I’m a few days behind on this one, but only because I needed to process the jarring audacity of Elise Stefanik, Republican congresswoman from New York/GOP conference chair, deciding the best play for her party would be to blame (wait for it) Nancy Pelosi for the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
Here. Take a look …
I’ve been thinking about this one—a lot. In the aftermath of the attack, there were plenty of people to blame. Trump, obviously. But also Mo Brooks, and Jim Jordan, and the dude with the horns. You could blame society, you could blame violent television, you could blame Satan, Natalie Portman, the number 6, the Keebler Elf, former Twins outfielder Hosken Powell. Seriously, there was a limitless supply of folks for Stefanik to go after.
But … nope. The congressman went after a woman whose office was attacked; whose staffers were hiding beneath desks; who was the target of people cruising the hallways with nooses while asking, loudly, “Where’s Nancy? Wheeeere’s Nancy?”
This is who Elise Stafanik went after.
I seriously can’t even digest it. I know politics are rough and tumble and cruel. I know Nancy Pelosi equals big fundraising dough for the Republicans. But last I checked, not one Capitol infiltrator was spotted wearing a PELOSI IS THE BEST cap or carrying a NANCY PELOSI/JIM FREGOSI 2024 sign. Again, these people wanted her dead—and had they found her, I have little doubt we in the media would have been busy typing Nancy Pelosi obituaries and front-page news pieces with headlines akin to, NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE LEADER, MURDERED VIA HANGING.
Of this, I’m not joking.
Hell, it turns out even Stefanik’s bullshit reasoning is wrong. She says this is on Pelosi because the house leader was responsible for Capitol security. This, of course, is a lie—and has now been debunked about 765 times.
As we speak, Elise Stefanik is pregnant. One day, not all that long from now, her child will ask about the days before his/her birth; will ask what was going on in the world and why Mommy is in all those old photographs.
If you’ve read this blog of late, you know I’ve written a fair amount about Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick, the Carmel, N.Y.-based mother who is my home region’s face and voice and mouth of Critical Race Theory resistance.
Now, she’s jumping into a slightly different arena—deciding which books are OK for children to read …
And, on the one hand, I admire Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick’s devotion to the triple exclamation mark. It’s bold, it’s creative, it screams I’M YELLING!!! LISTEN TO ME!!! I’M A BOT!!! WHITE POWER!!! STILL YELLING!!! And yet, I’m also a bit bewildered. I mean, if you’re going to back someone’s judgement on, oh, literary endeavors, shouldn’t that person (at the bare minimum) know how to spell and punctuate? Shouldn’t you know the difference between “then” and “than”; between spaces and commas? Shouldn’t that person grasp the correct usage of the word “entices”?
Call me a skeptic, but I sorta kinda definitely doubt Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick has ever read “The Hate U Give.” One, because it’s 444 pages, which is about 150 stacked issues of The National Enquirer. Two, because it’s not illustrated. And three, because it’s not anti-police. It’s actually one of the best books I’ve ever read, and an insanely important here’s-what-the-world-looks-like document for the geographically sheltered kids of Putnam County, N.Y.
And, really, that’s the greatest harm being committed by amateur dolts like Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick. Because she’s a sheltered half-baked ham with on fleek eyebrows and an IQ of seven (OK, OK—five), she doesn’t realize that the kids growing up in towns like Carmel and Mahopac and Brewster need access to diversity; that it’s not enough to watch a Will Smith film and call it a day. You can be a #MAGA lemming like Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick and still (I suppose) acknowledge that once your daughter graduates high school, she’ll encounter people from myriad countries, religions, races, creeds. And that—even if you disagree with them—it’s important to at least understand whereof they speak.
Not to get all Me-Me-Me, but one of the greatest things to happen to me as a kid was Jonathan Powell, my boyhood friend, introducing the music of Public Enemy. My first favorite song was a little Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick ditty called, “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” about a prison riot involving black inmates and white guards and a racist governmental system. It’s powerful and intense and fucking jamming—and at no time during or after listening to it was I inspired to start a prison riot. See, that’s the bullshit about people like Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick. They’re terrified of their kids—in “Truman Show” speak—seeing what awaits beyond the bubble. So they cocoon their sons and daughters by turning everything into an Us v. Them jamboree. They (in this case—educators, liberals, black people) want to change things. They want to infringe. They are trying to brainwash our precious little ones, and we won’t let them.
Only, exposure isn’t brainwashing. It’s exposure. You can read, say, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and not walk away yelling, “All whites are evil!” You can read “The Hate U Give” and think, “Wow, I never know this is how [fill in the black group] feels.” Fuck, you can read a book about the rise of the KKK and not wind up joining the KKK.
Ultimately, it’s all about exposure. Life is about exposure. Tasting different foods, hearing different voices, visiting different lands, listening to different viewpoints.
Unless you’re Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick.
Whose life is merely about scaring the shit out of her followers!!!
PS: Sister Genius posted this on her Facebook page. It’s always 1956 in Tanya Esposito•Tatiana Ibrahim •Tanya Brahimi•MC Mellie Slick World …
This morning I saw your courageous Tweet about NFL teams requiring COVID bracelets to identify those who have been vaccinated and those who have not. Here it is …
Again, thank you.
What this world needs, now more than ever, is yet another white guy/arch-conservative/self-identified “Christian,” explaining to us how some element of COVID vaccinations relate to the Civil Rights movement. This comes right on the heels of your brethren in Critical Race Theory angst explaining that the lessons of Martin Luther King are being slashed from the classroom.
Anthony, what you’re doing is courageous. It takes a special man to stare down a global pandemic—one that has killed roughly 660,000 Americans with a new variant that spreads like chickenpox—and say, “Fuck no!” And it takes an even specialer (I invented a word just for you) man to then compare that stand the “the evils of segregation.” I’m not actually sure what that means, but I’m guessing you heard Alex Jones rambling on about the Montgomery Bus Boycotts being organized by space aliensand thought, “Wow. That sounds smart.”
Keep up your stand, Anthony. Join together with your fellow un-vaccinated teammates and visit Mississippi ASAP. Take your message to the people! Shake hands! Hug! Lick telephone poles and kiss these folks.
We need bravery in these tough times. We need people who will defend and stand up for the sanctity of America, the flag and all it stands for.
To say I love this e-mail is to delve into the greatest of understatement. It features all the hallmarks of excellence. In no particular order …
• Irrational and inexplicable capitalization.
• “Friends” “in” “quotes.” Are they not my friends? Or “friends”?
• A whole lot of anger.
• Best of all—irony. I’m the pussy? R-e-a-l-l-y? I’m the pussy? My name was attached to the words I wrote. There are no less than, oh, seven identifiable ways to contact me. You know my name. You can get my bio on Wikipedia. My Facebook page is there. My Twitter page is there. But … I’m the pussy? Me? Jeff Pearlman? Not anonymous email@example.com loser?
What’s wrong, buddy? You too scared to put your name behind your words? Your feelings a little hurt? You afraid an unarmed 49-year-old writer is gonna beat you up?
So earlier today the Chicago Cubs sent pitcher Ryan Tepera across town to the White Sox, in exchange for a lefthander named Bailey Horn.
I have never heard of Tepera. I have never heard of Horn. But I’m 100 percent all in on this deal.
In short, as a native New Yorker, I’ve always looooooooooved crosstown trades. The first time I experienced one was in the lord’s year of 1987, when the Mets sent shortstop Rafael Santana (one of my all-time favorite players) to the Yankees for a trio of minor leaguers—Darren Reed, Phil Lombardi and Steve Frey. On the surface, it wasn’t much of a swap. Santana was the weak link of the 1986 Mets—a solid-field, weak-armed, .218-hitting shortstop who (as reported in my book, “The Bad Guys Won!”) once got so wasted he took a piss on a bus seat. Reed, Lombardi and Frey, meanwhile, were fringe dudes. Reed played 26 games with the 1990 Mets, Lombardi 18 games with the 1989 Mets and Frey, well, Frey actually had a lengthy and productive career.
I think what I’ve always enjoyed about the same-city swap are the attached mental images: Finding out about the deal, suffering through a moment of sadness, then realizing, “Wait, I don’t have to move.” Entering the clubhouse for the first time and having someone say, “Uh-oh–the enemy has arrived.” Comparing notes between Yankees and Mets, White Sox and Cubs, Angels and Dodgers (though, really, the Angels are not in LA—so this one barely counts).
So the Jets got the picks, the Giants got Williams …
And, well, Williams is fantastic. He signed a new contract, he recorded 11 1/2 sacks last season. He’s pretty damn phenomenal. All it took was a change of scenery. Or, truth be told, a change of locker-rooms and uniform colors.
So, mazel tov to Ryan Tepera, mazel tov to Bailey Horn.
So if you’ve been following this blog of late, you know I’ve written quite a bit about Tatiana Tanya Ibrahim, the batshit crazy Carmel, N.Y. parent who is all about so-called Critical Race Theory shaming and MAGA and barking and yelling and screaming and making people who disagree with her A. Feel like shit; B. Experience genuine rage and hostility.
And I thought I knew the worst of it. Truly, I did. But then I was directed to something so fucking vile, so fucking inappropriate, that I wanted to kick a wall. Or at least kick the soft side of a wall.
So, somewhat recently, Tatiana Tanya Ibrahim posted on social media the yearbook photo—name included—of a graduating Mahopac High School senior who had BLM written across their face, and the quote IT’S A MOVEMENT, NOT A MOMENT beneath the image. Here’s a look, with specifics blotted out …
And, predictably, the spewage followed. Social media rampages against the student and the student’s family (and directed at them). And for what? For fucking what, Tatiana Tanya Ibrahim? Because this young person believes BLM is a worthwhile cause? Because this young person has a differing opinion? Is THIS what you do to people who disagree with you, Tatiana Tanya Ibrahim? People who are, what, 17? Eighteen? You put them on blast, spread their name to your followers, have them attack with little regard for decency, empathy, kindness? You don’t know this kid. You don’t know what this kid has been through. You know absolutely nothing about this person’s life experiences. Fucking nothing.
But that doesn’t matter to you—because (as I said in this post) you’re getting super jiggy with the idea of being a hard-right celebrity du jour (that means “of the day,” Tatiana Tanya Ibrahim). A few weeks ago, nobody knew who the fuck you were. But now—bark! bark! bark! bark!—you’re the slayer of the left; the Newsmax grip ‘n; go; the woman who (I firmly believe) couldn’t tell us five things about the Black Panthers, but loves saying how evil they are. So what if people are being attacked and teachers and guidance counselors are facing threats? So what if you could have actually expressed your concerns in a reasonable manner, and—just maybe—have been heard?
So fucking what?
You exist for one reason. To be as loud and crass and ugly as possible, and hope the spotlight doesn’t fade on your bullshit.
She then called the Black Panthers “evil.” Because, of course, they’re evil. Tanya knows. Because, um … yeah.
“When we talk about slavery,” she said. “Do you explain how we [whites] fought with every ounce in us to end slavery? For goodness sake, they want history! They’re taking down statues!”
Then, mercifully, my screen froze.
And it hit me—hard. This woman is a moron. Not half a moron. Not 3/4 moron. Full moron. She’s not smart, she’s not educated, she’s not informed. When one of the hosts (the man) started discussing U.S. history, Tatiana Tanya sat quietly and pretended to know what he was referring to. But she clearly did not. Because, again, she’s a fucking moron.
The thing is, I have yet to hear anyone say, “Sooooo … what are your qualifications?” No one. Not a single person. It’s like following a general into battle, only to learn six hours earlier he was a copy machine salesman. But people gobble it up. Because she’s loud. And angry. And makes faces that merge a know-it-all smirk with the relief of having just pooped.
Lord, it’s quite the headache.
One more thing: I’ve long badgered my wife over her love of trashy reality TV. But now, for the first time, I get it. Tatiana Tanya is trashy reality TV personified. It’s like watching a shaved giraffe try and learn Spanish. Or two blind dolphins wrestling over a pretzel. It’s Carl Lewis and a leopard racing the 100 in slippers and blindfolds.
I just wanted to make you aware of that, in case you forgot. You’re Tanya. You’ve been going by Tatiana for, what, a month now? Six weeks? Half a year? It sounds real classy. Stick with it.
Second, you’re full of garbage. I don’t mean to be harsh, so maybe garbage is the wrong word. But, no—I’ll stick with it. Because you’re so insanely full of it. So before we get to the pure sinister nature of your ways and methodologies, let’s break down the garbage. Your name isn’t Tatiana. You’re not from Putnam County, N.Y. Your LinkedIn page is nonsense—you’re not a “government relations professional.” Unless you go by a totally different name, you don’t work as a performance analyst for Wells Fargo (I checked). Unless you go by a totally different name, you don’t work as an analyst for the Department of Defense (I also checked). You’re now using your third name—Tanya Esposito, Tanya Brahimi and Tatiana Brahimi. I checked all three—neither Wells Fargo nor the DOD appear to have record of your present employment. Oh, you also list Mercy College as your place of education. I have a call in as well—is there a degree? Or did you merely walk the campus and piss on a kid wearing an Obama shirt?
Actually, one more thing about your LinkedIn page. It’s weird—usually when people give endorsements for your skills, they’re from co-workers. Like, a journalist would have editors endorsing him. A designer would have designers endorsing him. You have five people endorse you …
None have a thing to do with Wells Fargo or the DOD.
You have a new website—mazel tov (that means congratulations in the language of my people). On the website, you solicit donations. You don’t actually say who manages the money, or how it’s spent, or where it goes, or whether the donations are tax deductible. Just a thought—that shit matters.
Wait, back to your identity, Tatiana Tanya.
According to documents, you have an ongoing lawsuit. That must be fun. Here’s the link. A debt collector is coming after you. Fuck. That sucks.
Also found these. This is you, right? [I extended the courtesy of blocking out your addresses—something I’m pretty certain you wouldn’t have done were the tables turned]. Maybe it’s not you. Because to quote you from this video: “If you follow the law, and do as you’re supposed to, you won’t have a problem.” So … um …
Oh, and your husband was arrested. Also sucks. Big bummer. Curious: Did the officer keep a knee on Vilson’s neck for 7 minutes and 46 seconds? I’m asking for a friend, Tatiana Tanya.
I usually don’t do this, Tatiana Tanya. I usually leave stuff alone. But your new thing seems to be destroying people. Or at least trying to destroy people. Good people who—at absolute worst—you disagree with on certain issues. Teachers. School administrators. Hardly folks making the big bucks. And while I haven’t lived in Putnam County since graduating from Mahopac High in 1990, it remains a part of me. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The positives and the negatives. And you, Tatiana Tanya—you remind me of the worst of the worst of the worst. You remind me of the time my best friend, one of two African-American kids in my grade, had a pair of crosses burned in his front yard. You remind me of the petition passed around a nearby street to keep a black family out. You remind me of all the people who dropped “f-g” and “homo”; all the people who described someone’s thriftiness as “Jewin’ you down.” You remind me of the junior high school teacher who taught us that (ha ha) blacks can’t ski; and that there are jokes to be made about Jews burning in the oven …
Wait. Another digression. This is from your Instagram feed, right Tatiana Tanya?
No need to answer, Tatiana Tanya. It is.
[Side note: My great grandmother was exterminated in Auschwitz. F— you.]
A few weeks ago, my family and I watched in horror as you stood before the Carmel school board and lathered in your own jarring stupidity and ignorance (It all went downhill when you shouted about paying their salaries—only to learn it’s a volunteer board). It was, truly, a performance straight out of the MAGA Guide To Flailing About—one accusation after another; one rant after another (I particularly love, “You created a curriculum of Black Panther indoctrination!”). No facts. No studies. Just—Tatiana Tanya. Being Tatiana Tanya. And the video went viral, because—of course—it’s 2021, and in this age of vaccines-are-evil and fake news and punch-the-libs-in-the-face, the last thing people want is thoughtfulness and nuance.
And I thought, “Well, that blows. But … hey. Shit happens.”
Then I saw your new video. The one where you drag in your poor friend—a Yorktown, N.Y. resident named Holly Beloff-Davis who looks like she’d rather milk a rabid emu than stand by your side. And in her day-to-day existence, ol’ Holly is a recruiter at Medical Staffing Network. She’s a mom, a wife. Also a parent in the Yorktown School District. At some point, I’m guessing, Holly told you about a guidance counselor who seems to support Black Lives Matter. And in the normal world … the sane world, what a concerned parent like Holly does is (wait for it) make an appointment, either with the principal or the guidance counselor in question. They sit down, they talk. Holly expresses herself in sane tones—“I’m just worried about some of the things I’m hearing.” And then she gets a reply from the principal and/or the guidance counselor. And they agree or disagree, but as reasonable adults. That’s how these things are meant to go.
Tatiana Tanya isn’t here for reason. She’s got her camera, she’s got her new legion of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook followers, she’s got her eyebrows all on fleek and she’s got a head full of steam. So Holly telling her story isn’t enough—she needs to name the guidance counselor. Just put it out there for an increasingly triggered and antagonized following (of white people who feel like they’re losing their country) to go after.
So Holly (who you dragged into this mess, Tatiana Tanya) does. His name is Daks Armstrong. He’s this guy.
And to read about Daks Armstrong is to want your kids to be like Daks Armstrong. Undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology, graduate degrees in counseling and psychology. Years working in non-profit and as a community organizer. A speaker at the March for Civil Justice. Co-chair of the Yorktown Central School District Cultural Awareness and Equity Task Force. All things that any homo sapien with a fully functioning head would admire.
And, I was thinking: Daks Armstrong seems like the type of dude who would talk with you, Tatiana Tanya. Like, I bet if you had called and said, “Can we grab some coffee and chat?”—he would have grabbed some coffee to chat. But, no. You don’t do that sort of thing. Anyone who disagrees is, to quote Tatiana Tanya, “evil people.” You put folks on blast. You like the buzz of it all, right, Tatiana Tanya? It’s called “red light fever”—an old TV term to describe when one gets a taste of the spotlight and treats it like that first line of coke. Newsmax showed your talk! Rudy Giuliani discussed it with you! Until recently, you were just some middle-aged lady named Tanya with sweet eyebrows. But, now—damn. You’re Tatiana, slayer of the Critical Race Theory Nazis.
It’s friggin’ awesome!
But here’s what strikes me. Well, one of a few things that strikes me: You don’t actually seem to know what Critical Race Theory is. Like, you keep saying it’s the teaching of hating white people. Which, eh, it’s not. But … every … single … time … you … bring … CRT … up, you mangle it. Badly. I keep waiting for someone to say, formally and with you behind a podium, “Mrs. Ibrahim, what is Critical Race Theory?” Then watch you flail around like a drunk oxen barking about “white hate” and discrimination and the TV show Alf (which, for the record, was great).
By the way, here’s a pretty solid CRT breakdown. Not quite the Dracula you make it out to be, Tatiana Tanya …
Oh, the other thing. You’re #MAGA. Like, not half #MAGA. All-in #MAGA. I’ve seen your pictures, and they’re … eh, something. Here’s a quick Instagram peek …
So, since this is you and standing up for righteousness is your life’s mission, I’ll throw a few questions out there. Take your time answering …
The January 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol—the one where dozens of Capitol police were injured and a vast majority of those storming the were wearing #MAGA and Trump gear. You cool with that? Because I know you’re super pro-law enforcement. But you’ve said nothing, Tatiana Tanya.
This is the third time Donald Trump has said an election was/would be stolen from him. First—Ted Cruz, 2016 Iowa caucus. Second, Hillary in the leadup to the 2016 general. Third, Biden. So, like, are they all true? And is it weird that, beginning with George Washington’s presidency in 1789, Trump is the only executive in chief to accuse people of stealing elections from him? THREE different times?
You seem pretty mean when it comes to LGBTQ issues. Is that a thing with you?
Donald Trump mocked POWs for being captured—”I like people that weren’t captured” Here’s the video. You’re big into law enforcement. Right? You love the military? You cool with all that, sis?
We’ve now had more than 600,000 Americans die of COVID, and people, well, like you keep saying the vaccinations are socialism liberal neo-Nazi … stuff. Where are you on this, Tatiana Tanya? Because clearly the kids are your first priority.
I can go on and on. For hours about this ignorant fraud. But I won’t. Because, come day’s end, there’s something profoundly sad about Tanya Ibrahim. Several years ago she lost a son in a tragic car accident—and, as a parent, that pain … it’s just unimaginable. And maybe, just maybe, that’s where this all stems from. This anger. This irrationality. This need to not merely disagree, but browbeat and hammer and humiliate folks like unpaid school board members and a guidance counselor who probably makes, I dunno, $60,000 annually. It’s as pathetic as it is infuriating, and I suspect one day this woman’s daughter, now a 15-year-old Carmel High student who must feel as if she’s offspring to the world’s all-time most-obnoxious sports parent, won’t look back in pride, but with tremendous shame.
And she’ll say to her African-American trans wife, “Black Lives Matter.”
PS: Imagine being so broken that a sign reading, “No humans are illegal” offends you …
PPS: I think my favorite Tatiana Tanya line, also from this video, refers to school teachers, who—she says—have the audacity of telling students, “If you’re not tolerant, you’re bad.”
The cliched answer is, “Grateful.” And maybe that’s the correct answer, too. Grateful to live in a democracy. Grateful to live in a place that’s provided immense opportunities. Grateful to be in beautiful Southern California, miles from the coastline.
But … I dunno. Last night I caught a bit of Donald Trump speaking to his mind slaves about stolen elections and the Capitol storming. I watched his mind slaves cheer and clap. And I thought, “Jesus—this is 30 percent of my fellow citizens. Thirty percent believe this conman. Thirty percent think he—and he alone—lights the way.”
I look at our inaction on climate change, and how we’re too cowardly/dumb/greedy to lift a finger. I look at racism, sexism, homophobia, and how more and more people are revolting against the very idea of combating hate. They seem to believe that hatred—deep, raw hatred—is righteous nationalism.
I want to feel good about America. I want to have love in my heart.
But, to be honest, this July 4 I have far more doubts than resolve. I wonder, a decade from now, what the United States of America even looks like. I wonder if we survive all this. I wonder if corporations have finally figured out how to own all of us. I wonder if we can still be collectively decent. I wonder, if 9.11 happened today, could the nation rally as one.
So this morning, for the first time in 1 1/2 years, I returned to my local basketball court to play Saturday pickup.
I didn’t know what to expect. Truly, I didn’t. My last game was played in February 2020—a long stretch for a normal body, a loooooooong stretch for a guy approaching 50. As I’ve learned the hard way, bodies change, and morph, and tighten, and rust. Even pre-COVID, I often felt one fall away from it all coming to an end. A bruised hip. A dislocated shoulder. Mere bumps at 25. Basketball enders at 49.
Anyhow, I rolled up to the court at about 9:15 am. There were about seven or eight familiar faces. X—the chatty dude who works at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Ben, the recent high school grad. Kermit, 55 but looking about 40. I was greeted warmly—”What’s up?” and “Where you been?” More players started to trickle in. Full court began.
I felt home. Or sorta home. I have this one move, learned long ago from a University of Delaware pal named Dan Monaghan, that’s been my go-to for decades. It’s the world’s deadliest pump fake, and if you don’t know it’s coming, you can’t guard it. So, first time I had the ball, guarded by a kid who looked about 19, I stared briefly at the rim, began to shoot, hit my tippy toes—then, gone. He fell for the fake, and I drove untouched to the rim.
“Whoa,” someone said.
“The ol’ pump fake,” another added.
I told a friend earlier today: I can’t be what I was long ago. But, in a weird way, I’m aided by never having been much. Michael Jordan at 58 is a shell of Air Jordan. Shaq at 50 is fat and slow. I’m merely a more mediocre shadow of a mediocre player. I still know how to defend. I still box out. My hook is OK.
Best of all, I can look around and feel the sweat trickle down my forehead and hear the pounding of ball against cement and watch a shot rainbow thru the twine and appreciate that, in 2021, it’s still my world.
I know this is pretty wimpy, but I’m breaking up with you via blog post.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Actually, it’s you.
I’m tired of you and your bullshit. You keep barking at me, telling me how great I can be, how I just need to stick with you and “stay with the program”—whatever the fuck that means. But, truly, you’re exhausting. And repetitive. Sooooo repetitive. When I’m with you every day feels exactly the same. It’s Groundhog’s Day. I start off by turning you on and getting all hot and sweaty, but I’m always the one putting in the work. You just sit there. Barking at me and thinking I’m not measuring up. It seems like you’re always comparing me to others. Like you keep a list or something.
You’re gonna hate me for saying this, but I miss Jim. A lot. Yeah, he was dirty. And, God, his bathroom is disgusting. But he never judged me. When I showed up at his place, he was happy to see me. If I wanted a day off, he was cool with that, too. There was never an ounce of guilt. Jim was chill. Plus, he has a pool. You don’t have a pool.
To be blunt, Peloton, you’re not chill. You’re obnoxious, and your standards are far too high.
Dating you seemed like a good idea at the time. But I think we’re done.
So last night—for no particularly good reason—the son and I watched “Flashdance,” the 1983 cinematic hit that grossed more than $200 million worldwide (keep in mind, this was nearly 40 years ago—that total is enormous) and had every American woman (and some men) craving black legwarmers and an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt.
I was 11 when the flick came out, and it truly felt like a cultural shifting point. For music. For style. For the way we think about lobster. Just—BOOM! One of those movies.
So, again, last night we watched it.
I mean—seriously brutal, and perhaps the worst film I’ve ever watched beginning-to-end.
I actually don’t get it. Roger Ebert didn’t get it, either. For that matter, the wife didn’t get it, either—she was the one who suggested the watching from long-ago memories, then sat sorta dumbfounded thru the unambiguous awfulness. Without a precise accounting, I’d say there were about 20 brutal pieces of this movie, ranging from all the awkward cuts and pastes to make it (not) look like Jennifer Beals was dancing to the unexplained senior citizen friend to the weird welding shots to the sexulizing of seafood to the one-dimension bad guy (In 1983, bad guys wore earrings) to the judges nodding knowingly during Beals’ breakdancing-inspired audition for the Pittsburgh Ballet Company.
But the worst—the absolute worst—was this: At the time of filming, Jennifer Beals was 18 (as was her character).
At the time of filming, Michael Nouri (her love interest) was 36 (as was his character).
In “Flashdance,” he’s the boss of the construction company, Beals is the welder. Again, he’s THE BOSS. And he’s THIRTY-SIX. This is serious Matt Gaetz territory, only it’s signed off upon by everyone involved in this puddle of vomit manure. At one point, the two characters walk arm and arm thru the construction project, and workers clap and howl in delight. I actually don’t get it—it’s 1983, you’re casting this movie, you have a good budget, you think to yourself, “Let’s straddle the line of statutory rape! Viewers will love it!”
And, oddly, the did. “Flashdance” remains a thing in American culture.
So a week ago I wrote about arriving in Atlanta, proceeding to the Thrifty counter and the attendant telling me, “Sorry—we have no cars.”
When I told him, no, I have a rental—he pretty much repeated what he’d just uttered. “No cars.”
It was midnight-ish.
I was stranded.
I needed to be in Alabama the next morning.
I wound up catching an Uber that cost me about $200. Then I rented a car at Alamo—and needed to take another $30 Uber to the Birmingham airport to retrieve it. Today, I dropped the rental off back at the Atlanta airport.
Here’s the receipt …
I’m not mad at Alamo. They didn’t have many cars in stock, and returning to a different airport is always costly. I get it.
My original Thrifty rental, however, was going to cost about $350.
All told, I’ve paid 1,048.58—100 percent because Thrifty rented me a car it didn’t have, then did nothing to make certain a customer somehow, someway had a vehicle. And—I wasn’t alone. There were a bunch of us that night, stranded with reservations and not told, “We can hook you up with a hotel room for the night” or “We have cars coming in from Macon.”
Because Thrifty doesn’t give two shits about its customers.
So it’s about 3 in the morning, and I just did something for the first time in my life: I bolted a motel for another motel.
I was staying at a place, the Stay Plus Extended Stay Suites, that lived up to the $66 room rate. And, really, that’s my fault. Decent motel/hotel rooms just don’t cost $66 these days. But, I dunno—the hotels.com reviews were solid. And it was just one night. And …
The above photo is from my room. There are others I could have posted—the moldy sink, the hair crusted to the toilet. But I think what set me off was the bed. It was … granular. Which isn’t an adjective I’ve ever used for a bed before. Or even a chair. But it just felt as if I were sleeping atop grains of sand. Or, perhaps, little bugs. I took this photo, though it’s hard to say …
Anyhow, the final straw was the thinness of the wall, and the volume of the snorer one room over, and the fact that (oh) the front desk staff left at 9. So … as I sat there on the granular bed, with the snorer, with the mold, with the wiring … it hit me: Motherfucker, you’ve spent almost no journalism money during this pandemic year. Go splurge on the Holiday Inn 6/10 of a mile down the road!
So earlier today I was walking through downtown Bessemer, Alabama—a once-thriving mini-metropolis trying to work its way back after far too many years of neglect and economic downtown. My eyes were drawn to an abandoned movie theatre, and as I stared at it a man in a red hat said, “It used to be popular.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“Not sure,” he said. “I’m pretty new here.”
The man was Ron Cook—aka Chef Ron.
Chef Ron owns a little restaurant besides the vacated theatre; opened about 1 1/2 years ago. It’s called “The Back Porch,” and if you blink you’ll miss it. Truth be told, I wasn’t actually hungry. I wasn’t looking for food. But Chef Ron asked where I was from (California) and what I was doing (writing), then invited me in for a meal [He offered it for free. I insisted on paying].
The place was crowded. The line about eight people deep. I asked the woman before me what I should get—”Ohhhh,” she replied. “The chicken with the sauce is so good.” So I ordered the chicken with the sauce. And the mac and cheese. And the collared greens. I had iced tea (unsweetened, south be damned) and a slice of cheesecake. Then I plopped down at a table outside.
The chicken was outstanding. So was the mac and cheese and the accompanying cornbread. All terrific. But the greens—the greens were just spectacular. Earth-shaking. One-of-a-kind. I used to live in Tennessee. I’ve had greens. But not like this, where the flavor just melts atop your tongue in this sweet-yet-not-overpowering manner.
As I ate, I chatted with Ron, an Alabamian by birth who spent about seven years living near me in Southern Californian. He received a culinary degree out there, then worked for several years as the chef at an assisted living community. “You really learn how to cook for people in that environment,” he told me. “Because they know exactly what they want.”
Ron’s a delightful man who greeted every patron with, “How you doin’?” and “Hey—great to see you again.” It goes down as one of my all-time favorite dining experiences.
I did the whole backpack-thru-Europe thing. I took three planes to Yellowknife, Canada, where the temperature was negative 40. I’ve had terrifying flights and tranquil flights.
I’ve never had a night like tonight.
As I write this I’m sitting in a Birmingham, Alabama Quality Inn. The door handle was sticky, the shower is drip-drip-dripping—and I’m sooooooo fucking happy to be here.
Here’s why …
I flew from Los Angeles to Atlanta, and rented—more than three weeks ago—a car from Thrifty. Upon arriving in Georgia, I walked up to the Thrifty counter, only to be told there were no more cars.
“No more cars?” I said. “I have a reservation.”
“Sorry,” the guy replied. “We have none here.”
“How is that ev—” I started to say. But then I looked at the rep. He had nothing.
I tried different agencies. There were, literally, zero cars. Anywhere. So I took the shuttle to a nearby hotel and ordered an Uber (nearly $200) to take me from Atlanta to Birmingham. After waiting 15 minutes, the guy arrived. I threw my suitcase in the trunk and jumped in.
“You drive to Alabama a lot?” I asked.
“Alabama?” he said. “Nah, man—I can’t do that.”
Holy fuck. I grabbed my backpack. He popped the trunk.
I ordered another Uber. He arrived 30 minutes later—in a pickup truck that smelled of menthol.
We made the journey—two hours. About $200. I arrived at the La Quinta, armed with my Travelocity reservation code and tired eyes. I handed the man my ID. My credit card.
He looked at me. “We have no reservation,” he said. “Sorry.”
“No,” I replied. “I have a confirmation number. From Travelocity.”
“Maybe,” he said, “something was wrong with your credit card.”
“No,” I said. “No. Nothing is wrong with my credit—”
I looked at his face. Like the Thrifty dude, nothing was changing. But this time I was in the middle of nowhere Alabama, sans vehicle. And it was raining. I screamed (and I don’t do this often)—”FUUUUUUUUUCK!” Then, again, as I walked thru the rain, bag dragging, in the parking lot. Loudly. “FUUUUUCK!” I had a bottle in my hand and actually threw it at the ground. I was furious. And lost.
There was a Quality Inn sign glowing.
Christa answered. They had a room. One room. She said the price and the number of beds—and it was all a blur. I began to walk toward the hotel, and a man in a pickup truck actually stopped. “You need a ride somewhere?” he said.
I will never forget that moment of kindness.
I walked to the Quality Inn. Christa was there. She’s about, oh, 62ish—with dangling cross earrings and a matching crucifix around her neck.
Sitting in the airport, waiting for a flight, having an internal debate that’s now external: Should I be mad?
I have my mask on. Most everyone has a mask on. These two people don’t have their masks on.
They’re sitting across from me, laughing, chatting, giggling, pointing. They’re not eating—the boxes you see have been empty for some time. They’ve made the decision—together, as a couple—not to wear their masks.
And, of course, no one is saying a thing.
Should I? I don’t know. I’ve been vaccinated, so I wouldn’t think I’m personally at risk. But it irritates the fuck out of me. Everyone who works here wears a mask—for the entirety of their shifts. The disrespect is jarring; the lack of concern obnoxious. But … what if they, too, have been vaccinated? Does that make a difference? Does that change the equation?
So … should I be mad?
Because I am.
PS: Woman who picks up trash just passed us—wearing a mask. They didn’t flinch.
So I was scrolling thru Twitter a few minutes ago, fascinated by the reaction to the decision in Minnesota, when I noticed that ROT IN HELL is trending. In case you think I’m making such a thing up …
And I get it. I 100% get it. Derek Chauvin snuffed out another man’s life. For no good reason. George Floyd no longer walks the earth, and that’s 100-percent because a cop who should never have been a cop thought it his duty to remove a person’s final breath. Chauvin will spent his remaining days behind bars, and I am grateful for that. It’s the only reasonable decision.
However, whenever stuff like this happens, a small (actually not so small) part of me feels sympathy. It’s hard to explain, but I felt the same thing when O.J. Simpson was arrested, when that Washington sniper was caught, when … eh, countless times. I guess it’s not sympathy, so much as sadness. At some point in his life, Derek Chauvin was a blank slate. A kid, probably playing in a street. I actually found the above obituary of his grandmother, and I’m sure Berenice considered Derek her darling. Polite. Warm. Always kissed her on the cheek. That sorta thing.
He could have wound up anywhere, doing anything. His life could have turned left, could have turned right. He didn’t have to be a cop. He didn’t have to be a murderer. But whatever led him there led him there.
But were I living in Arizona, and someone entered my home and held a semi-automatic gun to my head (a likely happenstance in a state that considers firearms less dangerous than apples) and said, “Pick the biggest douchebag in our state and vote for him …”
I’d proudly vote Josh Barnett for congress in 2022.
Because while the world is overflowing with electric douches, there is only one Josh Barnett.
And if you need a douche, he’s your guy.
I only learned of Josh Barnett somewhat recently, when it was brought to my attention that he made history as the first major party political candidate to misplace a comma this badly on his own website …
That’s pretty special. But, it, doesn’t, tell the complete story of Josh, whose website EVENTS section is the best website EVENTS section in the long and storied history of website EVENTS sections. See, Josh isn’t holding a discussion on immigration on Tuesday, a breakdown of climate initiatives Thursday, a compelling lecture on military spending Sunday. Nope, his lone event on the best website EVENTS section ever is a jamboree of the crazy, the dishonored and the obscure. Or, put differently, were you around April 10, and if you felt compelled to drop some bucks, you could have listened to such luminaries as Mike Lindell (CEO of My Pillow and its sister company, Me Batshit), George Papadopoulos (Donald Trump’s shamed foreign policy advsior), Jovan Pulitzer (of all the election fraud conspiracy nuts—the nuttiest) and—best of all—Ann Vandersteel.
The reason I say Ann Vandersteel is best of all is because:
• 1. There’s a 74.5 percent chance she’s not a real person.
• 2. Barnett’s website butchers her name (if she’s real).
But wait. I digress.
One of the coolest things about Barnett’s comma-hampered, fake name-laced website is that, upon loading, it offers up a second or two of his head looking like this …
And it got me thinking about the long-ago TV mini-series, “V,” when alien lizards arrived on earth and blended in by wearing synthetic skin. I’m not saying Josh Barnett is, in fact, an alien lizard (I’m not saying he’s not an alien lizard, either). But he is a man who believes Joe Biden stole the presidential election—despite every reason to think otherwise. He is a man who kneels before Donald Trump, and apparently cares nary an iota about the 45th president’s long history of creating a phony university, of lying about being a Ground Zero hero, about molesting women, about failing to pay taxes, about receiving five draft deferments (those darn bone spurs), about insisting Ted Cruz’ dad killed Kennedy. It’s all #fakenews to Josh, a guy who watches the Capitol riot unfold and apparently thinks either: A. “Shit happens” or B. “Fucking Antifa and their MAGA hats.” He’s a guy who, truly, is made to be the modern Greene-and-Bobert-esque off-the-reservation Republican of 2021. Where legislating isn’t nearly as important as shoving it to the libs and Tweeting about Trump living in their heads “rent free” [You got us, big boy].
The truth is, somewhere deep down, Josh Barnett probably realizes he’s fucked. He knows Trump butchered the pandemic response, and that Joe Biden and Co. (dammit) have handled it well. He sees the recently passed recovery package and (for fuck’s sake) knows the large majority of Americans like it. He takes to Twitter to mock masks as safety measures, but wouldn’t dare consult with an actual infectious disease expert to make sure he knows whereof he speaks (A riddle for Josh Barnett: Why did Donald Trump make routine light of the pandemic, then get the vaccine and tell no one? (asking for a friend)).
If there’s one moment that sums up the Josh Barnett movement (or lack thereof), it’s a pair of Tweets from five days ago—aimed at Doug Ducey, Arizona’s Republican-but-not-nearly-Republican-enough-for-douchey-Josh Barnett governor …
The first features Barnett acknowledging (without realizing the self own) that Ducey ignores him as one would a gnat perched atop a fireplace.
The second features Barnett realizing he fucked up on the spelling.
I’ve been doing for four years. The pay is shit (I think I get $2,000), the work can be a bit irksome, the hours have (from time to time) been somewhat ambiguous and annoying.
I friggin’ love it.
I was about to write, “I don’t know why”—but, actually, I do know why. I love advising the Panther because I love journalism, and I want up-and-comers to love it to. I want them to grasp the rush of a scoop; the fear of an approaching deadline; the terror of having to make a call to someone who won’t be happy to receive it. I want them to know what it is to check a fact, then check it again. I want them to feel the buzz of, “Hey, I read your column …” or “Hey, that was a wonderful piece …” or, “Hey, we’re hiring interns and you …”
I had that as a University of Delaware undergrad, and I desperate seek it out for my Chapman students, too.
This year has been—for Panther staffers and advisor alike—pure awfulness. The newspaper holds all its meetings via Zoom, and has printed a grand total of zero copies on actual paper. During the staff sessions, I see eyes watering, yawns stifled. It’s brutally tough to care about a paper when you’re not physically present; to care when you can’t witness the acknowledgment of receipt.
Of all the highs, the one that has done me the most proud … or, really, the person who has done me the most proud is Jasmin Sani, the editor in chief.
Entering the fall, I knew little of Jasmin. She’d been on staff before, but we weren’t particularly close. She seemed sorta shy, sorta reclusive. Talented, but … I dunno. I didn’t view her as the editor in chief type.
Well, I was wrong.
Were I an editor at a newspaper or magazine, and I had a slot available for one graduating college senior, the job would go to Jasmin. I don’t care if there are more experienced people at Syracuse, at Northwestern, at Florida, at Missouri. I don’t care if Jim was a New York Times intern and Sally was a Washington Post intern. I don’t care about swagger, mojo, strut. Over the past eight months, Jasmin has handled (what has to be) the most difficult year in Panther history with calm, with smarts, with precision. Being an editor doesn’t mean you need to be an excellent writer (Jasmin is an excellent writer) or quick on deadline (she’s quick on deadline). Nope–it means you need to be a leader. You need to know where you want to take the newspaper, and how to guide your staff to get it there.
This year, Jasmin has guided her staff to produce what I truly believe to be the best weekly college newspaper in America.
Matt Gaetz is a Florida congressman and lover of underage vaginas. He offered this guest commentary to jeffpearlman.com
Hey, it’s Matt here. And I’m under my desk. So if there are any teetypos, it’s because I’m hiding.
First, the important thing: I still maintain I did not have sex with many teenagers. And if you think the word “many” suggests something, well, please shut up. All it means is if I did have sex with a teenager or two, it’s not true. Because I didn’t have sex with them. Or pay them. Except for the ones I paid. But they were hot. Wait. No. Not hot. Didn’t pay.
Also, the fake news needs to go. I saw that CNN report about Donald Trump refusing to meet with me because I might have/could have/didn’t/OK, maybe I did have sex with underage girls for money. And it’s fake news. I’ll now write that it capital letters, with a hashtag. It’s #FAKENEWS.
Donald Trump is my friend, and he wants to meet with me as soon as possible. He’s just … busy. Watching Aaron Rodgers host “Jeopardy.” Or doing president stuff. Like, important anti-fake news stuff that presidents do. We’re excited to meet together. He told me so. “Matt,” he said, “let’s be secret friends.”
“What do you mean, Mr. President?” I said.
He said, “We’ll be secret friends. Like, you stay over there and I’ll stay over here and we won’t talk and you’ll never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever mention my name again.”
“But,” I said, “we’re still friends?”
“Sure,” he said. “But no.”
See, #FAKENEWS! #FAKENEWS.
Anyhow, I’m excited and I’m Tweeting like crazy and I don’t believe @randybra22 who says I’m going to “get my ass carved up in prison. like a turkey at a lobster farm.”
The hero, however, was Senator Marsha Blackburn, who took time out of her busy day to Tweet the following …
I am proud of Marsha. Very proud. No, we don’t agree on much. But at 2:32—the very moment she sent that Tweet—I actually felt Marsha’s prayers dart past me en route to Knoxville. I was sitting at my kitchen table, noshing on some apple slices, when—whoooosh!
I turned to my daughter and said, “What the heck was that?”
Casey gave me a incredulous stare. “Seriously? Do you really not know?”
“Know what?” I replied.
“Dad,” she said, “those were Marsha Blackburn’s prayers.”
Damn. They were moving so fast—almost like lightning bolting from a cloud, or a series of bullets soaring out the barrel of an Armalite M15 22LR Carbine. I have no idea how they wound up in California, so I can only assume Marsha Blackburn’s prayers are so strong and potent that they went here, there, there, here, here, here, there … everywhere!
Anyhow, I told Casey that Marsha Blackburn was the day’s hero; that her little head thoughts can move mountains and lift seas and make grown elves cry purple tears. But then, the kid had a final question.
“Dad,” she said, “if the shooting already happened, and someone is already dead, what’s the point in praying?”
This was not because Donald Trump was at Subway buying a foot-long.
This was not because Donald Trump was meeting with the ghost of Yinka Dare.
Donald Trump denied Matt Gaetz a meeting because Matt Gaetz had sex with teenagers, paid for the sex with teenagers and is slightly less toxic than a nuclear hemorrhoid. And photo ops with nuclear hemorrhoids rarely go well.
Right about now, Matt Gaetz is confused. He devoted the past 4 1/2 years to carrying Donald Trump’s phlegm bucket. He made the ultimate deal with the devil, not realizing the obvious: He was making a deal with the devil. Matt Gaetz loved the perks: Air Force One flights, a Washington Nationals game, Rose Garden speeches, hand jobs beneath the bleachers with Archie and Veronica. Even though he boasted bare-minimal experience, Matt Gaetz felt like The Man. And, to a certain degree, he was The Man. Fox News loved him. Newsmax loved him more. His crazy conservative corner of Florida loved how he shoved it to the libs. He was a Trump Guy. Maybe THE Trump Guy.
But Matt Gaetz didn’t read the fine-print. The little below-the-fold warning that said, DONALD TRUMP WILL INEVITABLY TOSS YOU TO THE CURB. BECAUSE HE’S A SELFISH SACK OF SHIT.
It was there. It’s always there. Just ask his first wife, his second wife, his fellow USFL owners, his casino co-investors, his Trump University students, his Trump Steak employees. Ask people who love him, like him, endure him, hate him. Ask folks who met Trump for a second and folks who’ve known Trump his whole life. Heck, ask me—author of a book about the USFL.
So Matt Gaetz is an outcast. Donald Trump used him for what he’s worth, and now the 45th president moved on to other stupid aspirants who crave the access Florida’s most teenager-loving congressional member once held.
Matt Gaetz is a Florida congressman and lover of underage vaginas. He offered this guest commentary to jeffpearlman.com
It has been brought to my attention that my strategy of Tweeting a whole hell of a lot isn’t really having the desired impact in fighting back against charges that I fuck youngsters.
So I am using this space to announce a new, improved strategy: I will fuck your grandma.
Yes! I, Rep. Matt Gaetz, will fuck your grandma. I will do it with my eyes closed, and I will picture her as a 15-year-old, and that new Dua Lipa song will play loudly from a nearby speaker, and I will insist she call me either “Daddy” or “Papa”—her choice. But I will, indeed, have sex with Grandma*, thereby proving my innocence in regards to these dreadful charges.
That’s the thing about me, Rep. Matt Gaetz. Despite what the liberal media says, I don’t simply pay to have sex with middle schoolers. No, I pay to have sex with high schoolers, too. And some of those high schoolers are probably 18 and, therefore, legal. Can I guarantee the age? No. But why does that make me a bad guy? Seventeen? Eighteen? Either way, they’re legal in certain regions of Slovenia.
In fact, I am excited to tell you, dear readers, that tomorrow I will be the headline speaker at the Republican Women For Pedophiles grand gala at Mar-a-Lago. My address—titled, “Really, take the candy”—should show the world that I, Rep. Matt Gaetz, am a man of the people. A man of principle. A man who digs fishnets and braces.
I love the innocents.
I am innocent.
• * This offer is contingent on Grandma keeping in her dentures.
The other day, while driving somewhere to somewhere, the son and I started listening to “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang. And by listening, I don’t mean the-song-is-playing-and-we’re-talking-over-it. Nope, we actually listened. To the words. To the cadence. To the instruments. To everything.
And, together, we came to this conclusion: “Celebration” is a fucking brilliant piece of music.
You’ve heard it 1,000 times. At every wedding. At every Bar Mitzvah. “Celebration” was played for years when a team won the World Series, won the Super Bowl, won the Stanley Cup. Before the Black Eyed Peas came along and ruined everything with the dreadful “I’ve Got a Feeling,” Kool & the Gang’s most famous tune was a ubiquitous piece of party accompaniment. Hell, my grandparents were German immigrants who couldn’t tell the different between Bill Cosby and John Denver, and even they knew the words to “Celebration.”
The problem is, songs that are played at every celebration (especially ones named “Celebration”) tend to get dismissed as mere party songs. And “Celebration” is anything but. The horns are magical. The harmonies are top shelf. And I will go to my grave arguing that J.T. Taylor—the group’s lead singer during its heyday—is the most underrated frontman in music history.
So, really, take a second and listen to “Celebration” once again.
Not sure how many people saw this, but yesterday—after Coca-Cola blasted Georgia’s new election restrictions—Donald Trump joined the chorus of Republicans insisting people boycott Coca-Cola.
Then, today, he posed for the above photo.
Which isn’t a seemingly big deal. There’s the 45th president, sitting behind a desk, hands crossed, newspaper open, Creepy Boy 7 by his side. There’s a Mt. Rushmore image, a bunch of family photos, an award, a box. And, wait, what’s that? That bottle … sticking out from behind the black phone?
You see it, right?
With the red label.
Wait, lemme squint …
It’s a Diet Coke.
And if you’re surprised, well, you shouldn’t be surprised. This is the man who says he loves the troops—but mocks POWs for being captured. This is the man who raves about bravery—but lied about being a 9.11 hero. This is the man who talks about working for the middle class—but creates a fake university to bilk the middle class of their monies. This is a man who doesn’t care about a COVID vaccine—then quietly gets the COVID vaccine.
So don’t be shocked that, one day after calling for a Coke boycott, Donald Trump was drinking a Coke.
It’s who he is.
And, if you still follow him, here’s who you are. Or, really, what you are …
Matt Gaetz is a Florida congressman and lover of underage vaginas. He offered this guest commentary to jeffpearlman.com
Yes, I paid for sex with women who were underage. I admit it, but I will not resign. For this, I offer two reasons.
• 1. I wanted to have sex.
• 2. I wanted to have sex with underage women.
• 3. Look at me.
OK, that’s three reasons. But the third is the biggie—look at me. I look like a pencil topped by an inflamed nipple. I look like a drunk Disney character strung out on crack. I look like the kind of boy you bring home to meet Mom—and Mom pulls you into a side room to say, “I don’t have a good feeling about this one.”
Look, my life is hard. You try caressing Donald Trump’s testicles in one hand. It’s a challenge. I mean, they’re lumpy and a bit hairy and shockingly pale, and when I massage the varicocele the greatest president this world had ever known makes a cooing sound. Like, “coooooo … coooooo … coooooo.” It’s simultaneously arousing and creepy. Mostly arousing.
Wait. I digress.
Yes, I’ve had sex with underage girls. It is true, and I’m proud of it. Because, really, is it having sex with underage girls if I’m picturing the greatest president this world has ever known while I’m having sex with underage girls? Like, let me put it this way: Last week, after picking Tiffany up from her middle school, I said to her, “You’re not Tiffany. You’re Donald!” And she said, “OK, but can you help me with algebra first?”
So I did. Because, more than anything, I’m about my constituents.
In conclusion, if I’m guilty of anything, it’s not of having sex with underage girls. No, it’s of having sex with underage girls and paying them in official Air Force One pens.
So a strange thing has started to happen these past few weeks, ever since the planned HBO adaptation of my book, “Showtime,” has hit the news.
Namely, I’ve been repeatedly contacted for jobs.
From stunt people.
“I would love to work on the show …”
“I’d be perfect for …”
“I’m made for …”
On and on.
But, alas, here’s the reality: I just wrote the fucking book.
Yes, from Adam McKay on down, the people working on the show have been gracious and lovely and wonderful. Seriously, it’s been a terrific experience. But am I calling shots? Offering up casting tips? Piecing together a plan?
The above photograph was taken 34 years ago, when I traveled to Washington, D.C. for Mahopac High’s freshman class trip to learn about the mechanisms of government.
I don’t remember tons from the five-day stay. Fleeting, fuzzy images. A sorta luxury bus ferrying us down and back. Donna Massaro and the other big-haired dimwits cutting the line at Luby’s Cafeteria. Walking up the steps of the Capitol and posing for the photo in the brisk D.C. fall winds. Sharing a hotel room with (I believe) Steve Celli and John Messina. Um … yeah. That’s about it.
But here’s what I was pondering tonight, as I stared down the image: Of the 330 or so youngsters in the image, how many voted for Donald Trump in the last election? How many owned MAGA hats and MAGA gear? Most important, how many saw the U.S. Capitol under attack and thought, “Meh”? How many looked at the steps—those very steps—and cheered the men and women who climbed them, flags and guns and poles in hand?
See, it’s easy to be told things.
It’s easy to learn.
It’s even easy to regurgitate.
But to absorb the lessons of the past … to remember them.
So yesterday morning my mom texted me about the passing of Dan Hirschhorn.
And the name probably means nothing here, because Dan Hirschhorn wasn’t famous. He didn’t play in the NFL, or star on Broadway, or start a riot, or run for office. Just a guy.
He was, according to his obituary, a graphic designer—something I never actually knew. In his spare time he enjoyed sculpting—also something I never knew. He was, the obit said, a tremendous husband to his wife, Ronnie—he “supported Ronnie in her many endeavors and took great pride in making her life as pleasant and easy as possible. Not a moment went by without hearing in the background, ‘Ronnie, don’t worry, I got it.'”
I knew Dan Hirschhorn because, growing up, he was a parent and volunteer teacher at my tiny synagogue in Somers, N.Y. He was a friendly guy; a jovial guy; one of the core group of members. He and Ronnie were pals with my parents, and I attended Hebrew School with their two kids, Jeremy and Zev. I can still hear their voices. Clearly.
But here, in the wake of Dan Hirschhorn’s death, is what sticks with me …
The last time I saw the Hirschhorns was in 2002, at my wedding. And, to be honest, the Hirschhorns were those guests—which is to say, invites of my parents who I rarely saw and who the soon-to-be-wife didn’t know. And we’ve all been those guests before. All of us. Invites of invites. Or invites of invites of invites. The friend of friend. The Plus One. There, but not inner-circle there.
Usually, those guests vanish into the mist, and we forget they ever attended whatever function they were invited to. That’s what should have happened to Dan and Ronnie Hirschhorn—the wedding guests time forgot. Then, years later, we look through our wedding albums and think, “Wow, they were there? I don’t remember that …”
But here’s what actually happened: Our wedding featured an outstanding DJ, and Dan and Ronnie Hirschhorn danced and danced and danced their fucking asses off. They danced early, they danced late. They danced as much as anyone at my wedding danced—and we had a good number of dancers.
And toward the end of the night, Dan and Ronnie Hirschhorn approached the new wife and I. They were coated with sweat, and I remember receiving the farewell/congrats cheek smooch and thinking, “Well, that was sorta … eh … moist.”
But sitting here now, digesting the passing of Dan Hirschhorn, I see it differently. I envy people who dance and dance and dance, and walk off the floor exhausted and drenched.
She was the 25-year-old front end manager at the King Soopers grocery store. Then a man entered with a gun, started firing, killed 10 people.
And now Rikki Olds no longer exists.
I know almost nothing about Rikki Olds. She was young, she was from Colorado, she showed up for work yesterday not thinking it’d be her final moment on earth. According to her Facebook page, Rikki attended Centarus High, then Fort Range Community College. She wore glasses, had a few piercings, posted a bunch of nature pictures.
I have no idea whether Rikki liked Trump or Biden or none of the above. I don’t know if she planned on continuing with her education or if she was happy and content working the supermarket shifts. I don’t know if she hunted, fished, bowled, golfed.
Here’s what I do know: It has become a thing here in the United States, where someone like Rikki Olds—25-year-old front end manager at King Soopers—can enter her place of work and legitimately wonder if someone will walk through the front doors and start firing.
There’s something I learned about a few weeks ago, but it has yet to escape my head. It’s this …
Donald Trump was secretly vaccinated for COVID.
It happened back in January—both Donald and Melania received the shot. And … well, they told nobody (outside of, I’ll presume, some family members and close advisers). There was no press release. No press briefing. There was no video of Donald’s rolled-up sleeve, a needle poking through the skin. There was no PSA. No statement advising his followers to come along for the ride.
Again, Donald Trump was secretly vaccinated for COVID.
And, if you think about it, this may well be the most evil of Trump’s evils. Yeah, it’s not as rude as a Tweet, not as loud as a speech, not as jarring as calling someone fat or stupid or dumb or traitorous. But as we speak, more than 1/3 of Republicans insist they won’t get vaccinated, just as—when Trump was in office—enormous percentages of his followers said they thought masks were a scam; said they thought the virus was a hoax; said they thought the whole thing was created to get Joe Biden elected.
Again, Donald Trump was secretly vaccinated for COVID.
How many lives would have been saved had Trump worn a mask from the beginning? How many lives would have been saved had Trump not held rallies in crowded, enclosed spaces? How many lives would have been saved had Trump taken COVID seriously?
How many lives could still be saved had Trump allowed a camera to capture the moment he received the shot; had he stood afterward and said, “It’s safe, it’s painless and it’ll allow all of you to go back to normalcy”?
Alas, he is Donald Trump.
He probably hated the idea of his fleshy schoolmarm arm being captured for all to see.
He probably hated the suggested vulnerability.
He probably hated any trace that maybe, just maybe, he was (gasp) wrong.
So he received the shot in private, without uttering a peep.
The other day at was watching varsity sporting event at my daughter’s high school.
The Wolverines were competing against a local opponent, and throughout the tight contest one mother kept …
She screamed at the players. She screamed at the refs. She screamed instructions and criticism and encouragement. She told people what to do and how to do it and where to be and where to go. She was loud and shrill and annoying and obnoxious, and I can’t imagine any of the competitors found her words helpful and enjoyable or endearing or comforting.
Just learned a few minutes ago that Marvelous Marvin Hagler is dead. He was 66.
Over the next few days, you’ll hear one Hagler story after another after another. He was a brilliant fighter; a toughie out of Massachusetts who threw punches with legitimately cruel intent and boasted a jaw that absorbed blow after blow after blow. Hagler’s head was shaved to the scalp, and he dodged no man. The guy is top-shelf boxing royalty.
The fight was held in Las Vegas, but—thanks to a local radio giveaway—I won two tickets to watch on closed circuit TV on the campus of Westchester Community College. This was a huge deal for me. First, because I rarely won anything. Second, because Sugar Ray was on the small list of my childhood idols. So my dad (who knows nothing about sports) and I made the 25-minute drive to WCC’s Valhalla campus, snagged some bleacher seats and watched—on a couple of large screens—as Hagler and Leonard exchanged blows for 12 terrific rounds.
The fight was neither man’s best—if you wanna see the ultimate in Hagler, check out this display against Tommy Hearns. And Leonard’s masterpiece has to be his dismantling of Roberto Duran. But it was gripping entertainment, and it allowed me to sit alongside my hero (my dad) and show him a world he knew nothing about. I actually don’t recall whether Pops got into the fight, but (if nothing else) he never sought to dampen my enthusiasm. I was a kid who cheered and yelped and moved his arms along with the punchers. Dad didn’t mind.
Leonard won a controversial-yet-just split decision, and as I left the campus I’m sure I wondered how long it would take for Hagler-Leonard II to occur.
But here’s the best part: At age 33, Hagler had had enough. He was disillusion by the decision, but also, it seems, tired of the grind. The fighter walked away from the sport, moved to Italy and dove into the world of acting.
Yes, he has died too young. But we never saw Marvin Hagler stumbling over words, or fighting at pop-up gym in his early 40s, or even longing for the golden days.
A fascinating story out of Oklahoma from today; one that involves racism, journalism and the eternally awful rush to be first (as opposed to first and unquestionably correct) with a scoop.
So during a Thursday broadcast of a girls basketball game between Norman High and Midwest City High, an announcer went off on a racist rant when members of one of the teams decided to kneel during the anthem. The announcer was unaware that his mic remained on, and what he said was, well, pick an adjective. Any adjective. Disgusting, pathetic, hurtful, damning, sad. Again, take your choice. Here’s the audio, if you’re interested …
I first learned of the situation via a friend’s Twitter DM, and was naturally curious. Who uttered the words? Was this guy known to be a racist? Was he an educator? A volunteer? Old? Young? So I continued to monitor until, a few hours later, Cameron Jourdon of The Oklahoman broke that the culprit was a local preps coach named Scott Sapulpa.
I thought about it quite a bit, and DMed Cameron this message …
Before long, Scott Sapulpa deleted all of his social media. A phone number (attached to his business) went mini-viral across the Twitter landscape, and I’ve gotta think he received a good number of angry/threatening phone calls. Which is kind of understandable, considering what he said on the open mic.
Only, um …
Scott Sapulpa didn’t say it.
Here’s an update from Cameron Jourdon, posted roughly two hours ago …
It turns out the racist asswipe was someone named Matt Rowan, who issued the following press release …
Matt is a married father of two; a former youth pastor and a member of a Baptist church. He says he suffers from Type 1 Diabetes, and he says his sugar was spiking during the anthem. For the record, my father-in-law also has diabetes. It’s curious, but I’ve never heard him go on a racist tirade mid-sugar spike. Maybe because (cough cough) he’s not a racist, and the n-word doesn’t reside on his tongue. Weird how that works.
Anyhow, Matt’s future as a youth pastor is probably in flux—as (I’m guessing) is Scott Sapulpa’s bank account, which should grow exponentially after he sues The Oklahoman for ruining his life and reputation and having to forever answer the question, “Are you the guy who …”
As for Cameron Jourdon—I feel for him. Truly. As one who has made his fair share of mistakes through the years (and I did not come up during the era of social media—praise Jesus), I know how hard this gig can be. I know, in 2021, there’s immense pressure to break the story; to be first; to score the victory and lather in the goodness of 100,000 re-tweets.
In case you missed this, earlier today Donald Trump, Russian action hero and star of his own mental porn, issued this statement from his office way back in the Florida swamplands …
I actually read it and laughed. Then laughed again and again. Clearly, this is a man who misses Twitter in the worst possible way. But this is also a man who can’t help himself; a damaged and broken narcissist who spews like a broken record and masturbates over his own talking points, with nary a tissue for miles.
While there are many factors here worth guffawing over (why is “shot” in quote marks; “often referred to as the China Virus”; the adjective “beautiful” to describe a shot), what I love best is the suggestion that—without Donald Trump—there would be no vaccine for another five years, if ever at all. It’s Drunk Uncle-level shit; a Big Brother desperate to remind a dwindling army of little brothers that, without him, their lives are incomplete.
I know there remain shitloads of Trump backers walking the continent. I know this sort of “You need me” messaging has a history of working in places like Russia and North Korea, where dissidents are jailed/killed and Dear Leader is propped upon a golden throne of chicken nuggets. I know Trump continues to carry sway.
But I am also starting to think that maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump is Emmanuel Lewis in the mid-1990s. “Webster” is canceled, the Burger King commercials are done, Michael Jackson no longer wants you to sit on his lap and hang with Bubbles.
You’re just this guy, begging for a voice when the world has passed you by.
So a few moments ago I received this DM from one of my prize journalism students at Chapman University …
He shared a link to a Tweet from Wajahat Ali, who asked journalists the question, “If a young person wanted to go into journalism right now, what advice would you give them?”
To which Julia Ioffe replied …
And I just … I … I … friggin’ hate this shit. Hate, hate, hate, hate this shit. First, because Julia Ioffe is (according to her (cough) Wikipedia page), a wildly successful and accomplished scribe who covers national security and foreign policy topics for GQ and has no business shitting on the very dream she A. Pursued; B. Has lived. Second, because while, yeah, making it as a journalist is probably harder than ever, it remains a realistic and fantastic way to make a living.
I can go on, and on, and on, and on—naming hundreds upon hundreds of working journalists who aren’t mediocre white men, who don’t survive by kissing up and kissing down. Who write beautifully, who report intensely, who still believe in the power of relaying information, and who sustain successful and prosperous careers doing so.
Yeah, it’s harder than it used to be, and the desire to graduate college and immediately land a newspaper job ain’t what it once was. Yeah, saying, “I dream of becoming a journalist” is a little more like “I dream of becoming an actor” and a little less like “I dream of becoming a teacher.” Yeah, it’s a slog. It’s disappointment. It’s rejection. It’s starting out for excrement money at a shit middle-of-nowhere outpost. Yeah, your lawyer pal will be cruising on his yacht while you’re driving a ’93 Geo Metro. Yeah, your Jewish mother (in my case) will urge you to go to dental school.
But—fuck that, and fuck Julie Ioffe telling aspiring scribes not to go for it.
When I was a young gun at Sports Illustrated, the great Jack McCallum said to me, “You won’t be rich, but you’ll have the best stories at your high school reunion—and that’s currency.” He was right. One hundred percent right.
IMPORTANT: IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION THAT THE QUOTE ATTRIBUTED BELOW TO MATT BRASS WAS ACTUALLY THE CONGRESSMAN QUOTING A DEMOCRATIC COLLEAGUE FROM SEVERAL YEARS AGO. BRASS’ PEOPLE WERE UPSET BY THE CONFUSION. BUT—ODDLY—NOT UPSET ABOUT STEALING VOTING ACCESS FROM MILLIONS OF GEORGIANS. IT’S WEIRD HOW THAT WORKS WITH THESE PEOPLE.
What this means, in simple terms, is the state’s Republicans are freaking out over a rapidly deceasing amount of political power. They saw Joe Biden win the state; saw two GOP senators lose the state; see an ever-increasing population shift toward the left—and they’re losing their collective shit. So, step by step, the Georgia GOP is working hard to restrict voting methods that help the Dems. The new legislation, according to the AJC, would “reduce the availability of absentee voting, restricting it to those who are at least 65 years old, have a physical disability or are out of town. In addition, Georgians would need to provide a driver’s license number, state ID number or other identification.”
Yup—everything John Lewis and Co. fought against.
But here’s what I love. What I really, really love. Buried deep within the AJC piece is a quote from Matt Brass, a Republican congressman. Here’s what he offered …
And it’s just … just … just—soooooooo fucking infuriating. To translate for Mr. Brass: Donald Trump, the president I supported and voted for, said repeatedly that the election was fixed. So, because he said it over and over and over again, people believe it. Even though it’s total bullshit. But he said it. And said it. And said it. And because he said it and said it and said it, and because none of us had the courage to stand up to his lying, our voters don’t think elections are fair. So we need to make them less fair. By, um, making it harder to vote.
Matt, did I get that right?
Before today, I’d never heard of Matt Brass. A quick visit to his website offers what seems to be a fairly decent guy—a Navy veteran, a University of Georgia grad, a Rotarian. He worked with Habitat for Humanity and has been married to his wife for nine years. Again—seemingly OK.
But for some reason, guys like Matt surrender their honor and integrity when it comes to actually doing the right thing. You’d think a veteran (aka: a dude who fought for this nation) wouldn’t back a president who lies all the time; who made up a story about his 9.11 heroism; who brags about grabbing women by the pussies and who created a phony university to bilk people of their money. You’d also think a veteran would want everyone to vote—party be damned. You’d think, coming from a state steeped in racism and voting obstacles, a veteran would fight to make sure elections are legit.
So tonight the son agreed to join me for a viewing of “Coming 2 America,” the sequel to the all-time, all-time, all-fucking-time-of-times Eddie Murphy classic, “Coming to America.”
And, to be honest, my expectations were low. With rare exception (“Superman II” and “The Empire Strikes Back” being two that leap from the page), sequels tend to disappoint. They’re almost always reheated leftovers of an original thought gone stale. It’s generally a studio wanting to cash in on some early success. So the cast is returned, the hype is increased, the theatres (when there are theatres) are packed—and most everyone shuffles out with (at best) a big, “Meh.”
Which is, for “Coming 2 America,” the word of words: Meh.
The movie isn’t bad. And, if you have Amazon Prime, the price is right ($0.00). But … well … eh … there just isn’t much there. The story line of 2 is pretty much the story line of the original. The cast is largely the same. There are 800 cameos (from Morgan Freeman to Dikembe Mutombo to the three remaining members of En Vogue), but none feel particularly surprising or inspired. There are some sharp moments (the barber shop jokes are as on point now as they were three decades ago), but most of the comedic setups go pfft. I’d say, over the 110-minute running time, I laughed aloud five times. Maybe six. Which isn’t terrible. Just … meh.
Oftentimes, I groaned. Seeing Louie Anderson looking half dead. Seeing John Amos looking half dead. Seeing James Earl Jones looking half dead. Too much Leslie Jones doing Leslie Jones at nonstop 500 mph (and, for the record, I’m generally a fan).
By the end, I longed for the original.
I longed for originality.
PS: I actually thought the best parts of the movie generally involved Nomzamo Mbatha, an actress worth watching.
“We no longer need government running our lives,” he said. “Instead, everybody must continue to assume their own individual responsibility to take the actions that they have already mastered to make sure that they will not be contracting COVID-19.”
And this is why Texas needs to outlaw DUI restrictions.
Texans know whether they’ve had enough to drink. Texans don’t need the government to say, “You probably shouldn’t operate a truck after your 10th Budweiser.” Texans don’t need the Washington liberals to tell them eight vodka and cranberries do not go particularly well with maneuvering a school bus filled with children! Texans don’t need to keep an eye on Texan alcoholics! They’re Texan alcoholics! With car keys! They know best!
Texans are able to make their own decisions. To run their own lives. If Texans don’t believe a virus that has killed more than 500,000 of their fellow Americans is a threat, it’s not a threat. And if Texans don’t believe their inebriation would impact the ability to drive a car, it’s not a problem.
So because my life is lame and a bit dull, I find myself watching the NFL Network’s replay of the recent Bucs-Packers NFC Championship Game.
At one point, while not staring at the screen, I heard Troy Aikman refer to a catch by “Johnson.”
And, because my brain is warped and filled with cobwebs and goop, I found myself thinking, “Johnson … Johnson … Johnson. Wasn’t there a good Texans wide receiver named Johnson?” So I Googled and, indeed, there he was.
Only Andre Johnson wasn’t merely good. He was great, bordering on Hall of Fame-ish. Over 14 NFL seasons, Johnson caught 1,062 passes for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, a three-time NFL wide receiver of the year and the only player in league history with more than 60 catches over his first eight seasons. He is, by far, the most productive and prolific pass catcher in Texans history.
And you wouldn’t recognize him.
And your friends wouldn’t recognize him.
And I, too, wouldn’t recognize him.
That, to me, is one of the great poisons of post-NFL life. If you’re an NBA player, and you have an Andre Johnson-esque career, you can milk that recognition for years. Same with Major League retirees. Even NHL castoffs (if you’re in Canada). But football players exist in the shadows of a helmet; and the minute they’re replaced and cast aside, a new No. 80 or No. 84 or No 87 steps up—looking nearly identical to the last No. 80 or No. 84 or No. 87. It means you are now starting from scratch. Anonymous. Often unskilled in all areas unrelated to a pig’s skin.
You’re told the fame will always be a tool. That it’ll open doors. But, with rare exception, it’s a stench that follows one from place to place. The questions (“Didn’t you used to …”) never end. The introductions (“Andre used to …”) are cringe-worthy. Andre Johnson last caught an NFL pass five years ago, but unless he leaps from a building or invents a replacement for the drinking straw, his post-career achievements will pale in comparison to what he did as a young man; to what he can never do again.
I know that because it was trending on Twitter. I had to then Google “Pete Hegseth,” because I’ve never heard of Pete Hegseth. It turns out Pete Hegseth is a television host, military vet, failed political candidate and all-around super douche.
Which is fine: All walks of politics are filled with super douches.
What struck me as fascinating was this:
At one point during his speech to the angry white Trump slaves, Pete Hegseth said that when he sits down with real Americans at diners across the nation, “they’re not talking about the esoteric things that the Ivy League talks about.”
Pete Hegseth graduated from Harvard.
At another point during his speech to the drooling white Trump brainwashees, Pete Hegseth said he’s witnessed a sobering decline of biblical values in America.
Pete Hegseth was married in 2017, when he had a daughter with a Fox executive producer named Jennifer Rauchet—who was not his wife.
And, truly, this is the kind of shit I … just … don’t … understand. Donald Trump—American patriot—bragged about sexually assaulting women, failed to pay taxes, lied about being a hero after 9.11, created a phony “university” to bilk poor people, bankrupted a bunch of casinos—and it means shit to these people. Absolutely nothing. They hear the words, and the words are enough. Actions? Deeds? Meh.
So there’s an online petition to change the NBA logo, which is a silhouette of Jerry West, to a silhouette of Kobe Bryant. Like the one offered above.
It’s some seriously dumb shit.
Look, I love a lot about Kobe Bryant. I mean that—I love a lot about Kobe Bryant. His work ethic was unmatched. His doggedness was legendary. He won with Shaq, then he won without Shaq. He is, easily, one of the 20 greatest players in the history of the league (And, to be clear, I’m not saying “20” to draw attention, where you (the reader) replies with, “That’s an insult! He’s way better than Top 20!” Truth is, there have been a shitload of tremendous NBA guys, and automatically placing Kobe in the Top 5 means you’re ranking him ahead of some combo of Kareem, Oscar, Wilt, Bird, Magic, Hakeem, Duncan, Cousy, Spud Webb, Larry Krystkowiak, etc).
Kobe Bryant died tragically a year ago, and the (understandable) reaction is often to thrust said person toward a saintly status. So we see Kobe as this logo-worthy entity, and those with no appreciation of NBA history and an over-reliance on modern metrics look at someone like West and think of him primarily as a silver-haired general manager who played during the dark ages of slow white guys and bad haircuts. Meanwhile, they convince themselves that Kobe wasn’t (often) selfish, wasn’t (often) destructive to team chemistry, wasn’t nearly imprisoned for allegedly raping a woman in Colorado. He was perfect, just as Jimi Hendrix was perfect when he died, just as John F. Kennedy was perfect when he died, just as MLK and Shannon Hoon and Bob Marley and Thurman Munson were perfect when they died. That’s how we absorb young, unexpected passings—we whitewash the negative, hyper focus on the positives, then try our best to convince those within our orbits that what they heard (negatively) wasn’t actually true.
Kobe Bryant was a tremendous player. He died, at 41, a fine father and husband. He died a legend, and justifiably so.
But if we truly want to change the NBA’s logo, there’s only one way to go …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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:
The editor, Eric Barrow, is a wonderful guy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 negroesblacks 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 negroesblacks African-Americans pose for pictures with the tykes.
But hire a negroblack African-American head coach?
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.
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.
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!?”
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 …”
“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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.