rally was approaching! Hundreds of thousands of MAGA folks flying into Washington! Daddy as president and fighting to overturn the evil Dems! It’s Eric’s time to shine! Eric time!

So Eric went off …

“Tomorrow’s gonna tell you a lot about the country, because I can tell you Sean, any senator or any congressman that does not—meaning on this side—that does not fight tomorrow, I’m telling you, will not … their political career is over because the MAGA movement, it’s going nowhere. My father has created the greatest political movement in American history and I’m telling you they will get primaried the next time around and they will lose if they don’t stand up and show some backbone and show some conviction.”

That was less than 48 hours ago.

At this moment, #MAGA hats can be had for .99—and that price is plummeting on the quick. Donald Trump has been kicked off Instagram and Facebook. His cabinet members are jumping from the ship like little rat babies. There are calls for the president’s impeachment and his resignation. Those thoughts of a 2024 return? Dead. Thoughts of a Trump dynasty? Laughable. The president of the United States is literally hiding inside the White House, an empty tin of lugworms with only the hardened lugworm shit remaining.

And Eric Trump, unaccomplished boy wonder, can forever remember the day when he appeared on Hannity for the final time, promising the world while unknowingly burying his future.

Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam showed up

Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam: Medals of Dishonor

In case you missed this (and, considering the world’s melting, you likely did), earlier today Donald Trump presented Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam with Presidential Medals of Freedom.

The ceremony took place behind closed doors, and Player and Sorenstam were two of three golf recipients—the late Babe Zaharias was the other.

And I would like to say, on behalf of American sports fans: You really showed up?

Annika, Gary—in case you didn’t hear the news, yesterday the president of the United States led an armed attack on the U.S. Capitol. He was directly responsible, just as he’s responsible for convincing millions of Americans that democracy no longer matters and can no longer be trusted.

Yesterday, America was on fire because of Donald Trump.

And, this afternoon, you stood before him, accepting a medal.

Is that who you are?

Is that what this is all about?

You stood before Donald Trump as he placed a medal around your necks, thereby acknowledging today as just another day in America. You could have said, ‘No.’ You could have said, “Considering what transpired yesterday, I can no longer take part in this. I love America. This country means so much to me. And, because of that, I will stay home.” Hell, you could have said, “I respect Donald Trump, but in light of what’s going on …”

Nope.

You stood there.

Medal around neck.

Dignity in the toilet.

What happened to Ashli Babbitt?

Ashli Babbitt, right.

Ashli Babbitt served in the Air Force.

Yesterday, she was famously shot while storming the U.S. Capitol.

Now she is dead.

On social media, many were celebrating Babbitt’s death. I hate that. I’m sure I would have disliked much about Babbitt, but she leaves behind family, friends, people who cared and people who are hurting. Just because you know someone like Ashli Babbitt doesn’t mean you share her beliefs and convictions. Even if you don’t care about someone’s death, you can think about those left behind who are crushed.

I digress.

I want to know Ashli Babbitt’s path. I want to know how one loves America enough to enlist in the armed services, then 1 1/2 decades later, decide the ideal option is to attempt to break into the U.S. Capitol. I want to know what she was watching on TV. I want to know who she was listening to on the radio. I want to know if she had QAnon ties; if she was devoted to the preachings of Limbaugh and Hannity.

I want to know if there was a moment—perhaps a singular moment—that flipped a switch.

Scrolling through Ashli Babbitt’s Twitter feed, I see much not to like. She was a conspiracy theorist; a Trump loyalist; a woman who seemed to genuinely believe it was the world v. MAGA—and she was full MAGA.

Now, a veteran who tried to destroy a piece of the government is dead.

I would not have liked Ashli Babbitt.

But it is, unambiguously, a tragedy.

Twitter, be righteous

It is time for Twitter to delete Donald Trump’s account.

I don’t take pleasure in writing such a thing. The president is, obviously, an important figure, and citizens want to hear what he’s thinking and planning and doing.

But this has gone on long enough.

These days, all Trump does on Twitter is lie and inflame, lie and inflame, lie and inflame. And Twitter has become his No. 1 outlet for doing so. It’s not merely his social media platform of choice. It’s his oxygen. Trump lives to Tweet. Hell, I’d argue Trump is addicted to Tweeting. He loves the affirmation and the immediacy. Which I understand.

But, again, he lies nonstop, belittles nonstop, puts out bullshit nonstop.

Today, in the wake of a national tragedy caused, in large part, but Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, it’s time for Twitter to do the right thing.

End @realdonaldtrump.

Get a life

So it seems fights are breaking out in downtown Los Angeles—#MAGA idiots v. anti-#MAGA idiots.

And on behalf of all those not present, I’d like to say the following: Get a life.

Truly, get a life. This is how you resolve differences? By curling up your hand and turning it into a hardened object, then launching it toward another’s head? THAT’S your coping method? Your go-to?

My last fight took place in high school. A kid punched me in the face. It hurt. I cried a bit. And, at that moment, I also realized, “Fighting—it’s inane.”

But there they are. In Los Angeles. In Washington. They could have done a breakdance battle. A thumb fight battle. A counting race to 30. Whatever.

Instead, fists into heads.

Grow up.

Hey, GOP—you own this

Outside the Capitol

In case you haven’t been paying attention, violence has overtaken Washington this afternoon.

Fuck, immediately after I typed that sentence my wife DMed me this …

Anyhow, after Donald Trump gave his whiney, bitchy, the-type-of-cowardly-bullshit-a-guy-with-five-draft-deferments-might-utter moan speech about the election being stolen, he urged his supporters to fight.

So they’re fighting.

They’ve stormed barricades.

They’ve beaten down police officers.

This was just Tweeted out by Matt Laslo, a editor with The News Station …

And this …

And right now, in my silent rage, I want to hear from my Donald Trump-supporting friends. I want to hear how he loves America. I want to hear about his patriotism. I want to hear how awful “Antifa” is. I want to hear how the left is violent. I want to hear how in the fucking fuck you can still support a man only out to rule and gain power and gain fame and gain wealth. A man who has never shown two shits of interest in you or him or her. A man who has devoted much of his life to bilking the poor and middle class with casinos and phony universities and cons galore.

I want to know what it’s like—what it’s truly like—to be a member of a cult.

And, lastly, I want to say this: I will remember you.

I will remember that you supported this monster.

I will fucking remember.

Inflatable baby Jesus

So the son and I have been taking a lot of night walks of late, and a few hours ago we passed the above display in a neighbor’s yard.

Yes, it’s inflatable baby Jesus Christ.

Now, to be clear, I’ve got no problem with inflatable baby Jesus Christ, inflatable Moses, inflatable Chevy Chase, inflatable Kanye West, inflatable Oliver Miller. If someone wants to create an inflatable Jeff Pearlman, I’d be enthusiastic and supportive.

That said, humans are weird.

In America, a good percentage of the population considers it treasonous to burn the flag. Which is fine. But you can sport an American flag hat, American flag scarf, American flag mask (aka snot drip rag). And in these United States, where Christianity reigns and all other religions are a distant second, Jesus is the be all, get all. He’s the king. The champ. The savior. Numero uno. The Jesus of Jesuses.

And, to prove his holiness is real, we’re going to … spend $175 on a Made-in-China Jesus who can be brought to life by blowing air through a tube affixed to his baby Jesus anus.

Amen.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Jim Jones: Follow me and drink your punch.

I was thinking today how many, many, many people don’t get the Kool-Aid references when they’re made in reference to Donald Trump and the people who mindlessly follow his every utterance and command.

It’s the sort of thing you slide past—“Kool-Aid, OK. I’m sure it’s something.”

So, in case you’re wondering … on Nov. 18, 1978, Jim Jones—leader and founder of the People’s Temple—commanded his 900-plus followers to kill themselves by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. Jones was the head of a cult; one, a surviving follower later recalled, fed on people’s fears while promising to create, “a rainbow family.” Jones was charismatic enough to have his North American peeps follow all the way to a South American jungle, where they created a community devoted to the man’s teachings. Nine years ago The Atlantic interviewed Teri Buford O’Shea, a Jonestown resident, who explained Jones’ appeal thusly: “He was very charismatic and attracted people who were feeling vulnerable or disenfranchised for whatever reason.”

She added this:

I have been passionate about American politics for years. There have been figures I’ve loved, figures I’ve loathed. But, come day’s end, I’ve always been aware that they’re just humans, not to be worshiped or idolized. I may well have admired Barack Obama, but I never sought to kneel before him. I may well have despised Dick Cheney, but I never believed he was pure evil. Again—they’re people. They poop and pee and fart and belch and eat and sleep and die. Just like me. Just like you.

The cult-like grip Donald Trump has upon people, however, is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in regards to politics. It’s craziness; personified. It’s believing one man, no matter how many facts scream, “That’s not true!” It’s kneeling before a non-God, thinking he’s God. It’s saying you love America, but spitting upon democracy in the name of a lifelong huckster who commands you to do so.

It’s drinking the Kool-Aid.

Avoid the stupid

The MAGAs are gathering in Washington, and they want red meat.

They want you to come out and scream at them.

They want to get up in your face.

They want to show you that masks are stupid.

They want to scream “Four more years!” and watch you seethe

Their devotion is toward Trump, but their oxygen is shoving it to the libs; is making Democrats cry; is lowering the fight to a dime-high level. It’s not about debate or discourse or moderation. It’s about a fight. A raw, hard-edged, glass-and-guns street fight.

Do.

Not.

Give.

It.

To.

Them.

These fools are infecting one another with COVID. These fools are suckers to one of the biggest conmen in American history. These fools aren’t reading legal cases. They’re out for blood, because they’re white and frustrated and easily swayed; they look at people like Barack Obama and Kamala Harris and don’t see the comforting reflection in the mirror. America is more diverse than ever, and these folks want to shove it all back into a bottle and toss it far into the ocean.

Again—do not give this to them.

Tomorrow, let them scream and yell and shout and moan and infect.

Let them stand alongside one another and believe they’re patriotic.

They are small and dumb and slaves to a huckster.

Don’t engage them.

Laugh at them.

From afar.

Writing alongside a dog

Poppy

If you follow this website at all, you know my dog Norma died about six months ago.

Her passing carved me up, and I still get quite sad seeing her photo, or thinking about some of the quirks that made her, well, quirky. She was, without debate, a wonderful dog.

That said, after the pain started to lessen, we brought home a new dog. Her name is Poppy, and she’s a Bernedoddle. She’s also, at 6 months old, a major pain in the ass. Poppy eats the table, eats wires, eats wood chips, eats the corners of walls. She’s high energy, always darting from there to here, here to there. She’s also teething, which means she’ll bite the hell out of your elbow.

That said, I already love the girl.

As I wrote those seven words, I’m sitting at my office desk, and behind me—on a futon—Poppy sleeps. Her eyes are closed, her paws are out, you can see her little body rising and sinking with each breath. And, truly, it’s not unlike sitting alongside a roaring fire place, or sipping from a warm cup of whipped cream-topped hot chocolate. Being with a dog is soothing and comforting and warm. She loves you unconditionally and you (usually) love her.

I miss Norma.

But I’m happy to have another pet as accompaniment

This guy

So I was sorting thru Twitter this morning when I came upon a Fox News clip posted by the terrific Aaron Rupar.

Here it is …

And I love this.

I love this.

I love this.

I love this.

It immediately made me think of David Lee Roth’s 1985 cover of “California Girls,” and the accompanying music video that included a bunch of sweaty, nose-picking misfits on a tour bus to the desert. Lee Roth, serving as the guide, seems blissfully indifferent toward the oddness of his colleagues, and goes on as if it’s all just dust on a windshield.

In this case, live from Atlanta in anticipation of today’s Grand Führer Donald Trump rally, the sad on-the-scene reporter brings us Terry, who made the drive all the way from Michigan to attend. And Terry is … well. He’s Terry. A huge man in a pink hat, glasses and a white T-shirt that reads THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN COVID-19 WOULD BE BIDEN 20.

Of course, he’s not wearing a mask, which is OK. Because … hey. Covid’s a hoax. So the sad on-the-scene reporter brings him over as Steve Doocy, one of the hosts, sighs audibly at the toxic circus that’s about to ensue. And, indeed, it’s toxic. More than 300,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, and Ol’ Terry is a close talker. So he leans into the mic, breathing with the weight of Fridge Perry following a one-yard touchdown plunge, and says—spit a spewin’—”We love you Ainsley!” (A side word to sad on-the-scene reporter: You just might wanna get a COVID test ASAP. Tell them Terry sent you)

The recipient of such affections is Ainsley Earhardt, Fox News co-host, Sean Hannity’s girlfriend (I didn’t make that up—Sean Hannity has a girlfriend!) and a woman who (I am quite certain) would run the other way at Stanley Floyd speed were Terry approaching in the flesh.

Instead, from the comfort of the New York studio, Ainsley starts with, “Terry, I lo—” And then stops. Just stops, and changes direction.

Why?

Maybe she was distracted.

Maybe she has pressing issues to address.

Or maybe, just maybe, she shot another gander at Terry and thought, “If I tell Terry ‘I love you, too,’ there’s a 64.7 percent chance he takes that literally and starts sending me flowers and deer antlers and shards from his dried booger collection. So let’s not.”

But then, at the last minute, sad on-the-scene reporter fucks it all up. He turns back to Terry and says, “She says she loves you, too!”

And that sound you hear—that little whisper from up north—is Ainsley Earnardt, Sean Hannity’s girlfriend, freaking the fuck out.

Because Terry has always dreamed of visiting the Big Apple.

The shame you’ll feel …

The year is, oh, 2050.

You’re a grandpa. Or grandma.

Your grandchild is learning about Donald Trump in school. She has some questions.

“Grandpa, you didn’t vote for Donald Trump, did you?”

Yes, you reply. You did. Twice.

“But Grandpa, didn’t he wind up spending 10 years in prison after he was done with the presidency?”

You nod, glumly.

“And wasn’t he president when that virus happened, and all those hundreds of thousands of people died? And he said over and over again that it wasn’t a big deal?”

You nod, glumly.

“There’s a boy in my class who calls me Fat Alice,” she says. “He makes pig noises when I walk by.”

You’re upset. Furious. You want to tell Alice she’s beautiful just the way she—

“Grandpa, didn’t Donald Trump call women fat and ugly?”

You’re stumped.

“Grandpa, how many years did you serve in the Army?”

You tell Alice it was seven years total—three active duty in the Middle East.

“Grandpa, when Donald Trump said heroes aren’t captured, was he talking about people like you?”

Again, silence.

“Grandpa, I was reading about the 2020 election. Remember when I cried after losing my little league game, and you told me I need to be gracious and decent and honest?”

You rise, pat Alice atop the head and walk off.

Humiliated.

Did Ted Cruz cheat in 2016?

On February 3, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump Tweeted this in the aftermath of the Iowa caucus …

To be clear, he accused Ted Cruz of cheating. Accused him of fraud. Accused him of doing something dirty to the election process. And he demanded there be an election do-over. Here’s an article from the next day’s Arizona Daily Star …

In case you don’t feel like reading a four-year-old political piece, Cruz’ response to Trump’s claim was that the future president was, “losing it.”

Trump, however, kept going. As the article indicates, he laid out a list of Cruz cheating tactics. He said Cruz sent out a mailer that illegally resembled an official notice. He said Cruz circulated a false rumor that Ben Carson was dropped out of the race. “Many people,” Trump wrote, “voted for Cruz over Carson because of this Cruz fraud.”

Finally, Cruz let loose with a strongly worded quote of his own …

“Donald Trump guaranteed a victory in Iowa and then he lost,” he said. “And he doesn’t like that. And his reaction is that he breaks down, he really has problems.”

Cruz was right.

But now it’s 2020. And he needs that MAGA love.

Democracy be damned.

My motherfucking dog

So we have a dog named Poppy.

She’s 6-months old, snuggly, warm, lovable and relatively well behaved.

That said, I’m pissed.

A few weeks ago, for Chanukah, I bought the wife an electric throw blanket. The woman is always cold and an absolute sucker for blankets. So I hit up the local Bed, Bath and Beyond and snagged this gem, for a relatively OK price.

Poppy proceeded to eat the cord, rendering the heating device useless.

I’ve spent the past 20 minutes searching the World Wide Webster for a replacement, and it doesn’t exist. Brookstone is a company in name only, electric blanket cords are the perfect games of the blanket world (aka: Almost impossible to snag) and now I’m sitting here, blogging out of frustration.

So, if anyone’s in the market for an electric blanket-cord eating dog who likes belly rubs and long walks on the beach, she’s yours … in exchange for your functioning cord.

Which, of course, does not exist.

PS …

The empty diner

Tonight we ordered dinner from the Harbor House.

It’s an old-school diner about 20 minutes down the road, and the spot where I’ve written much of my last two books.

The Harbor House is one of the few places out here that feels like New York. Red booths line the rectangular space, with all sorta of Hollywood photos and posters coating the walls. The burgers arrive with warm, crispy fries, piled sloppily toward the side. The shakes are cheesecake-thick. Waiters come and go, offering refills on soda and coffee. It’s open 24 hours, which is unique for Orange County, and they’re kind/cool enough to let a writer sit in a corner booth for hours.

It’s my type of spot.

So, when I entered the front door, and spotted the emptiness (as pictured above), my heart sank. It’s still the Harbor House, but what’s a late-night writing spot without hustle and bustle? Without a table overflowing with obnoxious college kids? Without an old woman sitting in the corner, sipping her lemon and tea? What is it without the waitress calling you “Honey”? Without the busboy whipping around a moist white rag? Without Elvis or Billy Joel or Whitney Houston crooning from a nearby radio?

What is a late-night writing spot without two heavily tatted bikers debating apple v. cherry pie? Without the manager saying, “Take your time. Enjoy”? Without a visit to the bathroom, where the toilet seat features three or four dabs of pee and this curiously placed poster hangs?

The Harbor House is still the Harbor House.

But will it ever again be the same?

Clemson and Alabama

Maine long snapper Bryce Colee: More interesting than Clemson-Alabama

Were I enrolled at the University of Alabama, this would all be interesting.

Were I enrolled at Clemson, this would all be interesting.

Otherwise … who gives a fuck?

I mean that. What is even slightly interesting about two enormous football powers yet against meeting for the national championship? What, exactly, is the suspense? Whether this rich asshole coach betters that rich asshole coach? Whether the post-game interview features someone saying—straight-faced—”Nobody thought we’d be here today!” Whether only five, or 10, or 15 football players contract COVID?

I’m being sincere: How is it fun to watch the same shit over and over and over again? What does winning actually mean if you are all but guaranteed to win?

Alabama spends gazillions on football.

Clemson spends gazillions on football.

They both bore me to death.

The aliens wanted our gold. Then they sodomized us for sport.

So my son wanted to stay up until midnight for New Year’s, and since he’s 14 and super cool and we have nothing planned tomorrow, I was all in on the plan.

Then we decided to watch that 2011 classic piece of movie making, “Cowboys & Aliens.”

Yup.

First, here’s the crazy thing: Not everything about “Cowboys & Aliens” is awful. The cast is deep, the scenery is fantastic. For the first half hour or so it feels like a legit western, the kind John Wayne and Clint Eastwood once made to perfection.

Then, it falls apart.

I can buy aliens visiting earth in the mid-1800s.

I can buy Daniel Craig as a bad-ass cowboy.

I can buy cowboys and Native Americans teaming up to form a super force.

I can even buy the plot line that aliens come to earth solely because they crave gold, so they start shooting everyone and gathering the loot.

Wait.

Wait.

No.

I cannot buy that.

The reason everything happens in “Cowboys & Aliens” is … the aliens want gold. Why do they want gold? We never know. How did they first learn of this thing called gold? Again, no clue. But they crave it like a drunk craves rum, so they fly all over the place in their circa-2800 space ships, killing cowboys and gobbling gold.

Oh, almost forget: They also capture tons of humans, then study them (aka: open their flesh with knives, then incinerate) on the mothership. Why? So they can know our weaknesses. Which is ABSOLUTELY FUCKING BONKERS, because our weaknesses are … we’re cowboys. Just cowboys. No space crafts. No levitation. We possess no psychic powers. We’ve got nothing, outside of horses, whiskey bottles and guns that hardly shoot straight. For fuck’s sakes, this is more than 100 years before the birth of Christian Okoye. So even he’s not around to help.

Ultimately, it’s an OK flick for 30 seconds and a brutal one for 90.

Which led to Emmett’s final thought, roughly halfway through and with the clock reading 12:14 am.

“I’m ready for bed.”

2021

In 2020, my dog died. My kids’ Grandma Sandy died. There were fires. There was COVID. There’s the awfulness of Trump and his mind slaves. There were deaths—Kobe, Black Panther, RBG, my friend’s father via coronavirus. On and on and on and on and on …

It.

Was.

The.

Worst.

Year.

Ever.

And.

It.

Was.

Never.

Ending.

Well, now it’s ending. And while COVID is as awful as ever, and while Trump is continuing to attempt to overthrow democracy, and while my kids are isolated and the wife and I are isolated and I haven’t boarded a plane since March or sat inside a restaurant since February … there is finally some hope. A new year matters. That’s why we celebrate it and capitalize it. It’s both a new year and a new beginning. A fresh start. A chance to wipe the slate clean and say, “OK, here’s what I’m gonna do …”

So here’s what I’m gonna do in 2021.

I’m gonna be the best father I can.

I’m gonna be the best husband I can.

I’m gonna be the best friend I can.

I’m gonna spend more time at the beach and less time wasting moments at a screen. I’m gonna try my best to help those in need. I’m gonna embrace my daughter’s final few months as a high schooler, and continue to teach my son how to stutter right before driving left to the hoop.

I’m gonna remember that 2020s happen, and you need to embrace and appreciate the non-2020s.

I’m gonna look for the light.

Happy New Year.

A very, very gay new year

On this day every year, I am required to tell my favorite New Year’s Eve story of all time.

So I will.

In the winter of 1996 I was a 24-year-old writer, home in New York for the holidays. My friend Dan worked for a major corporation in the city, and he told me one of his co-workers was having the New Year’s Eve party to end New Year’s Eve parties. “It’s gonna be incredible,” Dan said. “Guy is loaded.” So we decided to go—Dan, me, our longtime friend Paul, Mike Lewis, and Kyle, Dan’s roommate. Dan actually had to secure passes from the host, whose apartment was a stone’s throw from the Times Square ball drop.

On the night of Dec. 31, we all met at Dan’s apartment, then walked to Times Square. We handed a couple of police officers our passes, and they let us through a barricade. The apartment building where the guy lived was gigantic, as well as beautiful. A lobby with plush carpets, expensive paintings, piped-in classical music, etc. We took the elevator to the penthouse, and were greeted warmly by the host. “You guys are the first ones here,” he said. “But make yourselves at home.”

We did. The bar was loaded, the food was spectacular. We ate and chatted, drank and chatted. The goals were pretty clear—have fun, get drunk, hopefully meet some women, hook up, so on and so on.

Then, gradually, guests began to arrive.

Two men.

Three men.

Four men.

Three men.

Two men.

Five men.

Six men.

Two more men.

Paul looked at me, real funny-like. “Jeff,” he said, “this is a gay New Year’s party.”

Indeed, it was.

I’ll never forget it. My friends were well-dressed, which was the norm at the party. I was wearing a University of Tennessee football jersey, which was not the norm (One cannot have a more prominent NOT GAY! neon sign than a Tennessee football jersey). Some guy kissed Paul on the cheek, and at one point Mike looked around and said, “You know what—”I’m gonna mingle!”

It wasn’t awkward, but fun. Joyful. Memorable. As the clock counted down to midnight, I stood on the guy’s balcony, bottle of bubbly in hand, surrounded by, oh, 150 gay men. When 1996 arrived, everyone started yelling and cheering, then making out. One big simultaneous make-out.

Happy Gay New Year anniversary!

It’s my favorite memory.

PS: Found this, from the 1938 New York Age …

Dr. Drew has COVID

Two doctors: A real one, and Drew.

I am not happy Dr. Drew has COVID, and I’m being sincere when I say that.

First, no one deserves to get sick. I mean, maybe Hitler did. And Mussolini. And the tear-it-all-down Donald Trump. But generally speaking, I don’t wish ill upon folks. Dr. Drew surely has people who love him and rely on him, and the coronavirus is a cruel, uncertain path to walk. Especially for someone in his 60s.

That said, Dr. Drew devoted a good amount of energy to dismissing COVID as a big nothing. He compared it to an outbreak of the flu. Which might sound silly and naive, especially considering Dr. Drew has no real expertise or (it seems) experience with infectious diseases. I mean, why would anyone take Dr. Drew’s word for it, when legitimate practitioners were screaming—loudly—”THIS SHIT IS A PROBLEM!”

Alas, people listen to Dr. Drew because he’s a celebrity. And he looks smart. And he speaks with an air of confidence. So when he said, “Don’t worry about COVID,” his followers didn’t worry about COVID. And I’m sure many set aside masks, set aside social distancing, set aside intelligent methods of protection. Because the famous doctor said so.

But here’s the thing: Dr. Drew is a disgrace. He’s the guy who makes lots of money off of embarrassing celebrities. Hell, he was the big brain behind the now-defunct TV show, “Celebrity Rehab,” which featured down-and-out addicts like Dwight Gooden and Travolta’s sidekick from Grease trying to overcome their drug and alcohol issues … in front of millions of viewers. Dr. Drew served as the chief counselor, working harder than hard to humiliate the previously humiliated; to milk every last buck out of the rotting carcasses of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO? famous people latching into that remaining morsel of celebrity. We watched a few episodes, and it was both mesmerizing and nauseating. Dr. Drew knew darn well that part of the addiction was the addiction to fame. So what’s the worst way to treat such “patients”? Enter the cameras!

Now, Dr. Drew has COVID, and I’m sure he’ll find a way to make some bucks off of it.

Good luck with that.

When Slim Sterling came to Lakeview

Slim Sterling calling it as he sees it.

Back when I was a kid walking the mean halls of Lakeview Elementary School, I absolutely loved gym.

It was my favorite class, times 100,000. I loved flag football and dodge ball and pickup hoops. I loved climbing the ropes and sprinting toward cones and long treks up and down the rolling back fields.

There was, however, one day of gym I abhored with every bit of my soul

The day Slim Sterling came to Mahopac.

It happened once per year. We’d shuffle into the gymnasium, change into our “sports clothes” and be told—in a chipper voice—”it’s square dancing day!”

Enter: Slim

He was a guy in a cowboy hat and, I believe, bolo tie. I knew nothing of the man’s origins, background, beliefs, personal life—only that the next hour would absolutely suck. I was, remember, a boy with no remote interest in the opposite sex. I didn’t want to twirl with Kim Cutter. I didn’t want to do-si-do with Anyssa Santo. I didn’t want to allemande left with Corinne Lee or roll away to a half sashay with Caroline Massey. No—all I wanted to do was get the fuck out of there with my dignity and sanity intact.

Alas, it was not to be.

We’d spin and twirl and stumble awkwardly. I’d grab a girl by the hand, sweaty palm to sweaty palm, wishing I were in the nurse’s office or—at that moment—the nearby morgue. To be clear, in case there is some doubt: I HATED square dancing.

•••

A few moments ago, I was directed to Slim Sterling’s obituary. He died 19 years ago, and along with teaching square dancing to bumbling pre-pubes was also the former head of a long-ago country group, “The Saddle Serenaders.” He held a BA and masters in education from NYU; was a dad, a grandfather, a husband. His nickname, “Slim,” was brought to life when he was a 14-year-old 6-footer who weighed but 140 pounds.

Mostly, Slim Sterling clearly lived for sharing his profound love of square dancing. To quote the obit: “Since 1952, Slim has been square and folk dance specialist for the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. He was featured caller at national square dance conventions throughout the country. In addition, his professional appearances, both as caller and entertainer, have taken him from Maine to Florida. Slim has made television appearances in the New York area and has guested on both educational and entertainment shows, while his radio credits encompass more than a dozen stations in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Slim is a member of the Westchester Recreation and Parks Society, Caller-Lab, the International Association of Square Dance Callers and Leaders, and Callers Council of New Jersey. He is licensed by ASCAP and BMI. “

Sitting here, 48 and long removed from my prime non-square dancing prime, I find myself mourning a man whose existence caused me to shudder.

I find myself wishing I’d given Slim Sterling and square dancing a bit more of a chance.

The Christmas Tradition that won’t quit

So if you know me, or have followed me for a long time, you know I’m an annual practitioner of the fake holiday card.

Which is to say: Every December we (I’m usually accompanied by at least one of my two kids) create a phony Christmas card, print it up and send it out to (largely unsuspecting) people.

It started about a decade ago, when I thought it’d be funny to redirect seasonal cards to unintended recipients. That went over beautifully—as this old post explains. And this post explains, too. But the wife (a better person than I’ll ever be) thought it was wrong to take someone’s card and fuck with other folks. Hence, the new-and-improved tradition of crafting an original card with random people, then writing bullshit nonsensical messages.

This year, my son Emmett and I searched the World Wide Web until we found a picture of a family in COVID masks. We went around the room and picked names—the parents needed to be sorta dull (Jonathan and Shelly), the kids a bit more precious (Kylee and Lucas).

The back is where the magic happens …

It needs to be inane, but not so inane that it screams, “Fake!”

It needs to be in-depth, but not overly in-depth.

It needs to feel like someone you’d know, but can’t place.

Also, I’m a “fan” of putting random words in quotes, because my mom has been doing that for years. It’s always good to have a term nobody would understand (“The Barneys”), even though it seems as if they’d understand. I’m a fan of sayings that old grandparents might have uttered long ago, such as, “Christmas is holy … because it celebrates the whole.”

Mostly, I love love love love love love love love love love love love that every year at least a couple of recipients (we send out 50) open the card and—if even for 10 seconds—think, “Who the fuck is this?”

Love, Shelly, Jonathan, Kylee and Lucas

Losing Norma

RIP Norma: A great dog who gave us a lot of love.

So earlier today I received a note from a reader, requesting I explain the pain of losing our dog Norma earlier this year.

Here you go …

I am a charmed person.

My parents are both alive and healthy.

My older brother is alive and healthy.

My wife and my kids are healthy.

All of my grandparents lived well into their 80s.

Again, I am a charmed person.

Because of that charmed existence, however, I think I was unprepared for the death of Norma, our 12-year-old cockapoo who died earlier this year of cancer.

Now, to be honest, I used to be one of those people who sorta scoffed at pet loss. As a boy we only had guinea pigs—nice animals, but not exactly the most cuddly or embraceable. So when I’d see someone torn up by the death of a dog or cat, I never fully got it. “Seriously?” I’d think. “It’s just a pet.”

No.

No.

No.

No.

Norma was my first dog—and I friggin’ loved her. I loved her sighs, her likes (plopping down on a blanket, strawberries, carrots) and her dislikes (other dogs). The daughter and I decided early on that Norma was an arch-conservative pro-life zealot, and we assigned her membership in the Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney Fan Clubs. Which was fun.

Norma was always by my side. And, as a work-from-home writer, that mattered. I’d be sitting here at my laptop, turn, and there’d be ol’ Norma, resting on the bed, head down, eyes closed. She dug a good belly rub, a good paw rub. She was companionship. Kinship. Company for a long walk on a sunny California day.

This past summer, we came home one day and Norma was acting peculiar. Limping. Hiding under furniture. I called a friend who walks dogs, and she said maybe she’s just off. But … it didn’t feel right. I took her to the vet, and they did some tests, and we were told Norma’s body was filled with cancer. I was actually driving with my daughter Casey when the news was delivered, and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. It wasn’t merely the hardest cry in front of one of my children—it was probably the hardest cry of my life.

Later that day, my wife visited Norma for a final time (I stayed with the kids). She FaceTimed me from the vet, put Norma on. She was no longer herself—expressionless, peppiless. Nothing there.

Minutes later, she was put to sleep.

How did it feel? Like someone carved up my insides. Like someone punched me in the stomach 100 times. I felt as if I had somehow let Norma down. I felt as if I was losing a child. She was there all the time … and now, poof. Gone. Forever. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I know millions of people lose millions of pets every year, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else feeling as I felt.

But then (and I hope this doesn’t sound callous) the days passed and the hurt faded. We started making small jokes about Norma being in dog heaven or dog hell. Norma sniffing another dead dog’s ass. Again, maybe it sounds cruel. But it was a process.

I spoke at length with a good friend, Bev Oden, who told me—from experience—”The joy of having a pet outweighs the pain of losing a pet.” I’ve thought about that. And thought about that. And thought about that.

A few weeks ago, we got a new dog. Her name is Poppy.

She’s not Norma. She’s young and peppy and likes to gnaw on fists. She’s a better eater and a worse listener.

Initially, I felt a tad traitorous. Norma’s dead, and we’ve replaced her. But, with time, that guilt walked off.

It’s like Bev said—the joy of having a pet outweighs the pain of losing a pet.

Norma will always be my first love.

But Poppy has brought back the bliss.

Dear Trump Supporter …

Treasonous.

Dear Trump Supporter:

What would you be saying were this Barack Obama and the Democrats?

What would you be saying had Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama in the 2012 election by 306 to 232 electoral college votes and more than 7 million popular votes?

What would you be saying if, in the aftermath of the election, Barack Obama claimed there was an enormous conspiracy against him—and that Mitt Romney had not, in fact, won?

What would you be saying if Barack Obama started filing lawsuit after lawsuit in an effort to have the election overturned—only to have one lawsuit after another rejected and dismissed by myriad judges (many appointed by Barack Obama)?

What would you be saying if Barack Obama started quoting longtime conspiracy theorists? If Barack Obama started spewing long-debunked nonsense about broken voting machines?

Would would you be saying if the Supreme Court found Barack Obama’s take so preposterous that it wouldn’t even hear his case?

What would you be saying if some of Barack Obama’s closest liberal allies—senators he supported—insisted the election wasn’t fixed, and that Obama was spewing bullshit?

What would you be saying—after all of that—if Barack Obama starting urging Democratic congressional representatives to fight to have the electoral college voters ignored? If Barack Obama kept working and working and working to make certain Mitt Romney would never take office?

What would you be saying if—as this was all transpiring—Barack Obama refused to allow Mitt Romney to see certain pieces of classified information that all past incoming presidents had been shown?

What would you be saying if you knew this wasn’t the first time Barack Obama had behaved in such a manner? What if you knew it was, in fact, the third time Barack Obama accused an election of being rigged against him?

Would you be OK with that? Would you be accepting? Would you think, “Hey, that’s wonderful?”

Or would you accuse him of being anti-American? Of being treasonous? Of undermining democracy in what could only be viewed as an attempted coup?

What would you be saying?

PS: And what would you be saying if, as Barack Obama was doing the above, a major American city was hit with an act of terror—and Obama said nothing about it? I’m asking for a friend.

Dwayne Haskins has a chance

Oy.

In case you missed the news, earlier this morning the Washington Redskins Football Team released Dwayne Haskins, it’s second-year quarterback and the No. 15 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Haskins has been a mess from Day 1. He never grasped the offense as a rookie, he didn’t seem to work particularly hard, he played like dog shit, he ignored team rules and, just recently, he was photographed partying without a mask. I’m not saying the Football Team had to release him, but Coach Ron Rivera was certainly justified.

But here’s a thought …

Back when I was Dwayne Haskins’ age, I was a newbie reporter at The Tennessean in Nashville—and I was fucking unbearable. I arrived believing I was God’s gift to writing, then proceeded to make one stupid mistake after another. Misspellings. Misidentifications. Butchered details. Once, I quoted my dad for a story, but used a phony name so nobody would know. Another time, I was assigned two veteran reporters to serve as my mentor … and turned the opportunity down.

I pissed off co-workers with my arrogance. I pissed off advertisers with my copy. The local alt-weekly, The Nashville Scene, labeled me the Tennessean’s “enfant terrible,” adding, “If there’s one cow-pie in the field, The Tennessean’s Jeff Pearlman will manage to step in it.”

In perhaps my greatest moment of stupidity, one night I was working late and a colleague/friend named Sheila had left her computer on. I went on Sheila’s monitor and typed FUCK OFF! (or something along those lines) as a DM, and had her send it to herself. The next morning I arrived at work to find everyone in a panic. Turns out Sheila was worried someone was stalking her—especially after she had received a threatening message. Security was called, etc.

I was nearly fired.

I should have been fired.

I wasn’t fired.

Why? My boss, a lovely woman named Catherine Mayhew, still believed in me. She said I couldn’t continue down this path; that I was sabotaging myself and my future; that I needed to reassess and reevaluate and think about the person I wanted to be.

I was then banished from the features department, and placed on the late-night police beat. It changed my life.

Dwayne Haskins still has a chance.

He just needs to start growing up.

William Zabka can act his ass off

Zabka (center) with his karate students.

So the wife, son and I have been binge watching “Cobra Kai” on Netflix, and the show is an absolute delight and one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in 2020.

For those who might be unaware, it’s basically a 3 1/2-decades-later resumption of the first “Karate Kid” film, with Ralph Macchio back as an adult Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka reprising his role as Johnny Lawrence, the enemy rival. The series is brilliantly written, brilliantly constructed and brilliantly acted. There are 1,001 subtle (and not-so-subtle) nods to the movie, and I can honestly say the wife hasn’t laughed as hard as she did watching this scene unfold for the first time …

Anyhow, of all the things “Cobra Kai” brings to the table, the biggest—in my opinion—is a singular revelation that should have been made clear long ago:

William Zabka can act his ass off.

The guy is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. His portrayal of the adult, broken-down Lawrence is nuance personified. The viewer is never sure whether he should hate Lawrence or love Lawrence; empathize with Lawrence or wish pain to Lawrence. It’s all in Zabka’s delivery—a look, a glare, a stare, a shrug. I’m being sincere: He’s that good, and if the Emmy Gods have any sense, this guy will be a shoo-in.

More to the point—at some point in Zabka’s career, Hollywood decided he could only play dickheads. So you have “Johnny Lawrence” in the “Karate Kid.” You have “Ruben” in “Shootfighter: Fight to the Death.” You have “Chas” in “Back to School.” Never did a producer or director look at Zabka’s skills and think, “Man, this guy is talented. Let’s make him a dying AIDS patient or a superhero sidekick or a good guy detective or a crossing guard.”

Nope—Zabka was typecast, and because of that it’s taken decades for the world to see what the 55-year old possesses in droves.

Talent.

Why Ryan Leaf is a favorite

Over the past few years, Ryan Leaf has become one of my absolute favorite Twitter follows.

Do I know Ryan? Save for a couple of DMs, no. But pre-Twitter, I pretty much only recognized him as the former college football star who, after being drafted No. 2 overall by the San Diego Chargers in 1998, turned into one of the great all-time busts.

Leaf, according to both narrative and behavior, was arrogant, obnoxious and super-duper douchey. He thought being an NFL quarterback made him The Man, and put in neither the work nor time to live up to his potential. When his career came crashing down, and the inevitable addictions and arrests followed, most of humanity seemed to shrug and think, “Fuck that guy. He deserved it.”

Only, well, the Ryan Leaf before us is funny, engaging, self-deprecating and honest. He’s owned his mistakes and misdeeds, and hides from nothing.

Without an ounce of exaggeration, if you asked me, “Who would be a more interesting and enlightening hangout—Manning or Leaf?” … I’m going with Leaf.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Which leads me to this Tweet, which just crossed my eyesight seconds ago …

Seriously, the guy is just the best.

Liberty and Coastal Carolina deserved better

I don’t care about college bowl games, but there’s one moment in time that still does it for me.

The date was Jan. 1, 2007, and heavily favored Oklahoma faced Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

It was a mismatch. Clearly a mismatch. The Sooners—led by Adrian Peterson, one of the great halfbacks in college football history—were favored by 7 1/2 points over the undefeated-yet-largely untested Broncs from the small state commuter school.

What transpired, however, was both one of the greatest upsets in modern college football history and one of the greatest games in all of college football history. Breaking out one trick play after another, Boise State shocked the Sooners with a breathtaking 43-42 victory that ended with the night’s hero—halfback Ian Johnson—scoring the winning touchdown, then kneeling to propose to his cheerleader girlfriend.

[She said yes]

It was amazing.

It was brilliant.

It was mesmerizing.

It was something the NCAA seems to have no interest in.

In case you’re not paying attention, tonight undefeated No. 9 Coastal Carolina played No. 23 Liberty (with just one loss) in something called (stupidly) the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl. It was a fantastic battle, with the Jerry Falwell-less Flames pulling out the 37-34 win.

And it never should have happened.

Teams like Coastal Carolina deserve a shot at Iowa, or Texas, or Auburn. Teams like Liberty deserve a shot at Georgia. Or Oregon. Or Oklahoma State. There is nothing better than the opening minutes of a David v. Goliath game, and nothing nothing nothing better than the closing minutes of a nail-biter David v. Goliath game. By matching up the two Davids, however, the NCAA or the blah blah bowl committee or Alvaro Espinoza (or whoever is responsible) decided to take the (yawn) boring way out.

It’s just not fun, and the end result is another year of predictable matchups between this big money school and that big money school in the multi-million dollar CTE Awaits You Bowl.

Lame.

My (necessary) internship from hell

Twenty nine summers ago, I lived in hell.

Technically, Champaign, Illinois isn’t hell. It’s a college town. A cool college town, home to the University of Illinois and high stalks of corn and a place that, literally, sells burritos as big as your head.

For me, however, it was the absolute worst.

I had just wrapped up my sophomore year at the University of Delaware, and—after applying to probably, oh, 150 newspapers—was hired as a summer intern by the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, a daily with a circ of, oh, 65,000. Landing the gig was an incredible high—I’d be living by myself in a new town, writing for a real paper, gaining experience and bylines and contacts.

Uh … yeah.

Champaign was hell. To begin with:

• I had no friends. None. Zero.

• I broke my ankle playing basketball, was on crutches for several weeks, got off the crutches, return to the court—and immediately sprained my other ankle.

• I lived in an apartment at 405 Green Street. I’m pretty sure the guy above me was beating his girlfriend. I had a TV that received two shows—Star Trek and The 700 Club. My mom bought me two plants to hang—I’m pretty certain they both died. I was so bored I tried taking up cigarette smoking … and failed miserable. Puff, cough, puff, cough.

• I was 20, and one needed to be 21 to enter bars.

Worst of all was the newspaper. Well, worst of all was me at the newspaper. To be blunt, I was a little cocky fuckhead. I thought I was God’s gift to writing, and walked and wrote with an unwarranted strut. I took advice from no one, mocked older scribes, thought I had nothing to learn and no need to improve. In a word, I was insufferable.

The woman who hired me, a sports editor named Jean McDonald, made my life even worse. She shredded my copy, told me what I needed to work on, demanded professionalism and (gasp!) told me I needed much improvement. With seven weeks in, I packed up and left. I was supposed to be there for eight but, fuck, I couldn’t take it any longer. I was out. Ghost. See ya.

A few weeks later, I received a two-page letter from Jean. She told me I had talent, but that I wasted a great opportunity; that a bad attitude damns many a talented writer. I read the letter, probably cursed Jean out, read it again. And again. And again. I still have it, stashed. It’s a prized possession.

And one that probably saved me career.

Jews to Christians: “Welcome to our Christmas”

If one were to gauge things by Instagram and Twitter posts, a high percentage of people who celebrate Christmas spent today doing this …

To which I say: Welcome to my last 48 Christmases.

I mean no offense. And I’m certainly not happy that COVID wrecked so many family gatherings; so many joyful feasts; so many annual traditions of leaving cookies for Santa; of waking up and running down the steps to open presents; of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins basking in the glow of a magnificently outfitted tree. I actually hate everything about it, and mourn in particular for older relatives who—instead of embracing the love of a unique holiday—sit lonely and depressed at home, heating up Trader Joe’s pizza or ordering out for Chinese.

But, just so it’s noted, what you’re experiencing is (in many ways) what we Jews deal with every Christmas.

For most of my life Christmas was the least-favorite day of the year. I felt like the guy locked inside a shopping mall after closing time. Or the guy who misses the state fair because I had to go tile shopping with Mom. I knew all the kids up and down Emerald Lane were unwrapping presents and gorging on candy canes and chocolate Santas, while I was staring at my toes or lying in bed, gazing up at my Rickey Henderson poster. If Dec. 24 and Dec. 26 were 24-hour days, Dec. 25 was—at the bare minimum—500 hours of hell. I’d look at my clock. Look again. And again. And again.

“Let’s all take a family walk,” Dad would suggest.

Meh.

“Why don’t we play Monopoly?” Mom would suggest.

Meh.

“Why don’t we do nothing—like every Christmas,” I’d counter, sadly.

So I’d do nothing.

I don’t want this to happen again. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again. The year 2020 blows, and the lack of a fruitful Christmas blows, too.

All I ask is that, in 2021, when you’re back at Grandma’s house, eating her homemade bread pudding and listening to some Mariah Carey jingle, think back a year earlier, and think of Jeff, your friendly neighborhood Jew.

I’ll be home.

Doing nothing.

The Patch Adams thing

“Hey, baby. Nanoo, nanoo.”

So last night the wife, son and I watched “Patch Adams,” a movie I have gone through life hating but, for some reason, sorta kinda somewhat enjoyed on Christmas Eve.

In case you haven’t seen it, the film stars Robin Williams as a medical student who doesn’t understand why doctors can’t infuse their patients with joy and laughter. It’s loosely (like, very loosely) based off of the book, “Gesundheit!: Bringing Good Health to You, the Medical System, and Society through Physician Service, Complementary Therapies, Humor, and Joy,” and by the end you’re supposed to feel chipper and inspired and terrific about the world.

Which is fine.

What I can’t get past—what I’ve never been able to get past—is the age discrepancy between Patch (played by Williams) and his love interest, a medical student named Carin (played by an understated Monica Potter). Now, there were 100,000 ways to go with that, because in real life a love interest named Carin did not exist. The character was (presto!)) created, in the way movies create characters to add drama, spice, juju.

So why, oh, why, did the creators of “Patch Adams” pair Williams (born in 1951) with Potter (born in 1971)? Why would they think, “Here’s an idea: Let’s give Patch a love interest, and make her young enough to be his daughter“?

Seriously, it irks the fuck out of me. Repeatedly. First, because it stands out like blood in pudding. But second, because it’s yet another example of the industry’s reliance on old man-young woman, whereas you never, ever, ever, ever see old woman-young man (unless it’s a specific plot point).

So … yeah.

Patch Adams. Weird.

My wife is trying to kill me

So in our house, there’s a pretty standard division of labor when it comes to dinner.

The wife does the cooking.

I do the dishes.

It makes sense: She’s a tremendous chef. I burn shit. She can cook anything. I wanted to create banana chicken. She fills the room with wonderful scents. I make the kitchen uninhabitable.

And yet … recently she’s been trying to kill me.

It starts like this—”Can you go to the supermarket and grab a few things?”

Then I go, “Sure.”

Then she goes, “It’s just a few things.”

Then I go, “OK.”

Then I get in the car and drive to the nearby Albertsons or Ralphs.

Then I see this …

Or this …

And this one all but killed me …

And here’s my belief—my honest-to-God belief: She’s testing me.

We’ve been married almost 20 years, and she’s still testing me.

We all know Hoisin sauce isn’t a real thing. We all know pickled ginger is mythical. There is no such thing as pork butt, and Hominy is … well, it’s bullshit. It’s all fucking bullshit. I roam these supermarket aisles for hours, a wayward soul seeking out fantastical minutia all so my wife and kids can laugh at me as they watch from afar on a secret camera.

Wait. I’ve gotta cut this short.

The wife needs a jar of crispy tarantulas.

Kirk Cameron falls short

As long as we’ve got each other … we can spread diseases our own way.

In case you missed this story, Kirk Cameron, the long-ago star of “Growing Pains,” showed up yesterday in the parking lot of a Thousand Oaks shopping mall, where he led a bunch of mask-less religious freaks in caroling.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

It’s a weird thing, isn’t it? On the one hand, I’m sure Cameron—a well-known far-right religious zealot—genuinely aspires to spread joy via song. It’s been a rough year, we’re all struggling. So why not lift spirits with a little “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Deck The Halls”? I’m being sincere when I write that. He probably means to do well.

And yet … Kirk Cameron is a fucking selfish douche asshole. Or, put differently: Bruh, you’re not an infectious disease expert. You’re not a doctor. You work in neither hospital nor physician’s office. You certainly haven’t studied COVID, and I’m not even sure you’re aware that ICU beds in Southern California hospitals are 100 percent filled. So who are you, star of “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas,” to make the decision to hold such an event? What are your qualifications to decide COVID is just a hoax? Or that God and Jesus will cure people? Or that the power of song can cure all ills?

The audacity actually gets me far more than the stupidity. It is literally an audacious act of assholeness to put that many people at risk, all because you’re not wise enough to grasp and empathize with the issues. It suggests that you–Kirk Cameron, star of “Left Behind III: World At War”—think you know more than the experts, all because Invisible Sky Man whispers sweet nothings into your ears at night.

I don’t hope attendees fall ill.

But, if they do, it’s on Kirk Cameron.

Cody Rigsby and self love

So earlier tonight I completed my 91st Peloton trek—a 30-minute pop ride with an instructor named Cody Rigsby.

The experience got me to thinking of my boyhood in Mahopac, N.Y., and 1980s rural perceptions of homosexuality.

Or, put different: When I grew up, you couldn’t be gay.

Which sounds weird, right? One doesn’t choose to be or not to be gay. You are or you’re not. Period.

And yet, it wasn’t really an option. In my turf (and in many turfs across America), being gay was being a fudge packer. A homo. A queer. It was an easy insult—”What are you, a fag?” and “You gonna go to prison and find some soap on a rope?” It meant you were soft. A sissy. A guy who missed a big tackle for the football team? Gay. A boy who liked ballet? Gay. On and on it went. And while I didn’t use the words as slang, I certainly never spoke up to protest; certainly never felt compelled to show those who actually were gay (and closeted) that it wasn’t OK.

Truth be told, I think people were simply afraid of the unknown. I remember the old debate about gay marriage often considered the fate of the child—”What if [gasp!] he winds up gay, too?”

I digress.

Cody Rigsby, Peloton instructor, is openly gay, and proud of it. He wears the identity (figuratively) on his sleeve and literally on his Instagram profile (“Opinionated homosexual”). He speaks freely and enthusiastically about being a gay man in 2020; about his likes and dislikes and highs and lows. He posts photos of his handsome boyfriend (Andres Alfaro) because, well, why shouldn’t he?

Oh, one more thing: Cody is a friggin’ awesome Peloton instructor. Absolute awesome. His musical knowledge is world class. His boy band knowledge is terrifying. He has introduced me to a shitload of songs that are outside my age bracket (don’t sleep on Dua Lipa), and pushes riders to their maximum effort while infusing equal parts joy.

And what led me to writing this post is that, truly, I wish we had Cody Rigsbys in the 1980s. I wish we had proud, open, energetic, enthusiastic gay men and women who could be themselves and not worry about being tarred and feathered. I think about a friend from high school, who didn’t come out until years later, and all the pretending he had to go through. I think about all the adults who needed to see the love and joy of an openly gay man like Cody; who needed to learn that the correct answer to, “What if my son is gay?” is “That’d be great.”

There are still, obviously, large numbers of homophobes fucking up this country.

But it’s hard to imagine one watching Cody Rigsby at work and maintaining such a sinister outlook.

Moments I love

Was reading up about the Bengals upsetting Pittsburgh last night, when the above image crossed my sight.

It’s the immediate aftermath of Trey Hopkins, Cincinnati’s center, hugging quarterback Ryan Finley—and it’s just beautiful.

I have many problems with the NFL. The continued refusal to take CTE seriously. The way discarded players are kicked to the curb. The limits on guaranteed money. The refusal to offer Colin Kaepernick a job. The early acquiescence to Donald Trump when he bullied and blustered and blustered and bullied. The grossness of Jerry Jones.

And yet … I do love how the game bonds people. How it forms a legitimate brotherhood that time truly fails to erase.

I have no idea if Finley and Hopkins are off-the-field buddies. If they grab coffee and gossip over “The Queen’s Gambit.”

But they shared a beautiful moment.

That’s eternail.

What’s with the latkes?

So last night the son, wife and I found ourselves watching a Lifetime holiday movie titled, “Mistletoe and Menorahs.”

It’s the story of a Christian woman who has a few days to understand Chanukah, and a Jewish man who has a few days to understand Christmas. They’re strangers introduced by a mutual friend, and over the course of a week (or so) they’re supposed to tutor one another on proper ho