Michael Moodian

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As a rule, I’m not a huge fan of meeting people whose intelligence dwarfs mine.

I mean, it’s awkward and uncomfortable, right? We all enjoy thinking we’re smart, so to have that belief punctured by another human, well, it sorta sucks. It’s deflating, it’s disturbing, it’s … it’s …


Every so often, however, you come across a person whose intellect—while far superior to your own—is far more inspiring than it is crushing. You talk to such a person, observe the speed at which his/her brain absorbs ideas and concepts, and just think, “Damn, that’s absolutely astonishing.”

Enter: Mike Moodian.

I first met Mike about four years ago, shortly after we relocated from New York to Southern California. The wife landed a job teaching at Brandman University, and she spoke glowingly of this co-worker with, well, a glow. So she invited Mike and his awesome wife Margaret over for dinner or lunch or something, and—whooosh! Mike’s brain was off. It was c-r-a-z-y stuff: Jeff, on page 47 of your Lakers book you … and See, the thing about penal law in Utah is …

On and on, a breathtaking, dizzying, ego-free discussion of this and that and that and this and up and down and high and low. Truly, Mike Moodian is the smartest person I’ve ever met. Which is cool, because he also happens to be one of the absolute best. When he’s not working as an associate professor of social science at Brandman University or teaching classes at Chapman or co-directing the Orange County Annual Survey or collaborating with Michael Dukakis or serving on California’s Commission on Judicial Performance Commission or hanging with his son, Mikey, or caring for a chinchilla named Marshall or watching his beloved Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Mike is … doing 100,000 other things. You can follow him on Twitter here, Instagram here and visit his website here.

Mike Moodian, welcome to the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Mike—this is a weird first question, but that’s OK. We’ve known one another for about four years now, and your mind moves at 7,000 miles per hour. Which fascinates me. In particular, you’ll say something like, “Hey, Jeff, on page 47 of Gunslinger you wrote about …” And later on I’ll say to Catherine, “How the fuck did he know that?” So I ask, with total respect and admiration—How does your head work in this regard? Do you just have a preposterous memory? Do certain things stick?

MIKE MOODIAN: Jeff, my wife always says the same thing. Here’s how I can best answer your question: My mind tends to travel very quickly, often remembering different things by association. For example, I am a fanatical L.A. Rams fan who has season tickets to home games at Memorial Coliseum. Team representatives keep calling me trying to persuade me to buy seat licenses for the new stadium in Inglewood. My wife’s aunt Mary Beth was human resources director for the City of Inglewood for a short time. Mary Beth used to live in Portland, which happens to be home of one of my favorite bookstores, Powell’s Books. When I last visited Powell’s, they had an entire section composed of work written by Noam Chomsky, the famous MIT linguist and activist. Chomsky gave the keynote address at a globalization conference I spoke at five years ago at UC Santa Barbara. The City of Santa Barbara has a small aquarium that my toddler loves. The aquarium houses some cool starfish, so does the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, which my family and I like to go to each October around Halloween for a kids event they put together. This process goes on and on. My mind ventures through these various associations. As I result, I can sometimes be socially awkward when I talk to people because I bring up random things. It’s just how my brain works. My wife can talk about a trip to Buenos Aires we took once, and I can start discussing Golden Spoon frozen yogurt moments later. This goes on and on. My mind works by rapidly connecting things.

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Giving the morning keynote at the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations Education Conference, 2018.

J.P.: In 2015, Jerry Brown appointed you to the State of California Commission on Judicial Performance. Your task is to investigate judicial misconduct/incapacity complaints and for disciplining judges. We’re coming off of a hotly contested, painfully partisan Supreme Court nomination, and I wonder how you view this nation’s relationship with judges. I was raised believing they could be impartial, decent, caring, respectable, empathetic. Was I just a naïve punk?

M.M.: Serving on our state’s Commission on Judicial Performance Commission is the greatest honor of my career. California, in 1960, became the first state to establish this type of judicial watchdog agency. Now all 50 states and the District of Columbia have similar commissions that vary in their authority. My work as a commission member keeps me busy, and I never take lightly our role to protect the public, enforce rigorous standards of judicial conduct, and maintain public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judicial system. Because of the sensitive and confidential nature of the work we do, it would be best if I pass on commenting on the judiciary.

J.P.: You’re a professor of social sciences at Chapman University and Brandman University. There’s always a lot of complaining about millennials and their lack of compassion, their lack of attention spans, their materialism. What, as a professor, are you seeing?

M.M.: The students are great, Jeff. You get those who are just skating by, but the dedicated ones make this job worth it. When we reach the end of the term and they present their work—projects they worked so hard on—and you see how far they have come, you develop a lot of hope for our country’s future. I cannot complain about millennials because my generation was certainly no better.

J.P.: You’ve been on a ton of panels. You’ve sat in on endless meetings You’re involved in politics, in social issues, in education. And I wonder: Are people listening, generally? When you’re all gathered in a circle of chairs, and people are speaking their piece, are most just waiting to talk? Or are they absorbing?

M.M.: It’s a mixed bag. You and I encounter so many different people from different walks of life. I pride myself on having an ability to try to see someone else’s perspective, even if I disagree with their viewpoint. I do get concerned that many of us are siloed, the distrust of established news media, the garbage spread on social media, and the embracing of these conspiracy/deep state theories.

J.P.: When I released my USFL book, I was sorta worried the topic wouldn’t lend itself to huge sales. You are the author of a book, Images of America: Rancho Santa Margarita. I’m guessing you knew this wasn’t landing on the Times list. So, what’s the motivation of writing a book with what, from afar at least, seems like a limited readership and audience?

M.M.: That’s a great question. I tend to be extremely curious about everything. Before we had a kid, my wife and I used to hike various trails in OC. One time we hiked an area in O’Neil Regional Park and came across a marker that stated that the Portolà Expedition members had camped at the site while establishing the first overland trail through Alta California in 1769. It was so cool to me that during a time in the 18th century in which the country we know as the United States was being formed on the East Coast, there was significant activity by indigenous groups and Spanish explorers on the West Coast. I also started to research the fascinating untold stories about the land surrounding Mission San Juan Capistrano. Then I spent a summer writing about the ranchos of North San Diego and South Orange counties. I guess I always saw the project of my way of contributing to the area I grew up in by documenting its history dating back to the 1700s. In the years after the book’s release, I gave lectures on Orange County’s ranch history to community groups. I know this sounds corny, but one of my favorite experiences was speaking to third graders about the history of the area. The project is not related to my academic work on leadership and cross-cultural competence. It’s just my contribution to my community, and working on it was rewarding.

Interviewed by Vikki Vargas

Interviewed by Vikki Vargas

J.P.: You’re good friends with Michael Dukakis—who even officiated your wedding. Um, how did this happen?

M.M.: We first crossed paths years ago when I was doing research for a project, and we became close during the years. We coauthored op-eds on the Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative, and he wrote the foreword to my first book. He is one of the most decent human beings I know, he is probably the wisest person I know, and he subscribes to an ethical framework that all policy leaders should emulate. I love Michael and Kitty Dukakis like family members.

J.P.: You served in the military, which fascinates me because I’d never guess it. You’re a liberal intellectual who’s wed to Hawaiian shirts. So why did you enlist? What did the experience do for you? Do you think it caused you to see military personnel in different ways?

M.M.: It’s certainly something that I’m proud of, but I guess it’s something I don’t talk about much because it seems like a lifetime ago, and my time in the service was relatively uneventful. Your allusion about military service and liberalism perhaps being antithetical makes me think about how ironic it is that the political right in this country seems to own patriotism. To me, there is nothing more patriotic than standing up for those who are voiceless, treating compassionately and humanely children of color who are trying to seek refuge in this country, and disavowing unequivocally the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis, and the Kremlin. The Republican Party today resembles a hate group more than it does the party of honorable people such as Jack Kemp and Bob Dole.

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Debating former California Republican Party Chair Shawn Steel on PBS-SoCal, 2018.

J.P.: You’re very involved in Orange County politics. My former congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, is insane. Not exaggerating—insane. How do you explain his lengthy career?

M.M.: His staying power was the result of the fact that he resembled his district. He is that traditional, old-school Orange County Republican who came from the Reagan administration. Also, as you have written many times, Rohrabacher came across as this loveable congressman who surfs, plays guitar, and is fiscally conservative. That goes far in Huntington Beach and the other OC coastal communities. However, as we saw in the most recent election, Orange County is changing and is starting to look more like the rest of the country.

J.P.: You’ve been teaching a long time. What’s the difference between impactful teaching and meh teaching? When do you know you’ve reached students? When do you know you haven’t?

M.M.: There are many who are much better at this profession than I, but the approach that has worked for me is to try to be relatable and to try not to take myself too seriously. Earning a college degree is hard work, and when you get to know many of these students, you realize that some have overcome enormous challenges to get here. I admire anyone who is trying to better themselves and their communities by obtaining an education. For me, my approach has always been to foster an environment that focuses more on collaboration versus an autocratic/dictatorial approach. But again, there are many different impactful teaching methods.

J.P.: You’re a uniquely optimistic person. How have you maintained that during Trump? During climate change indifference? During the Kardashian reign? Because I struggle.

M.M.: Jeff, before Margaret and I adopted our beautiful boy, he was our foster child for 13 months. This precious boy survived hell before he joined us. A community of gifted, kindhearted people—social workers, doctors, nurses, therapists, teachers, friends, family, and our attorney—came together to help our son. The national headlines are depressing, but one can only be an optimist after living life in our shoes.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Paul Stanley, Meek Mill, Sandow Birk, The 17thDoor, Darrell Issa, the elementary school spelling bee, Wilson Betemit, the smell of blacktop, Bernard King: Wow, I cannot stress enough how much I admire Sandow Birk’s work. I consider him, Elyse Pignolet, and Victor Hugo Zayas to be the three best Southern California-based visual artists today. I walked past the SFJazz Center in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood once and talked the security guard into letting me in for a few minutes so I could see Birk’s mural inside. His work is incredible. As an aside, Zayas took guns from the LAPD’s Gun Buyback Program—weapons used for violence and killing—and transformed them into these beautiful sculptures. I never saw anything like them. So going back to your question, Birk is number one. I have not heard Bernard King’s name in a long time. He was one of my favorite non-Lakers in the 1980s, and he was so good. King is number two. The elementary school spelling bee is third. We also had a geography bee when I was young that I believe National Geographic sponsored. I don’t know if schools still hold these, but I thought it was great. The 17th Door is fourth. Wilson Betemit is fifth. The Orioles’ uniform design is one of my favorites. I am not familiar with much of Meek Mill’s work. He is sixth. The smell of blacktop is seventh. Issa was my congressman until recently. My buddy Mike Levin just took over that seat and will do a hell of a job in congress. Issa is eighth. Explaining my disdain for Kiss would require a separate interview. Stanley is ninth.

• One question you would ask Mike Gminski were he here right now: When I was a boy in the 1980s, I had a poster on my wall of the United States with NBA logos placed throughout the map on the geographic areas their respective teams represented. Next to each logo was an illustration of a star player from that team. So when looking at the L.A. area on the map, there was a Lakers logo next to Kareem shooting the sky hook. I believe Michael Cage was next to the Clippers logo. Alex English was on the Colorado area of the map next to the Nuggets logo. Dominique was over Georgia with the Hawks logo. Anyway, I would stare at this poster almost every day. I loved the logos and team colors. The players were larger than life. No one played defense, and anyone who was halfway decent averaged 25 points per game. The 1980s were the best, most colorful era in professional basketball. Remember the NBA VHS series? I was hooked on it. I look at 1980s NBA with the same fondness that you look upon the USFL with. Filmmaker David Lynch once wrote that he thought the sunlight in L.A. shines differently than the light in Philadelphia, and I always thought that NBA uniform colors were vivid and brighter in the 1980s. The league lost some of that zest in the nineties. So if I interviewed Mike Gminski, I would ask, “What was the experience like?” If there is anything we have learned from your books, Jeff, it’s that the most fascinating stories do not come from the Troy Aikmans and Magic Johnsons of the world; they come from those who were not necessarily the major superstars. Gminski was a pretty good player on a bad to mediocre Nets team during a larger-than-life era in basketball. What was that like? What were the locker room dynamics like? What happened behind the scenes? You’re on a team with 11 other men, and you’re all highly competitive people. The Nets were sometimes good enough to make the playoffs, but were never able to achieve the greatness of the Lakers, Celtics, Sixers, or Pistons. How does Gminski reflect upon that? One point that strikes me about professional sports is that athletes eat, sleep, and breathe winning with one team. Then they get traded, or they get waived, or they take a better offer with another team. What is that experience like? I would imagine it’s akin to a painful divorce.

• In exactly 15 words, make an argument for White Lion’s inclusion in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: I love rock music, including most genres of metal, but I never really got into that 1980s MTV glam metal scene. Give me Ozzy or Deep Purple any day of the week, but I will pass on the Ratts and Warrants of the world. That said, Zakk Wylde, Ozzy’s legendary and longest-serving guitarist, started a band in the mid-1990s called Pride & Glory. One can best describe that band as Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Black Sabbath. If the Allman Brothers decided to be a hard rock band, they would be Pride & Glory. The band released one album, a self-titled LP, and I never met anyone who owned it other than me. Man, that album is so good. To me, it is an overlooked gem of the 1990s. Even today, I will listen to tracks such as “Lovin’ Woman” and “Harvester of Pain” as I fold laundry. Back in the nineties, I remember thinking how crazy it was that Zakk started Pride & Glory with two guys from White Lion, a band Pride & Glory sounded nothing like. One of them was bassist James LoMenzo, who has also performed with Zakk on his various other projects. Separately, it’s worth noting that most of these glam metal or hair metal bands were, in fact, very good musicians. Their vocalists were pretty bad, but their members were often the world’s best electric guitarists and drummers. LoMenzo is a superb bass player. Therefore, if I were to make a 15-word case for White Lion’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, I would say, “White Lion’s members branched off to form Pride & Glory, and James LoMenzo is talented.”

• How did you meet your wife?: Margaret and I worked in the same building in Santa Ana, CA, in 2004. She was working one of her first jobs after earning her bachelor’s degree from Chapman. I was working a job I hated as I earned my master’s degree from Cal State Fullerton. I would see her now and again in a break room both companies shared, and I started to figure out that she would arrive at work each day between 8:13 a.m. and 8:22 a.m. She would enter the front door, proceed to her desk, set her purse down, and head over to the break room to pour herself a cup of coffee each day. I made sure I was coincidentally in the break room at the same time each morning to toast a bagel I brought from home. We would chat each morning, and after a few months, I mustered the courage to ask her out. On our first date, we saw the Angels defeat the Indians 6-2, played Skee-Ball at Dave & Buster’s, and walked around Huntington Beach. I was so nervous. For our second date, we had dinner at P.F. Chang’s in Santa Monica, walked around 3rd Street Promenade, and had drinks at a West Hollywood bar I will miss forever called Red Rock. I rarely drink today, but I looked up Red Rock recently and was disappointed to learn it closed. The rest is history. You and I married up.

• Three memories from your senior prom: I was one of those awkward kids who did not go to proms and other dances.

• Who are the five most famous people you’ve encountered?: Alphabetically by last name, I guess I would say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Buzz Aldrin, George Foreman, John McCain, and Barack Obama.

• On a scale of 1 to 100, how burdened are you by the inevitability of death?: Every night, just before I go to bed, I quietly enter my three-year-old son’s room, turn the light on, and gaze at my boy for a minute or two as he sleeps. During this time, I often think about how exciting it is that his entire life is ahead of him. I think about how thrilled I am to accompany him through his childhood years, the ballgames we will go to, the fun times we will have, the 2028 L.A. Olympics, and how I will be there for him when he stumbles along the way. Then I consider the fact that as he grows older, I will also grow older, and I find myself reflecting upon my own mortality more than I ever have. I sometimes worry about how awful it would be if something happened to me and I left my wife and boy behind. I start to think about how I need to take better care of myself, eat less carbs, drink less caffeine, and practice breathing techniques to relieve stress. When you are 20, you can look ahead 15 years, and you will still be young. When you are in your forties, it’s different. So, in short, the burden of the inevitability of death is not something that really bothered me in years past, but it’s something that crosses my mind more often today. On a scale of 1 to 100, I would say 55.

• Donald Trump promised he would solve the California drought. In your professional estimation, how’s that going?: It’s going about as well as his efforts to broker Middle East peace.

• The Democratic nominee for president in 2020 will be …: Back in 2006 and 2007, I had a strong feeling that Barack Obama would be the 2008 nominee once the rest of the country got to know him. In 2016, it was always Hillary’s race to lose. I truly see no clear-cut favorite for 2020. I suppose it will either be Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, John Kerry, Elizabeth Warren, or Beto O’Rourke. Maybe Tom Steyer, Mark Cuban, or Michael Bloomberg with join the race and provide formidable challenges. It would not surprise me if we see as many as 30 candidates encompassing all sides, from socialists to pragmatic centrists. For the sake of answering your question, I will say Kamala Harris. On a side note, the Democratic establishment should not do what the Republican establishment did leading up the 2016 election by having a debate featuring long-shot candidates early in the afternoon, followed by a debate the establishment considers front-runners during primetime. Prof. Larry Sabato proposed a better idea a few years back: Allow anyone polling at 1% or higher—along with any current or former governors or senators—to debate. If the pool is composed of 20 or so candidates, hold back-to-back primetime debates with participants in each determined by a lottery. If these candidates are going to start debating by mid-2019, the public has the right to see all candidates side by side, not just those with higher poll numbers as a result of name identification. Organizers can start cutting the number of participants after these initial debates.

• What’s the word you way overuse?: It’s funny that you ask that because I tend to pay special attention to word use. I guess “cognizant” is a word that I overuse lately. I notice that you tend to use “myriad” and “digress” quite often. I read a lot of what you and Catherine write and see that she is also using “myriad.” I recently finished Ronan Farrow’s excellent War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence and notice that Farrow likes to use “purse,” as in “Diplomat A pursed his lips during the interaction.” I believe Farrow will be this generation’s Bob Woodward. What a talent. Former Sunday Times Editor Harold Evans wrote a book that everyone who aspires to be a better writer should read titled Do I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well Matters.

Catherine Pearlman

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Soooooooooo …

I’ve Quazed friends before.

I’ve Quazed family members before.

I’ve Quazed one of my musical idols, I’ve Quazed a Nazi, I’ve Quazed my high school tormentor, I’ve Quazed a guy whose name is Wildstar and a woman whose name is Venus. I’ve Quazed people with tons of tattoos, people with addictions to video games, people with two presidents as relatives.

I’ve Quazed 320 times before today.

But this is different.

This is personal.

Catherine Pearlman is the most decent human I know, which works out quite well because, hey, we’re married. She’s compassionate, she’s big-hearted, she’s devoted her life to assisting others—be it as a director in a youth homeless shelter, as the head of a summer camp for disadvantaged kids, as a family coach who goes into homes and helps mothers and fathers solve their parenting difficulties. She also happens to be the best parent I’ve seen, which helps explain this week’s arrival of her first book, “Ignore It: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction.”

I know … I know—I’m biased. No doubt. But if you’re a mother or father, and you need to figure out how to raise your children while simultaneously maintaining sanity, Catherine’s work is biblical. Again, I’m not speaking solely as a reader. I’m speaking as a daily witness.

Anyhow, today Catherine (aka: The Family Coach) explains why ignoring our children is wise, why iPhone management is key and why (preach!) Dr. Drew is little more than a fraud.

You can visit her website here and follow her on Twitter here and Facebook here. And Ignore It! can be ordered here.

Catherine Pearlman—mother of my kids—you’re the 321st Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN.: You have a book coming out called “Ignore It!” And it’s great and wonderful and I love it. But, because we’re married and I’m the father to your two kids, I know there are occasions when you haven’t ignored it. So, in that regard, would you say ignoring it is easier said (or written) than done? Is it REALLY possible to perfectly adhere to your advice?

CATHERINE PEARLMAN: Ha! Ignoring children who are pushing our buttons is the hardest thing to do. I’m not a perfect parent, and I don’t believe anyone is. I am human with feelings and, at times, I’m tired, frustrated and upset. It’s during those times I’m not at my best as a parent. I engage when I shouldn’t or I get angrier than is necessary. But being a good parent means learning as you go. I try to learn from my mistakes so the next time my child pushes that very same button I have the wherewithal to ignore it.

In Ignore It! I advise parents to think of their triggers, the times when their kids get the best of them. I also recommend for parents to think about what part of their day is the most difficult for them. It is possible to learn how to ignore someone calling you names or whining and complaining. It takes practice. But once kids see that none of their tactics will give them what they desire, they quickly decide to give it up. And when parents see this change in their kids they gain more strength to continue to Ignore It! in the future.

With our daughter Casey back in the day (painting by Greg Kuppinger)

With our daughter Casey back in the day (painting by Greg Kuppinger)

J.P.: Our son enters sixth grade next year, and he’ll have a phone. And it’ll likely be an iPhone of some sort. And while I understand this, I also think—from a purely logical standpoint—it’s insane. He’ll be 11, with access to pretty much everything and anything. I mean, forget just porn and violent film clips. I’m talking neo-Nazi websites, ISIS recruiting videos, on and on and on. So why is this OK? And how, as a country, has this become acceptable parenting turf?

C.P.: Our son will not have access to anything and everything on the Internet from his phone. He will have restrictions and parental controls. Also, even if our son watched a Nazi or ISIS recruiting videos he isn’t going to become a terrorist. I feel confident on this one.

Nowadays, there really is nothing stopping middle school children from Googling whatever they want. If we put all sorts of restrictions on our son’s phone or even if we don’t give him one, he will likely have access on one of his friend’s phones. I can’t guarantee that other parents will be as conscientious as we are. Furthermore, nothing creates greater interest than banning something. Look at what happened recently with 13 Reasons Why. I believe we have to teach kids Internet responsibility at a young age. I’ve explained to both our kids that anything they view online cannot be unseen or unlearned. They need to use caution and common sense. We’ve also made it clear that they can, and should, come to us when they see something disturbing or if they have questions about anything. They won’t be in trouble for looking something up. It’s better to open the communication than punish them for their curiosity.

cap on tv set

J.P.: You don’t think of yourself as a writer. You’ve never written a book, you have no journalism background. So why do this? I mean, writing is torturous and hellish and not all that fun. So, eh, why? And how did you feel about the process in and of itself? Sitting down, putting words on page?

C.P.: I consider myself a social worker who now writes. It might be a long time until I see myself as a writer, even though I’ve written a book and am a weekly columnist. My mission in my practice and writing is to help parents enjoy their children and parenting experience more. I hate seeing parents beaten down by the job. After working with hundreds of families I found myself giving one piece of advice to every parent no matter the reason for the consultation. Parents are dealing with a plethora of unpleasant behavior and one small piece of advice can make a huge improvement. I wanted to be able to share the Ignore It! philosophy with more parents so I decided to write it all down in the book.

The writing process was arduous and great at the same time. Writing for hours a day, every day, is draining. It’s really hard day after day to keep focused. By the end I was exhausted. But I was also insanely proud of myself. I wrote a book that came mostly from my brain. I didn’t do a ton of research or interviewing to write this book. I wrote what I know and teach every day so in some ways this was an easier book to write. All in all, though, the experience was incredibly satisfying.

J.P.: When we met you ran a youth homeless shelter in New York City. You were this very short, very young-and-innocent-looking person dealing with kids from all sorts of tough backgrounds with all sorts of pasts; troubles; complications. How did you land that gig? What made you qualified—I don’t mean simply on paper, but temperament, judgment, wisdom, demeanor? And what’s your best story from the experience?

C.P.: Growing up I planned on being a doctor because I wanted to help people. As a child I was never exposed to a social worker so I didn’t even know of the profession. When I went to college I majored in History of Medicine and took the pre-med track. But I struggled with the mess and gore of medicine, and I wasn’t enjoying biology or physics much. In one of my sociology classes I was exposed to social work, and I never looked back. Social work is about improving the well-being of all people with a special emphasis on the most marginalized, vulnerable and poor among us. Social workers aim to end discrimination, poverty and social injustice. That’s exactly what I wanted to do. I applied to a master’s program during my senior year, was accepted and graduated with a MSW two years later.

After graduation I worked for 10 months as an office temp while applying to hundreds of jobs. Eventually I was hired in the Rites of Passage program at Covenant House, a homeless shelter for youth. My job was to manage a unit of 18-to-21-year-old young men. I was only 24 at the time. While some of these guys were gang members, drug users or hardened from years on the streets, they were still people who deserved their dignity and my respect. I learned in that job how to de-escalate a crises and how to keep my calm at all times.

Today, with the excess of police violence, I often think of my time at Covenant House. Most of those guys outweighed me by 100+ pounds. My only weapons were my body language and my words. Those often very angry guys were able to see that I cared about them. Sadly, for some, it was the first time in their lives where someone actually cared about them, asked them about their day, helped them find a job or obtain training. I showed them empathy, I listened and I cared. Those qualities can’t be taught in a school. You have them or you don’t.

I did learn a lot of skills in social work school. But it was the on-the-job training and my ability to look at my actions to constantly improve my work that made me qualified. I’ve been working in the field for 20-plus years, and I’m still learning, analyzing myself and growing as a professional. Being qualified is a life-long process. I hope I’m never finished.

book arrives

J.P.: We live in Southern California, where youth sports—in my opinion—reign in an unhealthy way. They’re the everything of everything; the obsessions of many; the killers of family togetherness. So, well, what should we do? If my kid loves baseball, and he wants to play 24/7, isn’t that OK? Or if my daughter has unbelievable hoops talent, and we think she can get a DI scholarship, why shouldn’t it be pushed as far and hard as possible?

C.P.: When children devote all of their out-of-school time to one endeavor (sports, music, dance), there is an opportunity cost. That means that while the child is busy enjoying intense activity in one area, another area is being unexplored. I think parents forget that childhood comes only once. Kids have one opportunity to discover what they enjoy and sometimes I wonder if it’s wasted on the singlemindedness of the current obsession. I only know I love camping and sailing and water skiing because I had a chance to do those activities at an all-around camp. I grew up playing the piano and loved it. I still do. But I didn’t spend hours upon hours practicing. I played, enjoyed it, and also did other activities I enjoyed like volleyball, tennis and art. Of course there are prodigies and children whose talents will become a career someday. I don’t believe most children fit into this category. Parents are living out their hopes and aspirations through their children and the children are the ones who end up on the losing end of that proposition. And all of the time spent “playing” is taking time away from families spending time together. I absolutely cherish the dinners and weekends our family is all together. When the sports schedule has 10-year olds playing until 8 pm and high schoolers spending more than three hours on the field every day I think a vital aspect of family life is lost.

Getting a college scholarship is important for many children. However, the vast majority of parents who are signing their kids up for three leagues at once, hiring private coaches, training all year round and creating the 24/7 mentality would be better off putting their money in a savings account to be used for a college in the future. Additionally, I have grave concerns about what the intensity of youth sports is doing to children’s bodies. Damage done in childhood is often not seen until adulthood. Pitching too many games, six-day-a-week practices with pads in football, micro concussions, running programs that have 11-year olds doing marathons all concern me.

J.P.: What’s the absolutely craziest thing you’ve seen in your career as a social worker? The moment/action/whatever that blew your mind?

C.P.: I have seen so many amazing moments in my career but also incredibly sad moments, too. I don’t think anything blew my mind though. Being a social worker often means meeting people in their worst moments, the day they hit rock bottom, the day they become homeless, the day their child is removed from their home, the moment they realize they need Hospice. It’s painful to witness so much pain. Often there isn’t a moment where you get to see how it all works out for clients. They come into your life, they stay as long as they want or a program allows, and then they are gone. There isn’t always a goodbye or a happy departure. Sometimes life for clients becomes a lot worse before it gets better. But we don’t get to see their success. So whenever I do have a chance to see someone’s moment of improvement, big or small, I cherish those memories.

I’ve seen a young girl whose father raped her and gave her HIV obtain a job and move into her own home. I’ve seen a young man with schizophrenia, depression and drug addiction work incredibly hard to stay on his medication and safe. I’ve been able to witness hundreds of nontraditional college students graduate with their social work degree after battling poverty, illness, family issues, taking care of relatives while also working full time jobs. I’ve seen incredible resilience on the front lines, and I’m grateful to those people for always reminding me that truly anything is possible with the right support and determination.

J.P.: Your book is based around a philosophy—“ignore.” But is there truly a such thing as an original philosophy? I mean, you can’t possibly be the first family coach/social worker to advise people to ignore bad behavior. So what makes you unique? What makes this advice yours, per se?

C.P.: That fact that Ignore It! isn’t an original idea gives me great peace of mind. It’s based on many high-quality research studies performed by a variety of researchers. As a social worker it is important to me to have veracity in my advice. I have to know something is going to help or at least is backed by evidence-based practice.

One of my abilities as a family coach is to take research and break it down into practical bites of information for parents. That’s what I’ve done in Ignore It!. I’ve taken well-respected psychological concepts (extinction and reinforcement) and given them a modern practical twist. I added tons of anecdotes from parents who I’ve worked with to help moms and dads implement the advice. The voice in my book is mine. The way I write about the concepts and advise parents how to use them is all me. People who know me who have read an advanced copy say they hear my voice very clearly in the book. My personality, my sensibilities and philosophies and my advice is front and center in this book.

J.P.: You spent a summer working at a sleepaway camp for disadvantaged children—and it was an absolute shit show. What happened? What do you remember? And why did it bother you so much?

C.P.: Actually I spent several summers working at camps for disadvantaged youth. The first one was in England while a was a college student. That camp experience changed my life and afterward I changed my career from being a medical doctor to a social worker.

But one summer I worked at a camp for homeless children from New York City. I’ve worked at many types of camps, and I think camp can do a world of good for all children regardless of socioeconomic status. But the particular camp you mention upset me because it was dangerous and completely chaotic. The day before the start of camp the director quit. Days later the chef quit. The camp was left in the hands of a young and inexperienced assistant director. The nonprofit that ran the camp stopped paying bills so supplies like milk, food and laundry detergent stopped arriving. Imagine running a camp for 100  homeless kids without food and laundry. Some children didn’t have blankets after nighttime accidents and some never had pillows. Counselors quit every day because the conditions were deplorable. I refused to quit that awful job because I felt that these kids deserved my time even though the company didn’t. I ended being so upset about what was happening at the camp that I wrote a searing letter about the realities of camp life. Then you helped me overnight those letters to the homes of the board members. The very next day supplies and staff arrived. I made it through that summer, but it was one of the hardest of my career.

I was incensed and infuriated about that camp because homeless kids deserve more, not less. That camp was a throwaway, total crap. It was shocking that an organization that did so much for homeless families would run such a shoddy camp.

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J.P.: You don’t like to get into politics too much, but I want to ask—you believe in decency, in setting examples, in positivity, etc. Yet we have a president who doesn’t exactly place decorum atop his priority list. Do you see this resulting in any genuine harm? Or are we making much to do about nothing?

C.P.: I’m not going to comment on the president because I prefer to stay apolitical in public forums. Life is full of hardship, struggle and moments of indecency. Parents should try to keep that from young children as much as possible. However, I do feel that news stories and politics should be shared with children on an age-appropriate level at times. Kids hear all kinds of information (sometimes inaccurate) on the playground at school. Parents should make sure to discuss public issues with children to help them understand and cope with current events. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to give their opinions on politics, but leave room for kids to find their own viewpoints and takes. Use these events are ways to open up dialog and communication but be mindful of giving kids more than they are ready to handle.

J.P.: You have a really big problem with folks like Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Dr. Drew. Why? What’s your beef?

C.P.: Doctors, psychologists, social workers and therapists all have a code of ethics that is fundamental to the integrity of the work we do. Doing no harm to patients might be the most important principle to which all people in the helping professions must adhere. Because of an inherent power differential, doctors and therapists must also take great care not to take advantage of vulnerable people. Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and Dr. Drew all very clearly use defenseless and exposed people for their own gain. There is a horrific conflict of interest, and it disgusts me.

Here’s just one example. Last year, Dr. Phil interviewed the actress Shelly Duvall, who was in the middle of a psychotic episode. It was clear to anyone who works in the field. And yet, Dr. Phil paraded her on television under the guise of helping her get treatment. Why not just help her find treatment? Throughout the entire interview he repeatedly asked her if she wanted to consent to treatment. She could not provide that consent, which means she also couldn’t provide a credible consent to be on his show.

Dr. Oz peddles products that have no evidenced-based benefit. A study by the BMJ showed that only half of Dr. Oz’s recommendations have any scientific support and worse, some advice was actually against research of best practices. What’s the big deal? Well, people look up to these doctors and trust their advice. When the Dr. Ozs of the world recommend unproven remedies for serious conditions, viewers may not seek proper treatment or may distrust the advice of their own qualified doctors. These TV “doctors” are trusted and revered by millions of Americans. They aren’t just damaging the unlucky few who are guests on their shows. They are potentially damaging viewers in unknown ways with their poor medical and psychologist advice.

Dr. Drew might be the worst of the bunch. He is the most opportunistic professional I see on television. I cannot watch him without wanting to throw heavy objects within arm’s reach at the TV. His Celebrity Rehab show has had five former cast members die from drug-related causes. Sure, he takes people with an existing addiction and tries to help them. Some people might say he does his best with people who were already at risk. But that’s the point. People at risk shouldn’t be treated on television. No responsible psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker would recommend a person with drug addiction or debilitating mental illness join a reality program. The death toll shows these people needed real care, not to have their problems displayed for the world. The worst part is that Dr. Drew, Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil all get paid handsomely for acting like the lowest in their professions. What’s the lesson there?



• Rank in order (favorite to least): my crockpot chicken, Bill Parcells, Alison Cimmet, Guns n Roses, Woodmere, N.Y., Petco Park, The Moth, Mookie Wilson, Pollo Loco, “Captain Fantastic,” Diamond Jamboree: Alison Cimmet (by a mile), Diamond Jamboree, The Moth, Mookie Wilson, “Captain Fantastic”, your crockpot chicken (you beat Pollo Loco. But if you said Pollo Tropical you would have been out of luck), Woodmere, NY, El Pollo Loco, Guns n Roses, Petco Park, Bill Parcells

• You never go in the swimming pool. Why?: I do swim but only if it’s 90+ degrees and the pool is heated. I don’t like be cold.

• One question you would ask Cameron Diaz were she here right now?: Would you like to join us on Sunday for dinner?

• Five all-time favorite Hall & Oates songs: In no particular order: Rich Girl, She’s Gone, Fall in Philadelphia, Georgie, Had I Known You Better

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Snooki? What’s the result?: I’d actually like to see that fight. Well, I was going to give it to Snooki because she’s 16 years younger than I am. But she’s a mere 4-foot-8. I’ll go with Pearlman for the win in six embarrassing rounds.

• Your maiden name is Guggenheimer. Give me all the ways that nightmare was misspelled: I loved the name Guggenheimer and was always proud of my family’s pickle legacy. But I hated people mispronouncing my name more than misspelling it. To this day it’s important for me to say someone’s name correctly.

• Five reasons one should make New Rochelle, N.Y. his/her next vacation destination: 1. 30 minutes on the train to the greatest city in the world (Yes, I am totally biased.); 2. Incredible people from the most diverse backgrounds. It’s truly a melting pot and a special place; 3. The Pain to Paine half marathon on the Leatherstocking Trail; 4. See where E.L. Doctorow wrote Ragtime, Norman Rockwell and Lou Gehrig lived briefly and find Mariano Rivera hanging out at the local Starbucks; 5. Visit the cutest children’s library in America.

• In exactly 17 words, make an argument for that classic Elton John song, “Made in England.”There can be no argument but it’s crazy he said the words “made in England” eighteen times.

• Four advantages to being just 5-feet tall?: 1. I can scrunch up and sit comfortably in an airplane or train; 2. My clothes are small, and I can fit more in a suitcase; 3. I look up to everyone; 4. People mistake being short for being young so often people think I’m much younger than I am.

• The president after Donald Trump will be …: Better.

Jamal Greene

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Back in the late-1990s, when I was somewhat on the rise at Sports Illustrated, a kid came along who made me feel awfully ordinary.

Jamal Greene was quiet and soft spoken, which didn’t do a person particularly well at the magazine. But if one paid close attention, he realized he was in the presence of a brilliant young scribe. Jamal was was a skilled writer and an even more impressive observer. Baseball was his sport, and he looked at the game from an intellectual level that I often failed to master. Although many of us were territorial and protective of our places at the magazine, I was certain this Jamal Greene fella was destined to be a star.

Alas, some editors failed to see it that way. For reasons I’ll never fully understand, a handful of power brokers determined that Jamal couldn’t cut it at SI. To my dismay, he ultimately left, destined to a wayward life of ambition-less hardship and meaninglessness.

Orrrrr … he’d graduate from Yale Law, then become one of America’s leading legal minds.

These days, Jamal serves as Columbia Law School’s Dwight Professor of Law, where he focuses on the structure of legal and constitutional argument. He has penned dozens of law review articles and can regularly be heard speaking on issues related to the Supreme Court.

In the 320th Quaz Q&A,  Jamal’s discusses his brother (Talib Kweli, the hip-hop superstar), his president (“generally sociopathic disposition”) and his willingness to endure the music of Bananarama. One can read more about Jamal here, and follow him on Twitter here.

Jamal Greene, to hell with SI, to hell with Columbia. You are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Jamal, you’re the Dwight Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, and you focus on the structure of legal and constitutional argument. Lately there’s been growing national dialogue on whether our democracy, our government can survive the Trump Administration. Or, to be blunt, I’m sorta terrified that something is fundamentally changing in a very bad way. What says you?

JAMAL GREENE: I am less worried about the Administration itself than what Trump’s election says about American democracy. Although many of the specific actions Trump has taken were not predictable, his intellect, his temperament, his history of scams and failures, his mendacity, his sexism and racism, and his generally sociopathic disposition were all well-known at the time of his election. He beat a distinguished (if boring) public servant. Any nation whose electoral process can legitimately elect Trump under those circumstances is one whose politics are broken at the core. We will survive Trump—I doubt he serves a full term—but someone like Trump, or worse, is in our future unless we become less polarized and fractured as a people. We have actually gotten lucky that Trump is incompetent. Our luck may run out with the next demagogic candidate. I am not optimistic.

J.P.: We first met in the late 1990s, when you worked as a reporter at Sports Illustrated. And I always thought you were done wrong at the magazine; that you were this young kid with oodles of talent who wasn’t given an opportunity. Looking back, I wonder how you feel? And what did you take from your time there?

J.G.: I appreciate the sentiment but I have a different view. I think there are things I am talented at, but I don’t think being a sports reporter was one of them. I have always liked to write, but I didn’t much like the reporting part, which is the meat of the job. I didn’t enjoy talking to athletes and agents, building relationships, or chasing stories, and I wasn’t good at it. I was an unreformed introvert in a job that doesn’t reward introversion.

I agree that I had a fairly short leash at the magazine—that is, there are folks there who gave up on me relatively early in my short career there (in addition to many who didn’t)—but I think they made the right call and I have no resentment at all. In fact, I have very fond memories of and great respect for the people I got to work with at SI. The fact that I enjoy my current work and unquestionably made the right decision for me in leaving gives me the luxury of having no resentment, but I think I’m right on this. Legal academia is a better fit for my skill set.

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J.P.: From the little-known-fact department: Your brother is Talib Kweli, the famous hip-hop artist. I find this ludicrously fascinating; the widely divergent paths of siblings. What was your relationship growing up? What is it now? Did you see this coming for him? Would he say he saw it coming for you?

J.G.: My brother and I lead very different lives but the view from the outside looks more divergent than the view from the inside. We were very close growing up, right up until he was about 11 or 12 (he’s two years older). That was the point at which we started going to different schools. He went to a magnet school in Fort Greene, which was then a gang-riddled neighborhood. I went to a school for mostly nerds on the Upper East Side. He got into hip hop and I got into Harvard. The worlds each of us live in have very different norms, different pressures—he is constantly on the road—and different measures of success, and so the paths we have traveled have led us apart. But we have always gotten along and share the same basic set of values. It is fair to say that I did not expect him to be an internationally renowned hip hop artist, because who has those expectations for anyone? I have no idea whether he is surprised that I am a law professor, but I would guess not. I was always comfortable in academic environments, much more than I am outside of them.

J.P.: In 2006-07 you were a clerk for John Paul Stevens. We always hear “so-and-so clerked for so-and-so,” but I don’t think I’ve ever thought about what it actually is to clerk for a justice. So what is it to clerk for a justice? What does it entail? And what can you tell me about Stevens? What is he like, just as a guy?

J.G.: Law clerks are the substantive right hands of a judge. Typically, they write memos informing the judge about the issues in the case, they offer recommendations, they act as sounding boards, they draft opinions. Clerks are (almost) never final decisionmakers, at least not at the Supreme Court level, but they often play a substantial role in framing issues and facts and so can end up very influential.

I think the influence of clerks with Justice Stevens was less than for almost any of his colleagues, for the simple reason that he structured the job to ensure that that was true. The main jobs of Supreme Court law clerks are three: (1) to screen cert petitions, which are applications to have a case heard by the Court, (2) to help prepare the judge for cases on the Court’s docket, and (3) to help write opinions.

Justice Stevens was, at the time I clerked for him, the only Justice who had his own clerks individually screen every one of the 8,000 or so petitions. The others participated in what is called the “cert pool,” where clerks from all of the eight participating chambers draft a memo on petitions that is shared with the participating chambers. Justice Stevens did not want his decisions to be influenced by the pool memos, so he didn’t participate. He also didn’t want his decisions to be influenced too much by his clerks, so when we thought a petition was important, he just wanted us to flag it for him very briefly—no elaborate memos—so that he could look at it with fresh eyes. On case preparation, most judges ask their clerks to write a lengthy “bench memo” describing the issue in the case, the lower court opinions, the arguments in the briefs, and a recommended outcome. Justice Stevens did not want any bench memo. He prepared for cases on his own and would just have an oral conversation with the clerk assigned to a given case some time before the case was argued. Again, he wanted to ensure his own independent thinking. On opinions, he always wrote the first draft of opinions. I’m pretty sure he was the only Justice who did that as a matter of principle. Personally, Justice Stevens is about the kindest, most humble, and most delightful brilliant person one can imagine. I doubt you would find anyone who has ever met him who would say otherwise.

J.P.: I know you’re from New York, I know attended Harvard, then Yale Law—but why this path? Why law? Why constitutional law? Did you have an ah-ha moment as a kid or teen? A light bulb moment? In short, why are you here?

J.G.: I didn’t know I wanted to be a legal scholar until after I started law school. For most of college, I wanted to be a journalist, and I put in a lot of hours at The Harvard Crimson trying to make that possible. I took the LSAT exam my senior year of college—after I already had my SI job lined up—just as a backup. Those scores were valid for five years.

I told myself that if I didn’t see a promising career in journalism in the next three years, I would go to law school. And that’s basically what happened. I think 9/11 pushed me a little bit—I just stopped caring about sports. Plus, as you’ll recall, SI underwent some changes after the AOL-Time Warner merger that made the product more sensationalist and pandering than it was before. That rubbed me the wrong way and made me feel like I just needed a fresh start. Law was something with some real intellectual content that also opened some possibilities for gainful employment.

Once I got to law school, I knew by my second year that I wanted to teach. The biggest thing for me, as a former journalist for a big magazine, was that I could write what I wanted and how I wanted to write it. A standard legal academic article is 25,000 words. You write the argument you want to write about until you think the argument is finished. No boss. No subscriber. The tradeoff is you get a lot fewer readers. I’m still searching for the middle ground between that and a 400 word article on the Brewers second baseman’s tattoos, but I like where I am right now.

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J.P.: You wrote “The Age of Scalia” for the Harvard Law Review, and he’s one of the judges who truly fascinates me. I remember when he died, I was at my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah and someone—inappropriately­—let out a yelp of glee. He was so beloved by one side, so abhorred by the other. But how do you view his ultimate legacy and impact?

J.G.: I recommend anyone read the article for the full picture, but in brief, I think his legacy is multifaceted. He was very influential among legal scholars. He is the single person most responsible for the prominence of originalism—the idea that the Constitution means the same thing now as when enacted—and that has generated a huge scholarly literature. He also had a very charismatic and sharp writing style that has given his ideas a greater reach into the broader culture than any of his contemporaries on the bench. On the court, he has been an important interlocutor on issues of statutory and constitutional interpretation, and his dissents were justly feared. He made his colleagues better, which is a pretty nice legacy.

That said, his impact ended up somewhat limited by the fact that he promoted relatively uncompromising positions. Legal interpretation at the Supreme Court level is messy and is beset by lots of reasonable disagreement. You just can’t get that far by being doctrinaire about methods. Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts have gotten further in less time because they are more flexible.

J.P.: How is it OK for Clarence Thomas to never ask questions? I know that sounds simplistic, and perhaps it is, but I’m always bewildered by this. Is it a lack of curiosity? A love of listening? A preference for silence?

J.G.: I have defended Justice Thomas’s silence in the past and I will continue to do so. He has said that he doesn’t talk because he wants to hear the lawyers speak. Although I think that reason probably doesn’t justify almost never speaking, I think it is a generally sensible position to take—especially for him—that I wish more of the Justices took.

It’s important to bear in mind that oral argument matters but is far from the most important input into a Supreme Court decision. Most of the decisions get worked out based on the written briefs. If you listen to arguments from the 1980s and earlier, you hear lawyers explaining their positions to the Justices, often for minutes at a time, with occasional questions from the bench. Arguments today are dominated by rapid-fire questioning from the eight Justices other than Thomas. It is common, even expected, that lawyers will not be able to answer questions they receive from one Justice because they are interrupted mid-answer by a different Justice. This is no way to hear a serious constitutional argument, in my view. And since eight people interrupting each other is quite enough, I respect Thomas for deciding not to be the ninth. I say it is an especially sensible position for Thomas to take because his views are so often on the margins of the case, and he tends to be quite uncompromising. Oral argument is most useful for the Court to work through a set of precedents that Thomas often ignores or is uninterested in because of his particular philosophy.

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J.P.: This is sorta random, but you’re a law professor at one of the finest institutions in the world. You have the best, the brightest, the sharpest, the most accomplished. And I wonder—do you see social media impacting your students in negative (or positive) ways? I mean, I just teach journalism, and I’m eternally forcing students to put their phones away, to get off Twitter, Snapchat, etc. Is that even an issue for you?

J.G.: Many of my colleagues ban laptops from class in order to avoid having distracted students. I respect this position, especially since the distraction can be a distraction for other students as well, e.g., the ones sitting behind the “offender.” Still, I don’t ban laptops myself. I teach adult students who need to have the judgment to know when they need to pay attention to me. I doubt most of them can do well in my class while distracted, but I feel like it’s their decision to make. I warn them in advance about it, but I don’t go further than that. It might be somewhat less of a problem in law school than in other schools, since we cold call students, but I have no doubt that students sometimes tune out. I think we’re too far into the social media age for me to put the genie in the bottle during my class. My job as a teacher is to make class more valuable than its alternatives.

J.P.: How are we supposed to feel about the Merrick Garland affair (for lack of a better word)? Does it go down as a blip on the radar, or is a fundamental destruction of how judges are traditionally appointed to the court?

J.G.: I think it crossed a red line that can’t easily be uncrossed. The second we see a Republican president with a Democratic majority in the Senate, we are likely to see retaliation. I think we need a dramatic reset of the judicial nomination process. If I had my druthers, I would take it out of presidential control entirely (which would require a constitutional amendment). Many countries have a commission with a balance of political types and judges. I’d favor that here. The idea that a president and a bare majority of the Senate can give a lifetime appointment to a Supreme Court Justice is disquieting in the polarized era we live in. When politics is broken like this, we should try to limit the damage.

J.P.: Another weird one—at this moment I’m reading Robert W. Creamer’s biography of Babe Ruth. It’s riveting, beautifully written, absorbing. You, on the other hand, must read a trillion legal papers, briefs, decisions every year. Do you enjoy the material? Do you view it as a dry-yet-necessary part of the profession? Because, Jesus, I couldn’t do it …

J.G.: I like reading good legal academic work, which is most of what I read. I think you’ll find the same is true among most law professors. Some of it can be very well written—Charles Black comes to mind, for example—but at bottom you read it for the quality of the ideas. I don’t read as many court opinions as you might think, and fewer legal briefs. Many of these are not exactly pleasure reading, but you’re reading them for information, and with practice it can be done quickly and relatively painlessly.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jim Kiick, Mos Def, arugala, Steve Cannella, Mark Tushnet, Luis Sojo, William Cushing, iced cinnamon almond milk macchiato, Cornel West: Steve Cannella, Mos Def, Cornel West, Mark Tushnet, Luis Sojo, William Cushing, arugala, iced cinnamon almond milk macchiato. I don’t know who Jim Kiick is.

• Three strangest memories from your time at SI: 1) The magazine ran a photo of Darryl Strawberry, then retired, standing next to a woman in a swingers club. This photo had no news value. It was pure clickbait. But it ended up imperiling Strawberry’s return to baseball. A few days after the photo ran, he suffered a drug relapse and crashed his car. Has to be one of the low moments in the history of the magazine and I am ashamed that I had anything to do with it; 2) Enjoying taco night at the home of ex-Astros and Tigers catcher Mitch Meluskey (where he lived with his mom), in Yakima, Washington. I was doing a story on him. As I was leaving into the pitch blackness to find my car, he told me that his last dog “don got ate by the coyotes.” Right on cue, I hear howling coyotes outside; 3) You returning from your interview with John Rocker and telling me what he said.

• Would you rather sit in a room for 54-straight hours listening to the music of Bananarama or change your name to Daniel Habib Horseradish-Chairguy III?: Bananarama.

• One question you would ask Joe Klecko were he here right now?: Who are you?

• Does climate change ruin the earth and cause our great-great grandkids to die horribly?: Some of them.

• In exactly 22 words, make an argument for Melville FullerFuller presided over the Lochner Era, when the Court made lots of mistakes but, for the first time ever, took rights seriously.

• How did you propose to your wife?: I surprised her in her parents’ kitchen and proposed in front of them.

• Three memories from your first-ever date?: I don’t know what my first-ever date was. Seriously. As to my first date with my wife, I remember that (1) she emphatically did not consider it a date, (2) we had Ethiopian food, and (3) she wore blue, the Germans wore grey.

• If you had to take five justices for your all-time fantastic name justice list, you’d pick …: Rufus PeckhamBushrod Washington (nephew of George); Henry Billings Brown (author of Plessy v. Ferguson, which was later overruled by … the Brown case); Salmon ChaseLucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II.

• On a scale of 1 to 100, how much to you fear your own mortality (100 being you can’t stop thinking about it)?: 10

Cam Adair


Cam Adair is addicted to video games, in the way one is addicted to gambling, to pornography, to sex, to overeating.

If that sounds strange, well … yeah, it sounds strange. I mean, video game addiction? I probably played 100,000 hours of Pac-Man as a kid, and I walked away unscathed. My son sits before the TV Saturday mornings and dominates Madden. Is he an addict? Of course not.

Unless … he is. Because, as Cam rightly notes, video game addiction is a worldwide problem. A huge worldwide problem. The numbers are staggering; the impact tremendous. At his lowest, Cam was sitting before a television 16 hours per day—jobless, listless, indifferent. He would lie to his family and friends, all in the name of mastering a meaningless game.

Now, however, Cam is fighting back. He is the founder of Game Quitters, an outfit devoted to helping people in need break the chain of video game addiction. He’s also a prominent (and dynamic) public speaker, as well as a lover of San Diego, Cam Neely and his Seahawks-loving uncle.

One can follow Cam on Twitter here and Instagram here.

Cam Adair, rise up! You’re the 282nd Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Cam, so to be totally honest, I was unaware of the issue of video game addiction until I randomly came upon your Twitter feed. I obviously know of drug addiction, alcohol addiction, porn addiction, food addiction. How big of a problem in the world is video game addiction, and how is it different from other addictions?

CAM ADAIR: It’s bigger than we think. Today over 1.2B people play video games worldwide, including between 70 percent to 90 percent (or more) of American youth, and the industry shows no signs of slowing down with projected growth by as much as 5 percent annually through 2020. When it comes to video game addiction, research varies between 1-11 percent of gamers, so in my estimation, we’re looking at between 10-50 million people right now who struggle with this problem. To share one example of a consequence of this, Erik Hurst, a macroeconomist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Busines,s has found that employment rates among young (early twenties) non-college educated men have dropped sharply—more than any other group. So what are they doing with their time? He found they are playing video games! Not only speaking to the health of the individual, but what about supply for the labor market? These young men are part of our future, and yet they are living with their parents or relatives playing video games, and they are content with it.

I believe there are similarities between all addictions, but one of the ways video game addiction is unique is that people start playing at a very early age—as young as 2-to– years old. So by the time they are coming out of high school and entering university, it has been the central force in their life, and because of it, they likely have not developed other hobbies or the intangible skills (independence, spontaneity, social skills, amongst others) that you develop when you’re forced to go outside and play.

Many of the people who join our Game Quitters community don’t only struggle with a video game addiction though, but also an addiction to the Internet and porn, of which I have dubbed the “three-headed dragon” of addictions. Only half kidding.

J.P.: According to your bio, you were addicted to video games for more than 10 years. You played more than 16 hours per day, dropped out of high school, never graduated, never went to college. But how did this happen? What I mean is, what causes someone to go from, “This game is fun!” to “I can’t stop!”? How did it happen to you?

C.A.: It’s different for everyone, but in my case, after I dropped out of high school I was at home all day with nothing to do. At the time I was depressed and completely apathetic about life, so I had no desire to do anything other than whatever could help me escape from this reality. Gaming made that really easy. Eventually my parents told me that if I wasn’t going to school I had to get a job, so I started to pretend to have one. Every morning my dad would drop me off at a restaurant where I was a “prep cook,” and as soon as he drove off I’d hop on a bus back home and sneak in through my window. My parents were at work during the day so they had no idea. Of course after a few weeks they would expect a paycheck so I would make up a story about getting fired and then find a “new” job. I repeated this cycle a few times before they finally just gave up. Personally, at that point I was against anything that took me away from gaming. I loved “living” in that world.

One of the factors that can lead to you becoming addicted to video games is when you have extended exposure to the difference in stimulation that gaming provides. There’s a brain chemistry side to this, which if anyone is interested I would encourage you to watch this TEDx talk by Gary Wilson, but environmentally, when the contrast for me between video games (being awesome) and real life (not so awesome) became apparent, I saw no reason to do anything other than continue gaming, and would go to great lengths (deception, etc) to fulfill that.


J.P.: You grew up in Canada, and you write of being mercilessly bullied. Specifically, you talk of lying down on the back of a bus in a fetal position, being spit on. With as much detail as possible, what the hell happened? And how did you feel?

C.A.: Yeah, that was fucked up. I was on an elite level hockey team for my age, I was 14 or 15 at the time. It was the beginning of grade 10 and our team was playing a game in Red Deer, Alberta, which is two hours from our city of Calgary. For the past few weeks I had become the person who was being picked on, teased, all that stuff. You know how teenagers can be when they identify someone they can take advantage of. So after the game we got back on the team bus to head home, and I was just laying in the backseat minding my own business, listening to Good Charlotte or something hilarious like that, when one of the sons of an assistant coach started to come and kind of taunt me. He was just poking fun at me or something. I remember taking a headphone out to hear him and after a few minutes, I just put it back in and tried to ignore him. At this point in my life, having been bullied consistently for the past two years, I was just over it. As he realized he wasn’t getting a reaction out of me (his intention), he started trying to taunt me further—being louder, poking me, that sort of thing. I just continued to ignore him hoping he would go away. He didn’t, and things escalated to the point where he literally started to spit on me. I think I just went into a complete state of shock. I froze. I had a picture of a girl I had a crush on at the time in my hand and I just held onto it hoping it would give me the strength to get through this. This went on for about 45 minutes before we finally got back to our city and he had to stop.

I remember it was around 1 in the morning and my father was picking me up from the arena. We were driving a teammate of mine home, and I was still just kind of frozen in the moment, quiet, not saying much. The second my teammate got out of our car, I started crying hysterically. My dad was asking me what was wrong and I wouldn’t say anything. The next day I refused to go to practice and told my parents I was quitting the team. Thinking about this right now, the first time they heard about this was when I shared about it on stage at TEDx. They ended up convincing me to stay with the team and things calmed down for the most part after that, but it’s definitely a night I’ll never forget.

Looking back, I wish I would have just smacked that kid so fucking hard in the face, and I’m sure doing something of this nature would have stopped this behavior toward me for good, but I was a teenager who didn’t know better. And I mean, I was listening to Good Charlotte, so I probably deserved it.

Do I need to add a disclaimer that I don’t condone violence? smh.

J.P.: You wrote a suicide note. Why? When? How close were you to acting on the note? And why didn’t you?

C.A.: Around the time I was depressed, living in my parents basement pretending to have jobs and gaming 16 hours a day. As much as gaming allowed me to escape and avoid dealing with my depression, it didn’t fix it and my depression continued to get worse and worse. I had suicidal thoughts many times but never got too serious about it, but that too continued to spiral further and further until I did start planning for it. For me it was really simple. My life was fucking shit, I hated the world, and I wanted the pain I was feeling to end. I stopped seeing any value in continuing to live, and hated myself for feeling like a fucking coward to not follow through with it. What is more pathetic than torturing yourself with the idea of suicide and not being serious about it? So I started committing to the idea and planning it out. I know, this sounds really fucking dumb. Anyways, I planned to drive my car really fast into a big truck that was parked a few blocks from my place. That or off a cliff. On the night I planned to do it, I wrote a suicide note on my computer, individually addressing the various people in my life and what the final thing is I’d like to say to them. To my father I wanted him to stop hating video games so much. Ironic, isn’t it?

An hour or two later a friend called and asked if I wanted to go see the movie Superbad with a few friends. I said yes, we smoked a bunch of pot, and I laughed my ass off during the movie. Laughing and having a good time snapped me out of my depressed state for long enough for me to realize that I was actually pretty close to ending my life. I no longer felt safe with myself. I no longer felt like I could trust myself to make decisions in the best interest of my health and well-being, and I needed to ask for help. So when I got home I asked my father to come speak with me, and I told him I needed to get professional help, and asked if he would help me find a counselor. He did, and that’s when things started to turn around for me.

J.P.: Should my kids not be playing video games? I know you get asked this all the time—but, really, should they not? Would you let your kids?

C.A.: I’m not against gaming, but I do think we need to have more honest conversations about it. What I recommend is this: If they are gaming, then allowing them to play less time in one sitting, less often is best. The longer they play at a time, the more exposure they have to the level of stimulation in gaming (see the TEDx talk I referenced above.) This goes with the more consistent they play as well, so less time, less often.

I also think it’s incredibly important for them to have other activities they do and not just gaming. For many parents they focus on sports and gaming, but I would say having at least one or two other activities they do at home when they’re tired and bored is crucial. I also believe your kids going outside to play is important. Giving them the opportunity where they have no choice but to engage in the environment around them, to come up with games to play, to be social, to be creative, and to be spontaneous … those are just a few of the intangible skills they need to develop that we withhold from them by using an iPad as a babysitter.

I will let my kids play, but probably a lot less than most. That extends to TV as well. I mean, that’s the best we can do with all of the options our world offers us? In my opinion, kids who are gaming or watching TV also have parents who come home from work and just sit around watching TV themselves. I have greater ambitions in my life than that. I just came back from a three-week trip to Tanzania where I spent time in a rural village where they do not even have electricity. The energy of the kids was amazing! I don’t even think they knew what the concept of boredom even was. It was inspiring.

J.P.: Random question—you’re a Canadian who now lives in San Diego, and our 45th president is Donald Trump. How do you view this from afar? What was the reaction among your friends? People you spoke with?

C.A.: I personally think the fear of Donald Trump is exaggerated (media driven) and he’ll probably be better than people think. I’ll also be the first person to admit I was wrong if I am (I doubt I’m wrong). I went to the Donald Trump rally in San Diego and met a ton of people who were very welcoming and kind. The protestors outside, not so much. As a Canadian, it’s bizarre to see anyone attacking police officers. I still can’t comprehend that one. But then again, Americans wear their shoes indoors and that’s pretty fucking weird too.

The majority of my friends were Hillary/Bernie supporters, so their reaction on the day after the election was quite amazing. I mean, honestly, has anyone ever seen people on Facebook hysterical like that? Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, they are incredible people who have the best intentions in mind, but I feel little sympathy for people who spent no time trying to understand the other side. If you didn’t think Trump could be elected, you chose to stay in your bubble (is that called a safe space?) and refused to listen to the other side’s genuine concerns and issues. And then you pretend that you know exactly why it happened—RACISM! SEXISM! XENOPHOBIA! BUZZWORDS! Gimme a break.

Donald Trump has more support in Canada than people think, but Canada has also been treading in the dangerous waters of anti-free speech (see Canada’s Twitter Trial), political correctness, etc. Can we #MakeCanadaGreatAgain?


J.P.: What was your lowest moment, addiction-wise? I don’t mean the note. I mean, you’re playing a game, miserable, but unable to stop …

C.A.: At one point I moved to Victoria, B.C. looking for a fresh start. I had just spent two years not gaming (after the note), but I started to feel down in my life again and instead of escaping into games, I figured a change of scenery would do it. I moved in with two roommates and one of them, Ben, found out we both used to play Starcraft. He said we could play and I told him I didn’t really want to, because I quit. Later that night he came home with a big grin on his face and put the game in front of me. “Just one game.” I relented. He destroyed me. That night I committed to doing everything possible to make sure he would never be able to beat me like that again, and thus began a five-month binge of gaming 16 hours per day. I stopped working and barely left the house. Eat. Sleep. Game. The lowest moment for me was when my roommates left on a three-week trip, and to be honest, I was stoked. I no longer had anyone to notice how much I was playing. I no longer had anyone to invite me to get out of the house and make me feel guilty when I said no. Etc. That felt pretty shitty.

J.P.: I check my social media shit nonstop. All the time. Habitually. It’s an annoying distraction that’s hard to break. I need Twitter and Facebook to sell books, but I hate that need to look. Any advice?

C.A.: Fuck, I really don’t know. I’ve checked Facebook and Twitter 20 times just answering these questions. So far the only thing I’ve found that really works is this: Be somewhere where you don’t have your devices with you. So I go surfing, I put my phone on airplane mode, that sort of thing. Interestingly, when I don’t have access to being able to check, I have a lot less of an urge or craving to do it.

With that said, when you do have access to it, I try to embrace the habit by not resisting the temptation to open a new tab, but instead of opening the tab, hitting up Twitter and starting to browse the feed, I open the tab and then close it and get back to my work. Sounds kind of crazy but in my experience, my urge or habit is more to open the tab than it is to actually look at the content. It’s similar to when I have an article I “want to read.” I save it in Pocket and forget about it. But saving it to Pocket makes me feel like it’s still there, and available, but I don’t actually want to read it.

On a more serious note, a lot of the work I do around gaming and addiction comes down to identifying why you do what you do, and then finding replacements. Genius idea! For instance, if you’re browsing the Internet because you’re tired from the day, and you just want to relax at home, your desire to relax at home is genuine, but you don’t have to fulfill it using the Internet. It may just be that the internet is your “go-to”, your default. Finding alternatives such as reading, listening to podcasts, going to yoga, hanging out with a friend, learning a new language, and/or playing an instrument can fill the same need. Find why you do what you do, and then align alternatives with your goals and values.

If you want to read a great book that describes how social media sites keep you hooked, read Hooked by Nir Eyal.


J.P.: You’re bored in a mall. There’s a Pac-Man machine. You have a quarter in your pocket. Would you even consider giving it a go? Could you without trouble?

C.A.: Probably wouldn’t even notice the Pac-Man machine, but if I did, I’d have no problem playing—I just have little interest in it. If it’s a chessboard that’s a whole different story. Who wants to go?

J.P.: Are the video game manufacturers aware of this problem? Is there any thought that they might knowingly take advantage of addictive personalities? Or is it mere accidental byproduct?

C.A.: Are they aware that it’s a problem? Absolutely. Nobody involved in the gaming industry doesn’t know at least someone who has a serious problem with gaming. How many people who don’t even work in the gaming industry know someone with a problem? Probably at least 40 percent of the people reading this right now know someone. Now are they aware of the extent of the problem? I’m not sure. I met the CEO of a game development company from Canada recently and he was shocked that the games he loves to make could be causing harm to some of his users. I know his heart was in the right place. They are definitely aware of their intention to make games as “good” (engaging/addictive) as possible.

It’s important to note that with the introduction of mobile devices games have changed a lot. “Back in the day” games had a clear beginning and end. Today they continue on forever. And in mobile games you have new features of game design that were never there before, such as turn-based delays and in-app purchases.

Imagine if you sat down to watch a movie and after five minutes it stopped and said you either had to pay $5 now or wait 24 hours to watch the rest. You would think that was a total scam. But that’s exactly what’s happening in mobile games. They let you play for a bit and then they make you wait for 24 hours. But in the moment you’re engaged in the game, maybe you’re waiting at the bus station, or you’re trying to take your mind off something stressful. For $1 you can continue to play, do you do it? Of course you do. And that adds up to a lot over time.

I’ll end on a positive note. This year I went on a tour speaking at problem gambling conferences, and the hot topic was about virtual goods you could win in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Long story short, a feature in the game allowed you to bet on matches and earn virtual goods, which you could turn around and sell on third-party sites for real money. Because the virtual goods had no real monetary value in the game, they were unregulated which allowed anyone of any age to bet and win them. A total gray area. I was receiving emails from kids as young as 13 saying they had placed their first bet and were concerned they would do more—all of their friends were doing it! Naturally the problem gambling industry was outraged over this. A few months ago STEAM (the owner of CS:GO) came out and said they were shutting down access to these third-party sites. Honestly, I was blown away. A corporation did the right thing for the health and well-being of their users. Who would’ve guessed!

Maybe there’s hope for our world after all …



• Five shittiest video games ever?: Starcraft 2, Counter-Strike: Source, Cookie Cutter (the only game Elon Musk won’t let his kids play, because “You literally tap a f#@#ing cookie.”) I know that’s only three, but fuck.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Every time I fly! Let me explain. Shit this is rapid fire. Ok, I’ll be quick. My personality responds to anxiety with flight (no pun intended), and the most extreme version of flight is suicide ideation. So throughout my life when I’ve been suicidal, it’s actually been because I’ve felt anxious and I’ve wanted to escape from it, not because I’ve genuinely wanted to do it. What a breakthrough! So every time I fly I have a moment where I hope the plane crashes because then I won’t have to actually go and accomplish all the stuff I want to. It’s fucked up, but it’s true.

* If you ever feel like you’re serious about committing suicide, don’t fuck around and get some help, call or text the crisis hotline.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Salty beef, Q*bert, Sammy Hagar, elephants, Laguna Beach, Cam Neely, Cam Newton, arm wrestling, sleeping in the nude, cement trucks, sea horses, Lenny Kravitz: Cam Neely (great name!), Laguna Beach, sleeping in the nude, sea horses, elephants, cement trucks, arm wrestling, Salty beef, Q*bert, Sammy Hagar, Lenny Kravitz, Cam Newton (who complains about being hit in a sport with physical contact?).

• Three memories from your first-ever date: No idea when my first date was. I promise I’ve been on one though! I don’t even remember my first kiss. Is that weird?

• You live in San Diego. How and why did that happen?: It was a cold blizzard day in Calgary. -22C or something insane. Humans are not designed to live in such conditions. Anyway, I walked from my house to my car, and while shivering waiting for it to warm up, I said … I fucking hate this … Why do I do this?. .. And then I had what I describe as The Next Thought: I should move. So I did, and I’ve been retired from winter ever since.

• Would you rather lick Mike Tyson’s left armpit after a two-hour workout or eat Christina Aguilera’s sneeze residue?: That is disgusting. Christina Aguilera no doubt. Think she’d go out with me after? Can someone put in a good word?

• Five things you’re very bad at doing: Chores. Chores. Chores. Chores. Chores.

• What’s the maximum reasonable amount of money to spend on a T-shirt?: $150. But I think spending less and replacing them more often is a better strategy.

• One question you would ask Brian Bosworth were he here right now: Who are you and why do I feel like people are going to be pissed at me for not knowing who you are? (So I just googled him, and yep, my uncle is probably going to be pissed at me. He’s a huge Seahawks fan. Shoutout to my uncle! Go Hawks!)

• What’s the worst smell in the world?: Probably Mike Tyson’s armpit after a two-hour workout.

Denny Pettway

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Twitter is a magical thing.

Yes, it’s great for Donald Trump nonsense. And Olympic updates. And meeting large-breasted aspiring models named Gigi.

Wait, I digress.

Twitter is a magical thing because it’s the land of 1,000,000,000 different stories, one more riveting than the next. You simply never know who you’ll find, and when/where you’ll find them. I’ve probably landed, oh, 40 percent of the Quaz subjects on Twitter, and that number only grows with time. Simply put, it’s a place where the world congregates, and access is eternal.

Wait. I digress again.

Today’s magical 269th Quaz Q&A features Denny Pettway, a former marine who served in Operation Desert Storm and now works as a behavior specialist for a school district. I’ve always wanted to pick the brain of a soldier; to learn what it’s like to be in harm’s way; to understand whether one feels as if he’s fighting for his country, or being used for political purposes. Denny was more than happy to engage, and the end result is one of the finest interviews in this jarringly long series.

Denny Pettway, massive respect for your contributions. You are No. 269 …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Denny, I’m gonna start with something that’ll make me sound like quite the asshole. So as you know I’m heavy into politics, and especially the Hillary-Trump race. And recently I saw some people post how Trump is polling far ahead of Hillary among military personnel. And the argument was made, “See, he’s better for the troops.” And I was thinking—maybe they just don’t know. Maybe they’re a bunch of young, largely uneducated men and women who aren’t informed enough to understand how politics impact their status. And you say?

DENNY PETTWAY: While it’s true that only around 5 percent of enlisted military members have undergraduate degrees, the military enlisted today are more educated, curious and willing to question decisions than ever. This is definitely the result of having a small information machine in your hand at all times. At the end of the day though, it’s been my experience that military members are largely conservative. The perception is, the GOP is the party of defense and having a strong military. Having said that, I think both parties could do better. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray concocted a budget in 2012 that aimed to cut military retirement benefits and also reduced retiree benefits for military members who retired due to wounds received while fighting overseas. Military members I’ve served with would likely pin this all on Murray and support Ryan.

J.P.: You’re clearly a smart guy—master’s in special ed, pursuing another masters in social work. You’ve also been out of the marines for nearly a decade. I wonder how you feel about the way our political leaders use the military. What I mean is, now looking from afar, do you feel like most appreciate the troops? Truly want what’s best for the troops? Or is the military mainly a pawn for political bullshit?

D.P.: Our political leaders use military members the way a 22-year old would use a Mustang GT rental car. They do not appreciate the troops and they certainly do not have their best interests at heart. I’d have to say “mainly used as a pawn for political bullshit” doesn’t really capture the essence of how shitty these people are. As with everything else they do, they have special interest groups and their own financial gain in mind when they make any decisions, especially when it comes to the military. They know a vast majority of kids join in order to pull themselves into the bottom of the middle class. I was no different. I didn’t join for patriotic reasons. I joined for the G.I. Bill. I stayed for the camaraderie and the culture. The song Civil War by Guns N Roses spells the whole thing out pretty clearly. “Power hungry selling soldiers in a human grocery store” … “It feeds the rich while it buries the poor.” And my personal favorite: “For all I’ve seen, I’ve changed my mind but the wars go on as the years go by with no love of God or human rights …” which is the shit they sell you right before they send you off to slaughter for the oil companies.

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J.P.: What do most Americans misunderstand about our armed forces?

D.P.: One of the things I think young people believe is that we wear our uniforms everywhere we go and we can’t leave the base except on special occasions. I always have to explain that we change out of our uniforms at the end of the day just like any other job, and we are free to leave the base as long as we aren’t working.

The other thing that is most misunderstood among the public is that troops are poor and many of them are on public assistance. I seriously doubt there is a job out there for 18-year-old high school graduates that will give them 30 days paid vacation, free gym membership, 100 percent medical and dental coverage, cover their meals and provide them with housing/utilities on top of their $2,000-per-month salary. If married, military members get non-taxable housing and food allowances. On top of those benefits, we have the opportunity to pay $100 per month for 12 months into the G.I. Bill where, after completing a successful enlistment, we can then get money for school. The Marine Corps has paid for my undergraduate, one graduate and half the program I’m currently enrolled in to the tune of around $80,000.

J.P.: You were deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm. I’ve never asked anyone this, but what does it feel like to find out you’re being deployed to such a place, for such a cause? How did you find out the news? How did you react? And what was Desert Storm like for you?

D.P.: I was 22-years old when I deployed to Saudi Arabia. I was at a friend’s house recovering from a night of partying with my former drill instructor (Which was weird as hell), when we turned on the TV and watched the Iraqis invading Kuwait. I remember thinking, “Looks like those guys are going to take over that country.” I really didn’t have much of a world view at that age, so I didn’t understand the significance of Iraq controlling Kuwait’s oil. Within five minutes of watching this invasion, the phone rang and we were ordered back to base immediately. That was the point where it got very real and I was nervous and excited all at the same time. All this training and now we get to put it into action. My squadron, VMA-542 (Harriers), had just returned from a deployment to Iwakuni, Japan and inherited a squadron full of jets that were in very bad shape. We worked 36-straight hours getting them ready to go. I’d never been so exhausted. When we left, no one told us where we were going, so the ride over was pretty tense.

Overall, I look back on that experience with pride. We grew close over those nine months and worked our asses off. While I enjoyed my plane captain (launching/recovering and performing inspections on our jets) and avionics job, my favorite job over there was my 60 days spent providing area security. Marines are the smallest branch of all the services and have a “every Marine a rifleman” mentality. This meant that every unit on our forward deployed base had to supply Marines to supplement the Military Police unit in order to provide security for the bases. Manning machine gun holes, climbing towers to watch for amphibious assaults, participating in patrols was something I really enjoyed.

The worst thing was probably not knowing when we were leaving.

Mainly, Desert Storm provided me with lots of perspective. To this day, the reason I appreciate the things we have in this country is due to my experiences over there. I can always say I’ve eaten worse, I’ve slept in worse places and after having gone 45 days with no shower, I’ve been dirtier.

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J.P.: Is it possible for people to serve in a war, then return back to normal sans any hiccups?

D.P.: No. Absolutely not. There is a reentry phase that everyone goes through on regular deployments, much less one where you and your loved ones don’t know if you’re coming back. I saw so many families ripped apart during that deployment. One guy’s wife was pregnant with his brother’s baby. Wives of some Marines were moved in with other guys, or simply left with no warning. Of the Marines that had their family intact, several struggled due to the adjustment that comes with the husband reentering the family. Wives were forced to take care of everything from getting the car repaired, yard taken care of, getting the kids where they needed to be and handling the finances. If Dad walks in after being gone for nine months and tries to pick up where he left off, it never ends well. I haven’t even mentioned dealing with PTSD and all that comes with that.

J.P.: You now work with students with significant emotional/behavioral disorders, as well as a counselor for at-risk kids and their families. A. How did you enter the field? B. Why did you enter the field? C. Are there ever kids it’s impossible to help?

D.P.: After serving my last tour as an instructor for my military occupational skill (MOS) school in Athens, GA, I decided to continue in the education field. I enjoyed teaching and mentoring young people, and thought I could help kids have a positive school experience. The other reason I decided to go into teaching was the schedule. I wanted so spend weekends, holidays, spring break and Christmas break with my kids. I chose special education because I had a very shitty school experience, failing two grades and graduating 400th of 420 students, so I wanted to be involved with kids who were struggling and do my best to help them have a positive experience.

Not having a teaching certificate, the only place that was willing to hire me was a school where certified teachers avoided. It was a school for kids with the most significant of emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). I was woefully unprepared for the job, but while teaching I was also going through a special education master’s program. I had a great professor, Dr. Jeff Waller, who was instrumental in helping me understand how to help those kids. They are the most at-risk kids and get the least-qualified people to provide them with services. The kids are very hard, so most teachers don’t last three years. The school system doesn’t embrace the methods needed to shape behaviors in a manner where kids enjoy school, learn coping skills needed to successfully manage their behaviors so they can move back into the general education classroom.

Despite transitioning kids at rates research doesn’t support, I always got pushback from some administrator who didn’t know anything about helping kids with EBD. I wanted to begin a parenting program during the evening, to be held once a week for six weeks. It wasn’t going to cost the school much at all. Parents would be provided childcare, dinner and transportation if needed, but the district sat on it and never gave me the authorization to do it. This is when I decided to go into counseling. I joined an agency as a Community Support Individual (CSI), teaching parenting classes, social skills to at risk kids, and anger management. This work led me to enroll in the master of social work program at the University of Georgia. It’s been a great experience, and has really opened my eyes to the effects of childhood trauma and how it impacts brain development. I’ve also begun to understand the inequalities that exist in this country. It’s definitely made me more liberal minded. I like to call myself a compassionate Libertarian.

Are there any kids who are impossible to help? Maybe. Definitely some who are unable to be helped in a school setting. I do think every kid can be helped if given enough time and a different environment. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic.

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With wife Jean.

J.P.: What does it feel like to fire a weapon at another human being? Can you remove yourself from any emotion at the moment? Does it stick with a person forever?

D.P.: I am thankful for not having that experience. As a young Marine, I couldn’t wait to engage the enemy and send some rounds his way. After seeing the droves of “enemy” surrendering to anyone that would take them, I developed a different perspective. Those guys have families. They have kids wondering where they are and if they’ll ever see their dad again. Of course, if they were shooting at me, I’d feel differently. I’d have no problem defending myself and my fellow Marines without hesitation.

J.P.: How did you feel about the decision to allow gays to serve openly? When you were serving, did you ever know you had gay co-workers? If so, did it distract, bother, etc?

D.P.: I was fine with that decision. I also know plenty of Marines that really didn’t care one way or the other. I’ve served with several Marines, male and female, who I knew were gay. They never came out and said it, but everyone knew and no one really cared. I chuckled at the doom and gloomers who were quick to proclaim the end of good order and discipline because citizens who happened to be gay were going to serve. Ridiculous.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your life?

D.P.: Of course, every single time one of my boys was brought into this world. Having a kid who every adult in his life had given up on, tell me I was the reason he loved school was a show stopper for me.

J.P.: Lowest?

D.P.: In October of 1986, I was arrested for drinking and driving in Monroe Louisiana. I was 19-years old, and had already flunked out of my first semester of junior college. I spent the night in jail and was planning on spending whatever sentence I was going to receive in lieu of paying a fine because I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t want to tell my parents. They found a card from the bail bondsman the night before my court date. I’m from Vicksburg, so court was 85 miles away, and my mom insisted on going with me. Having my mother watch me stand before a judge due to my stupidity was a horrible experience. I’ll never forget the look on her face. While I was prepared to do the time, the judge called my mother up to the bench and said “Ma’am, you don’t want your boy to spend 10 minutes in this jail, much less 30 days.” I agreed to let her pay the fine for me because I could see the worry on her face. To add insult to an already bruised ego, they locked me up again until my mother got back from the bank to pay the fine. I spent the next five years paying outrageous amounts for insurance, and getting a sobriety test any time a police officer pulled me over for speeding.

J.P.: What made you want to join the marines? And what was the training like? Hardest part? Ever think you might quit? Does the experience of serving match what one thinks it’ll be like?

D.P.: I was finishing concrete for a living in Jackson, MS. The guy I worked for was a great man. He really mentored me and pretty much talked me into joining so I could better myself. He had served in the Army and really regretted getting out. One day, we were putting in a walkway for one of his friends and he really had a nice house, nice car, four-wheelers, a nice boat, and he was my boss’s age but looked 10 years younger. He was retired from the Army. That really made an impression on me, but more than that, I did not want to spend another summer finishing concrete in Jackson, Mississippi! My plan was to serve for four years, get my G.I. Bill and go back to school. I ended up loving it and made a career out of it.

Having been through two-a-days for a hard-nosed football coach, followed by spending two years as a concrete finisher, the physical aspects of Marine Corps boot camp didn’t bother me. The training was fun. Learning close order drill, going through the obstacle course, confidence course, throwing grenades, etc. … was an absolute blast. The last phase of boot camp, we are in the field for a couple of weeks and that was the most physically demanding time. Parris Island is a very hot place to be from May–thru-August!

The hardest part of boot camp is just getting yelled at all the time. The constant screaming at you takes a toll. I never took it personally, but lots of recruits do. It just gets very annoying, but the thought of quitting never crossed my mind.

With anything people are scared to do, it’s never as bad as you think it is. If you want to get through boot camp, you’ll get through it. They want you to get through it. If the attrition rate gets too high, it’s goes from “The recruit couldn’t hack it,” to “Why can’t you train these recruits?” After getting you all pumped up about being a Marine, getting out to the fleet is a bit of a letdown. Staying motivated on a level one gets to in boot camp is simply unsustainable.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): John McCain, Bobby Grich, Heavy D, Oakland, pretzel sticks, Memphis Grizzlies, minty toothpaste, Might Mighty Bosstones, neon luggage, Walton Payton, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup: Walter Payton, Heavy D, Bobby Grich, Oakland, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, pretzel sticks, minty toothpaste, Might Mighty Bosstones, neon luggage, Memphis Grizzlies, John McCain.

• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, please elaborate: Yes! My first time flying. I was 18-years old and headed from Jackson, MS to Los Angles. On the first leg to Dallas, the turbulence was horrible. The flight attendant knew it was my first time to fly and she could see that I was scared to death, so she came and sat next to me. I told her that if I land in Dallas, I was going to take a bus back to Jackson! She told me she’d been flying for 30 years and this is the worst turbulence she’d ever been through. At one point, we dropped so far, a man came out of his seat and hit the overhead baggage compartment and landed on the floor. She talked me into heading on to LA, and to this day, it’s the worst flying experience I’ve ever had.

• Five reasons to make Vicksburg, Mississippi your vacation destination: 1. The Vicksburg National Military Park. It’s the second largest Civil War battle field park next to Gettysburg. It’s a great place to learn about the battle of Vicksburg. Vicksburg is the only city in our nation to ever be under siege; 2. The mighty Mississippi. A river boat tour is a must; 3. The Old Courthouse Museum. Really neat place where lots of civil war and other history are on display; 4. Biedenharn Candy Company museum where Coca Cola was first bottled; 5. The mansions. Cedar Grove, Anchuca, McNutt and Martha Vick houses, and others. Great walks through history.

• I have no faith in God. Tell me why I’m wrong: Wow, that’s a tough one. As someone who struggles with my own faith from time to time, I don’t know if I’m qualified to do that. One thing I do know—Historical Jesus was a great guy. What a great model to live by. What a great example of how to treat others. I doubt he would be able to recognize Christianity today though. If he were back here in physical form, and took it all in, I don’t think he’d be a Christian.

• Favorite band or singer that begins with the letter R: REO Speedwagon … what a great show!

• Greatest advice you’ve ever received: “You’ve already done 10 years, if you get out you’ll regret it. Things will get better, stick it out for the next 10.” — Master Gunnery Sergeant Bill Bolesworth

• Seven favorite movies of all time: 1. The Bourne Identity; 2. The Bourne Supremacy; 3. The Bourne Ultimatum; 4. The Bourne Legacy; 5. Jason Bourne (On my list without seeing it yet … I’m sure it’ll be great!); 6. Full Metal Jacket; 7. Siege of Firebase Gloria

• Strangest place you’ve ever gone to the bathroom?: While in Saudi, we had shitters manufactured by Navy Seabees out of plywood. They built small shacks that had a bench with three holes next to each other. The bottom third of a 55 gallon drum was placed underneath each hole and they were pulled and burned with kerosene while some poor schmuck stirred it. The stench was so bad, you had to wear a gas mask to go in there.

• You have five boys. What’s the key to raising them well?: Model the behavior you want them to learn. Allow them to feel the pain of their poor choices without running over to fix it. This is the hardest thing to do but the most important. Provide love and empathy, but let the natural consequence teach the lesson, resist the urge to lecture, it doesn’t work. Encourage independence in all they do. Teach them to respect women by respecting their mother, even if you are divorced and especially if she’s not reciprocating. Every now and then, buy a homeless person a meal when you are with your kids. Teach your boys that sex is different for her than it is for them. While it’s like a Six Flags thrill ride for you, it’s likely going to be something deep and meaningful for her. Don’t take that from her just so you can go on a thrill ride.

Accept that you are going to screw up—a lot. Apologize to them—a lot. With five, this one is tough and I need to do a better job at it—spend individual time with each of them when you can.

• Best joke you know: George Carlin talking about the Olympics … Swimming isn’t a sport, it’s a way to keep from drowning!

Sean McEvoy

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Sports, sports, sports, sports, sports …

Sports, sports, sports, sports, sports …

It’s all we parents seem to be about these days. Winning. Skill development. Extra practice. Extra coaching. Being the best. Being a champion. Making it in college. Making it in the pros. Big contract, shoe deal, cereal box. It’s everything.

And it’s insane.

We’ve gone too far, and I see it every weekend when my son plays baseball and my daughter water polo. Most of the adults are sane. But there’s always one or two (or 10) pushing, prodding, demanding, berating.

Enter: Sean McEvoy.

I first came across Sean on Twitter about a year ago, and I knew I wanted him to be Quazed. Why? Because I have a real problem with private sport tutors, taking kids and turning them into single-sport specialists, so focused upon one task that they forget stuff like, well, fun. Via his Tweets and his ID, Sean came to represent the very thing I hated. He was The Quarterback Whisperer.




Then, however, he sat for a Quaz. And he was reasoned. And smart. And, clearly, filled with both knowledge and good intentions. One can visit the website for Premier Quarterback Training here, and follow him on Twitter here. Sean lives in Georgia with his wife and kids, and currently tutors more than a dozen up-and-coming quarterbacks. Maybe, one day, a McEvoy student will reach the NFL. Maybe not. Either way, he seems to be looking to educate and assist.

Not sure anything’s wrong with that.

Sean McEvoy, drop back. You’re the new Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Sean, I’m gonna start negatively, but don’t hate me too much …

So I recently moved to Southern California, where baseball is king and parents are insane. And many, many, many dads and moms hire personal coaches to teach their kids to throw harder, faster; to hit the ball farther, into gaps. And, truly, it pisses me off, because I feel like it takes what should be a fun youthful pastime and turns it into something serious and adult. As a private quarterback coach, you do this same job—only in football. And I feel the same way. So … am I wrong? Do you feel like I’m misunderstanding something? Why can’t kids just play on teams and learn without extra sessions?

SEAN MCEVOY: Haha, I completely get that. Sports have undoubtedly become more competitive than ever and I also am concerned with the effect of putting too much pressure too early on kids. It is imperative that kids are able to have fun, try different sports, learn in a nurturing environment and decide what interests them. The key is finding a balance where private coaching can complement and enhance this environment instead of being mutually exclusive.

So let’s start by separating the high school/college athlete from the youth athlete. The high school (and, more so, college) quarterback with whom I work competes, for better or worse, in a serious and adult world. The reality of the position is that only one quarterback is on the field at a time, and this player seeks private training to ensure that he plays at a high enough level to earn that privilege. He is willing to devote the necessary time and effort to get better to serve his teammates. But this isn’t the “kid” you are concerned with.

The majority of youth quarterbacks that I train are relatively new to football and new to the quarterback position. More often than not, he has received very little position-specific training and is fairly raw when it comes to throwing a football or even taking a snap. What he knows is he likes “the idea” of playing quarterback and wants to learn how to play the position well. His parents are very supportive, want their child to be happy, and are willing to invest in providing their son the best opportunity to be successful. I will introduce and teach proper form and mechanics to build a foundation for his development, while providing encouragement and fostering a passion for the game. The result is a confident player who is enjoying playing the sport more because he feels like he knows what he is doing and is playing the position he wants to play. Not exactly evil, right?

To your last question, the beauty is that kids can just play on teams and learn without extra sessions! The vast majority of kids have a blast year-round going from football to basketball to baseball to lacrosse, etc. and learning how to play them all from dedicated volunteer parents. Others compete in middle school and high school for knowledgeable coaches who are able to teach and develop the necessary skills that enable them to succeed and even earn athletic scholarships and play in college. For those that desire a more personalized approach or better position-specific training, we private coaches are out here, too.

Sean at quarterback at age 4.

Sean quarterbacking at age 4.

J.P.: Along those lines, I sorta think—knowing what we know about injuries—a parent has to be on crack to let his/her kid play tackle football, what with all the safer sport options. I’m guessing you disagree. Why?

S.M.: This is probably the toughest football-related question out there these days. I have two sons, ages 4 and 3, and I honestly have no idea what my wife and I will decide if/when they desire to play football. I like to think that at least now we are more aware of the potential injuries and consequences of the sport. I believe that the game my sons will play will therefore be a safer game than the one played 10 years ago or even now. I love what USA Football is doing with its Heads Up Program and coaches across the country at all levels are becoming more knowledgeable about safer ways to practice and minimize contact. Add to this the technological advances in safer helmets and better mouthpieces, and I certainly lean toward being comfortable with my boys playing. I would, however, be cautious as to how early they are exposed to serious contact. I like the option of playing flag football until maybe middle school.

J.P.: Two of my all-time favorite quarterbacks are Doug Flutie and Brett Favre, both of whom never had private coaching, but of whom were instinctive and funky and unique. I kinda feel like, had they been guided by a quarterback coach, some of that instinctive brilliance would have been lost. So are there players who should avoid personal coaching? And are there times when you, as a coach, see a player and think, “Eh, doesn’t need me”?

S.M.: One of the goals of quarterback training is developing proper form and mechanics, along with decision-making processes, that become habitual and ingrained in the player—thus becoming instinctual. Darin Slack and Dub Maddox, two experts in Quarterback Development, write about the differences in explicit and implicit learning. Basically, the explicit learner tries to process everything and “thinks too much,” thus becoming mechanical and tentative under pressure. The implicit learner “knows too little” and is impulsive, which causes him to panic and make poor decisions under pressure. The key is the ability to find balance between both methods and train the athlete to “think without thinking.”

While Doug Flutie and Brett Favre may not have had “private coaching,” they certainly both had high-level quarterback instruction throughout their careers. The ability to instinctively make good decisions and be consistently accurate in high-pressure situations is a testament to that. All players can only get better by working on their development, fine-tuning mechanics, and increasing consistency. I have never met the perfect quarterback.

J.P.: I hire you to coach my 13-year-old son. I think he’s the next Joe Montana. After 20 minutes you conclude he has zero quarterback skills whatsoever. Where do we go from there?

S.M.: First and foremost, I am honest in my evaluation of the quarterbacks that I work with and ensure that both the player and the parents are realistic about expectations. While I work with quarterbacks who play FBS/FCS football and top high school recruits with scholarship potential, I also work with many players who simply want to be the best they can be for their high school team on Friday nights or help their middle school team win more games. If willing to work hard and commit to being better, I can work with your son to maximize his talent to play at his best. We can ensure he learns the basic skills of the position—proper stance and grip, how to take a snap, footwork, throwing mechanics, run game, etc. Until he is able to do things the right way, it is difficult to determine what potential he may have. Then we can formulate a plan to realize that potential. If you/he do not believe the effort is worth it unless he will play in the NFL, then we go our separate ways. If it is worth it to your son to have a shot to try out for the freshman team at quarterback and/or continue to develop to maybe earn the starting spot by his junior/senior year, then we get to work!

Unionville High's quarterback in 1999.

Unionville High’s quarterback in 1999.

J.P.: I know you have a pretty long coaching resume, but how did this happen for you? Like, what was your life path from womb to here in football? Why do this?

S.M.: My father played college football at Villanova University in the late 70s (Division I-A at the time), so that influence was there from the time I was born. I did not play tackle football until fifth grade—and I happened to be placed at quarterback from the beginning. I played through middle school and high school as a fairly average player, but believed in working hard and playing my best. I played well enough to be a captain and starting quarterback of my high school team my senior year. Knowing that my gridiron dreams would end here, I savored that season and loved every minute of it. Additionally, I was fortunate to play for great coaches and great men who developed my passion for the sport. During college, one of my old high school coaches gave me the opportunity to join his high school staff as a volunteer coach on the ninth grade football team. I continued to coach quarterbacks and defensive backs at two different schools for the next nine seasons. During this time I was blessed to work with great quarterbacks who challenged me to be a better coach, and sought out as much information and expertise as I could in order to better serve them. My first quarterback went on to play at Temple University, my second at Northeastern University (both started games as a freshman) and I felt that I had the opportunity to be good at this.

During this time I had gotten married and had two kids, and less and less availability to commit to the demands of coaching high school football. I began exclusively doing private quarterback training, relishing the opportunity to continue to coach football as well as work around my own schedule. My family and I relocated to Georgia in 2013 and I was able to quickly gain new clients and grow my private coaching business. In the beginning of this year, I founded Premier Quarterback Training, began working with National Football Academies as a certifying quarterback coach, and currently work with 15 quarterbacks throughout north Georgia.

J.P.: So my kid is a solid quarterback. I bring him to you for private sessions. What do you work on? How can you improve him?

S.M.: In short we will work on everything—from ensuring proper stance, center exchange, grip on the football, footwork, run game mechanics, throwing mechanics, pass drops, defensive recognition, read progression, etc. I will take the time to evaluate all aspects of playing the position and address any flaws that will detract from being efficient and consistent. I will teach and fine tune his throwing mechanics to ensure that he is bio-mechanically sound to generate maximum power while minimizing stress on his joints. Using video analysis, I will ensure that your son both understands the why and the how of the throwing motion, thus being able to consistently repeat the motion and more importantly identify the error in a poor throw and fix it.

I mentioned National Football Academies earlier, and the “Quarterback Self-Correct System” created by Darin Slack is the process through which I train; in my opinion there is nothing better out there. Along with the throwing mechanics, we will ensure your son understands the proper steps in his pass drops to enable him to be in a position to throw accurately and quickly in sync with the receiver’s routes. As we progress we will work to develop his decision-making process, enabling him to recognize the defensive alignment/coverage and progress through run/pass reads. What we will improve is his ability to be consistently accurate in all his throws, to make sound decisions under pressure, and to be confident every time he steps on the field.

With wife, Katie

With wife, Katie

J.P.: You never played quarterback in college or the pros. I wonder if that at all hurts your cred? And what can you tell people to assure them that you’re legit? That you know your shit?

S.M.: I have never thought about that much, but I’m sure it does a little. Probably more so for the parent who thinks his/her son is the next Joe Montana. I do have a current NFL player whose son I train, so I must have some cred out there. My coaching resume certainly helps, the fact that I have been training and developing quarterbacks for 13 years lets people know I am legit. I have been fortunate to acquire a glowing list of reviews and testimonials from current and former players and their parents which help me stand out. As Premier Quarterback Training continues to grow, the word of mouth and referrals have started to be a key piece. I encourage any prospective athletes to do an initial session with me and then decide if they want to invest in a training package; I am happy to have my work speak for itself. Certainly now working with NFA and becoming a certified quarterback coach will continue to add credibility and enable me to keep growing.

J.P.: Back when I was growing up, nobody hired personal youth coaches for sports. You played in your yard, on a team—and that was that. So why has this become a thing? And do you think it ever goes too far? Do we, perhaps, take sports too seriously?

S.M.: I am not sure why sport has become more competitive over the years, but it certainly has. The chances of earning an athletic scholarship to college or playing professionally has only gotten slimmer, but it seems more athletes than ever are hoping to defy those odds. Due to the high-profile nature of playing quarterback, and the fact that there is only one on each team, quarterbacks working with private coaches have gotten younger and younger. I don’t know that I have an issue with people setting a goal and working hard to chase a dream. As long as we can all keep things in perspective!

Working with the future greats.

Working with the future greats.

J.P.: Greatest and lowest moment from your career?

S.M.: Greatest moment was my first year coaching at Unionville High School in 2005. The team was coming off a 5-5 season, and we had an undefeated 10-win regular season and made the state playoffs. I had never been a part of something like that, and there is something special about winning every game on your schedule.

Lowest moment in my career was the previous year at Avon Grove High School. We had just started the season when one of our team managers passed away suddenly over Labor Day weekend. The next few days and weeks were as difficult as I have ever experienced, and playing football became the least important thing we did as a team.

J.P.: How do you feel about girls wanting to play organized football?

S.M.: I am all for it. We were fortunate to have an outstanding female athlete approach the team about wanting to be a kicker her senior season one year at Unionville High School. All she did was outwork almost everyone on the team, prove everyone wrong who doubted her and won the starting kicking job. She could not have been a better addition to the team, and was as consistent and accurate on extra points as anyone I have ever been around.

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• Rank in order (favorite to least): Ryan Fitzpatrick, peaches, The Underground, Devon White, The Hulk, Matthew Broderick, Wal-Mart, Donald Driver, nail salons, Hozier, lemon squares: The Hulk, Wal-Mart, lemon squares, Ryan Fitzpatrick, peaches, Matthew Broderick, Devon White, The Underground, Hozier, nail salons, Donald Driver

Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco were selected in the same draft. Who has had the better career, and who do you take with one big game to win?: I mentioned my Villanova connection earlier, so I hate to pick a Delaware guy … but Joe Flacco

• I just watched a video of Justin Bieber covering Boys II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You.” How can you help me recover?: Seems like only alcohol will do the trick here – I go scotch but whatever your preference..

• One question you would ask Kara DioGuardi were she here right now?: I HATE that I know who this is..

• Five greatest quarterbacks of your lifetime?: No order—Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning.

• Three memories from your first date: We teach quarterbacks to have a short memory (forget about interceptions and move on). In that vein I have more than likely repressed any memories of that disaster.

• How did you propose to your wife?: We were down in Wildwood, N.J. for the week, staying at her family’s beach house. Her grandfather had built the house, and Katie had grown up spending summers down the beach with her parents and grandparents. As both of Katie’s grandparents had recently passed away, the house had even greater meaning. Right before we left to go home after a great week, I talked her into a picture in front of the beach house. Immediately after the picture, I knelt down and proposed.

 • Do you aggressively pop zits or sorta let them chill?: Pop them

• The next president of the United States will be …: Ah—now we get political and I lose half my clients. But probably Hillary

• Would you rather walk up to LeBron James at an autograph signing and lick his face or walk naked through your nearby mall while singing Justin Bieber covering Boys II Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You”?: Come over here LeBron …

Raymond Najjar

Ray in front of an iceberg in coastal waters of the Antarctic Peninsula.

It’s taken me 165 Quazes to finally delve into climate change. Which is sort of strange, in that climate change—and the future of our planet as a sustainable living place—consumes me. Simply put, I want my kid and their kids and their kids to be as happy and comfortable as I am. If the earth is 97 percent water, this seems unlikely.

Hence, today’s guest is Dr. Raymond Najjar, a professor of oceanography at Penn State University who focuses upon the impact of climate change on coastal regions. Here, Dr. Najjar explains his optimism in the face of mounting bad news, as well as his thoughts on what humanity must do to survive and thrive.

Dr. Najjar, welcome to The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: Dr. Najjar, first question is one I’ve been wanting to ask an expert on climate change for a long time. In short, how are you not curled up in a ball right now, depressed over the seemingly inevitable decline of our planet? I’m sort of being serious—whenever I read about climate change, and another thing melting, another record high temperature, I feel like all’s lost and my kids are (to be blunt) fucked. Am I wrong to feel so hopeless? Do you feel this way?

R.N.: I am optimistic because we have faced imminent environmental catastrophes before and overcome them. The crazy thing is how fast we forget how much progress we have made on a whole slew of environmental problems, such as smog, acid rain, spectacularly polluted rivers and lakes, and the ozone hole, to name a few. How’d we do it? We had good science and people (including politicians) who really cared and were willing to fight against industry and other groups philosophically opposed to regulation of any kind.

What’s remarkable is that in the end we came out on top economically, so even without the ethical arguments—which should be enough to carry the day—it makes sense to clean up the environment. The Clean Air Act is a shining example: we reduced emissions of nitrogen and sulfur oxides, the acidity of rain declined, electricity rates were stable, the economy grew, and we ended up saving money as a result of fewer sick days and hospital visits.

The other thing to keep in mind is how fast public opinion can shift. Take our views on gay marriage, for example. This gives me hope that people want to do the right thing and will ultimately come around if we keep talking and listening to each other.

J.P.: Most of your work, in regards to climate, details the impact of climate change on coastal regions. So let me ask bluntly, and plainly: What is—and will be—the impact of climate change on coastal regions?

R.N.: More flooding is going to be the main impact to humans and ecosystems along the coast. Sea level is rising now on average by more than an inch per decade and the rate is increasing. It doesn’t sound like much but by the end of this century we are looking at an additional few feet, which will have a big effect, especially on low-lying areas. Direct effects of warming are also a concern. If we continue the current trend in greenhouse gas emissions, a coastal region like the New York City Tri-State area will experience summers by the end of this century similar to summers now in southern South Carolina. That’s a huge change for people and ecosystems to handle.

J.P.: There are shitloads of people in this country who insist either: A. Climate change has nothing to do with man’s activities; B. Climate change is a liberal hoax. Is there anything you can say to these folks to prove them wrong? Because they seem pretty insistent.

R.N.: I don’t waste my time with the 5 percent on the lunatic fringe. There are others who are genuinely skeptical about the science because the media tends to weigh opposing views evenly and because it challenges their world view (see below); with those, I am patient but persistent, and have seen some minds changed. We all ultimately care about the same thing, which is providing a better future for our children.

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J.P.: You’re a professor of oceanography at Penn State. You have a BE in Mechanical Engineering, an MA and PhD from Princeton. But, womb to now, what has been your path? Where were you born? When did you first find yourself fascinated by oceanography? Why are you here?

R.N.: I was born and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. My folks would say I was drawn to the seashore as young boy vacationing on Cape Cod, but I fell into oceanography by accident. In engineering school, I enjoyed classes on fluid mechanics, but I also wanted to save the world so I looked for graduate programs in environmental fluids, which meant meteorology and oceanography. I was a homebody, Princeton was nearby, I made the cut, and the rest fell into place. I worked hard but I also was lucky to find really great people to work with and interesting problems to work on.

J.P.: Serious question: Is there any hope for us? I mean this. Like, is there a chance the earth will naturally even itself out? Is there a chance science, engineering … something can fix our problems?

R.N.: I love the book “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think,” by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. People are problem solvers. Our ingenuity is breathtaking. We are faced with the wonders of technology and improved lifestyle daily even though we get mostly bad news from the media. Yes, there is a lot of misery in the world, but there is less than there used to be, in part as a result of technological progress and the desire for people to make things better.

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J.P.: In your opinion, if we continue on this path, what does the world look like in 50 years? In 100 years?

R.N.: It will be hotter and there will be more floods and droughts. It’s going to be rough, particularly for the poor, and we will have to adapt. How much more severe the climate gets depends on much more carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere. We are likely to a rise of at least 3 degrees F, but maybe as much as 10 degrees F if we stay on the current path.

J.P.: What is it that we—the average, non-scientific Americans—don’t grasp about carbon dioxide, oxygen, carbon monoxide, carbonyl sulfide and dimethyl sulfide and their roles in the sustainability of the earth?

R.N.: Okay, you plunked that off my web site. I like studying gases in seawater.

Carbon dioxide gets a bad rap. It’s natural and without it the earth would probably be ice-covered. The problem is that we now have too much of a good thing. It’s not only causing the rapid warming we are experiencing but is also responsible for making the oceans more acidic, which has mostly negative ecological consequences.

Oxygen in seawater is important because fish and other fauna need it to breath. One of the big water pollution problems we have is hypoxia (really low oxygen), which is caused by dumping too much sewage and fertilizer into our waterways. Hypoxic regions, also called dead zones, are present throughout many of the world’s developed coasts. We’ve made huge progress on this problem by cleaning up our sewage treatment plants, which has benefitted many estuaries, including the Delaware Bay and Hudson River. We still need to reduce the amount of agricultural fertilizers getting into our natural waters so we can eliminate other dead zones, like those in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Dimethyl sulfide is cool because that’s what you smell when you are getting a breeze off the ocean. It’s made in seawater by phytoplankton, gets released into the air, and forms particles that cloud droplets grow on. So, in pristine areas of the ocean, phytoplankton may regulate cloudiness.

Carbon monoxide and carbonyl sulfide are quite esoteric. I don’t think we fully understand their function in seawater and the rest of the earth system, but we study them because they are there!

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J.P.: I’m almost certainly not as intelligent as you, yet I often think to myself, “Jesus Christ, we are so fucking stupid. We have this problem, but—because it’s not 100-percent, black-and-white right in front of us, we do nothing.” Has your work in climate change at all impacted your opinion on the intellect of America?

R.N.: I don’t like the way you started off your question. I’ll grant you that my scientific intelligence is higher than yours but there are so many types of intelligence (artistic, emotional, social, literary, etc.) that a simple ranking is not tenable. Anyhow, it’s a good question and what I have learned so very clearly over the last few years is how much an individual’s world view colors their interpretation of the facts. It’s really disheartening and somewhat puzzling that, for example, Republicans and Democrats can look at the same data on just about anything and come to vastly different conclusions. What’s even more remarkable is that the more educated those two groups are, the more their views diverge. So it’s like the “smarter” we are, the more we are able to find arguments to fit our world view. It’s depressing and not obvious on how one deals with this.

J.P.: I feel helpless. I drive a Prius, I try and unplug things, etc … etc. But, honestly, is there anything I can do to impact climate change? People like to say, “One person can make a difference …” but I’m really starting to not believe it.

R.N.: Global warming is a tougher problem than most environmental problems because it is truly a global problem. Because carbon dioxide lasts so long in the atmosphere, it doesn’t matter where it is emitted from. So everybody—the whole world, not just those in your community, state, or country—has to be on board with emissions reductions for them to be effective. This is the really tough aspect of the problem. But the ozone hole was similar (because chlorofluorcarbons last long in the atmosphere, too), so I think we can do it. But everyone has to do their share, which is what you are doing by being more thoughtful about your energy usage, and it’s what Obama and the EPA are proposing by curbing emissions from power plants.

In 2012 Wei-Jun Cai (University of Georgia) Marjy Friedrichs (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), and Najjar organized the US East Coast Carbon Cycle Synthesis Workshop.

In 2012 Wei-Jun Cai (University of Georgia) Marjy Friedrichs (Virginia Institute of Marine Science), and Najjar organized the US East Coast Carbon Cycle Synthesis Workshop.

J.P.: A lot of climate change doubters I know say the warming of the earth is cyclical, and this is merely another cycle. Any truth to that idea?

R.N.: No. While there are natural cycles, like the ice ages coming and going, we can’t explain the current warming based on them. In fact, if anything, we would be going through a cooling period right now if it weren’t for increases in greenhouse gases. Prior to 1800, we were on a long-term cooling trend for thousands of years, but as soon as carbon dioxide started to rise due to industrialization and forest clearing, the earth began to warm. The amount of warming that’s occurred since then is about what we expect from the amount of carbon dioxide released.

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• Joe Paterno statue—should it have remained on campus, or was the school right to remove?: I don’t know. Good arguments either way. Joe said it best: I wish I had done more.

• Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?: Practice.

• Five reasons one should make State College, Pa. his/her home?: Nice people, low stress, beautiful, safe, Penn State.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Mike Holmgren, your high school yearbook, Shakira, skiing, Kansas City, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art & Science, Diet Sprite, mud wrestling, peanut butter, The Black Crowes, elephants: Elephants, peanut butter, Cooper Union, Kansas City, skiing, yearbook, mud wrestling, Diet Sprite. Others: no rating

• What happens when we die?: We go to live on another planet as an alien life form. In this way, two great mysteries are solved at once when we die: The question you asked and “Are we alone?”

• Sean Hannity calls. He wants you to appear on his show to debate climate change. You in?: No—there’s nothing to debate. Would be happy to answer his questions, however.

• Out of 100 times, how often does someone leave a J out of your last name?: One.

• Three memories from your first date?: I can’t even remember who my first date was with, never mind what happened on it.

• If someone said you can put an end to climate change right now, but you’d have to take off 20 years from the end of your life, would you do so?: Yes, if it was done in some benign way. There are some crazy geoengineering solutions that I would not be in favor of.

• One question you would ask Huey Lewis were he here right now?: I love that chromatic horn line during the outro of “The Heart of Rock and Roll.” How did you come up with it?