Thursday, September 20, 2007

jeff pearlman is a busy guy... SIKE

i mean, how busy could he be if he has time to answer questions for us here at firejay? seriously though, it's very nice of jeff to take some time out of his busy schedule for this. it's even nicer considering we've ripped him a new one on this very blog not once, not twice, not thrice, but a multitude of times. fortunately for us, jeff is a chill guy. the author of "love me, hate me" (which is a very good book, as i've mentioned before, and certainly should be just as well known as "book of shadows" when it comes to journalism that exposes barry bonds for what he is) speaks on blogs, anti-media types, east coast bias, and more in this interview.

LB: thanks for talking with us today, jeff.

JP: Sure. No problem.

LB: let's get the ball rolling with some "tough", so to speak, questions. how do you feel about this blog and others like it? nerdy nerds, sitting in their parents' basements, eating microwaved dinners, and criticizing hardworking professional journalists such as yourself. is this fair? is it right? what is your perspective on the rise of the "blogosphere" in this regard?

JP: I'm actually a fan of the blogosphere, because I like the idea of anyone/everyone having a voice. It doesn't seem fair that the only people allowed to vocally criticize a manager or player are the 500 newspaper columnists across the country. Why, by the basis of studying journalism in college, do we along get that right? Also, I'm a fan of writing. And the fact is, there are many blogs out there with excellent writers who are allowed to be angry, snarky, funny, etc. Unfortunately, your blog stinks. But nobody's perfect.

LB: have you ever had any discussions about anti-media blogs with other professional journalists? how do they feel about it? if not specifically anti-media blogs, what are your thoughts about criticism directed towards the sports media by average run-of-the-mill sports fans in general? surely you can't take people like us seriously.

JP: See, that's where you're wrong. I do take it personally, and so do alot of writers. How can't you? I slave over an article, put my all into something, stay up all night trying to craft it—and you just come along and thrash it. That hurts, and it makes no difference whether the thrasher is my mom, my brother, Dan Pasqua or Larry the blog guy. It always hurts. I suppose that makes me awfully thin-skinned. Such is life. It's who I am. Most writers probably take it better than I do.

LB: how, if at all, do you anticipate the landscape of sports journalism on the whole to change with the rise of the blogosphere? do you notice the line between professionals such as yourself and "amatuers" being blurred in any way? will major sports outlets need to make any major adjustments in the coming years should consumers continue to gravitate towards non-mainstream sources of analysis?

JP: The No. 1 thing is that the line between what's printable and what's not has been completely blurred. If a blog like Deadspin shows, for example, Matt Leinart or Vince Young doing shots with hookers in a seedy motel, mainstream papers have to—absolutely, positively have to—follow up. In the past, you didn't see those stories quite so often. Now it feels like they're everywhere. That's a result of Deadspin, of YouTube, of Facebook, etc. The web has opened everything up wide. I'm not sure how I feel about it, because for so-called celebs there's no longer any time off. You're in public, you're 100% under the radar.

LB: good point. i'm sure leinart could easily become involved with something several times spicier than that. anyways- is there anything you wish people like us knew about your job? this is your free opportunity to gripe about how hard it is and how we don't understand, etc. go ahead and tell it like it is.

JP: My one beef is this: Excellent writing comes with risks. Anyone can write a standard lede, a standard game story, a standard profile and never, ever get ripped. But I've always believed in pushing the envelope. It was something that was stressed to me at Sports Illustrated, and now at, too. The problem is, when you push the envelope it doesn't always work out. You take a lede too far, or your transitions suck, or ... a million different things. Instead of appreciating the fact that a writer tried for excellence, though, bloggers like yourself take great joy in killing us. You never, ever, ever kill Joe Smith of the Patent Trader for his boring take on Mahopac-Carmel. But dare Scoop Jackson or Mike Silver or Mark Kriegel try for the next level, you're always there with the knife. I'm obviously aware that I've written some real crap. We all have. But it comes not from laziness, but effort. I feel like that's lost among bloggers.

LB: ok, those are fair points. but it just so happens joe smith of the patent trader is one of my favorite writers. anyways, i want to ask you about something else. this is going to sound like a loaded question but bear with me. for obvious reasons, major sports outlets tend to focus a disproportionate amount of attention on teams from large media markets (new york, chicago, los angeles) while sometimes ignoring teams in smaller markets (seattle, milwaukee, cleveland, denver, etc.) that are making significant impacts on their leagues. your thoughts- is this just an unfortunate but necessary side effect of the nationalization of the sports media, or something that should be looked upon as a legitimate problem that needs a solution?

JP: I don't have a problem with it. Eight million people live in New York City. That's eight million people (well, not all of them) who live and die with the Mets and Yankees. Milwaukee, on the other hand, is home to approximately 550,000. To suggest fans care about both teams equally is illogical. When I was in college at the University of Delaware, our student newspaper would give the same coverage to swimming and diving as we did men's basketball. Then we realized six people were reading swimming and diving stories. So we stopped writing about it.

LB: clearly not the answer i was hoping for, but thanks for the honesty. shifting gears towards something you're very familiar with: hypothetically, say you're in san francisco on the night of august 7, and somehow end up with a ticket to a giants game, and you feel like, hey, why not go? and somehow, you emerge from the bottom of the pile in right center field with that oh-so-valuable baseball. i could care less about this fashion designer's little internet poll thingy. what would you do with home run #756?

JP: I have two kids, and college is insanely expensive.

LB: fair enough. it's getting worse all the time. let's talk barry bonds books. specifically, i'm curious about the relationship between "love me, hate me" and "game of shadows." how much have you ever talked with mark fainaru and lance williams? any? obviously you guys have a decent amount in common.

JP: I know Mark and Lance pretty well from our mutual Bonds experiences. I interviewed them both for my book; we've talked since and sort of bonded over devoting our lives to such a prick. In a way, I consider them my brothers of hell.

LB: are you mad at them for collaborating on a book? imagine if you had enlisted a co-author- you might have been able to beat them to a release date, and that might make "love me, hate me" the more commonly mentioned of the two books.

JP: How could I be mad at two guys responsible for doing such important work? I truly respect those guys 1,000 times over. They deserve what they've gotten. Do I wish my book came out, oh, a month earlier? Yup. But it is what it is—and they had the Balco goods. Thing is, I'm a fan of reporting. More than I'm a fan of writing. I respect people who dig into a subject like they did. No hard feelings. Also, there was a certain full-circleness (not a word) to it all. My first book, "The Bad Guys Won," was a biography of the '86 New York Mets that spent eight weeks on the NYT best-seller's list. It came out a couple of weeks before Mike Sokolove, an excellent writer, released "The Ticket Out," a killer bio on Darryl Strawberry's youth. So what comes around goes around, I suppose.

LB: gotcha. i didn't mean were you literally angry at them, i just wanted you to admit you wish "love me, hate me" had come out slightly earlier. so thanks for that. anyways, obviously you're still pretty young and want to continue moving on to bigger and better things as your career progresses. but how would you feel if when all was said and done your lasting legacy was "that guy who wrote that one book about barry bonds?"

JP: Ha. I'd be thrilled. Truly thrilled. That book was two years of my life, and it sort of vanished beneath Shadows. I'm proud of it; proud of the reporting and the digging and the effort I put into that thing. Plus, it's a helluva lot better than being the fucking John Rocker guy—which I still seem to be.

LB: let's give you time to plug whatever it is you're working on now. any books? other long term projects? anything you'd like to push, just in case more than ten people end up reading this? i mean, i have to give you some incentive for doing this interview.

JP: No incentive needed, but I'm wrapping up a biography of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys. That, and I'm raising my two kids. My daughter Casey is 4 and my son Emmett is almost a year. Emmett is not named for Emmitt Smith, by the way.

LB: sure he isn't! let's close up with some quick, simple questions. the title of your book comes from the barry bonds quote: "love me, hate me. i don't give a fuck." i think that really sums up barry's attitude very well. so give me a jeff pearlman quote that someone might use for a book title were they to pen one about you.

JP: "I pick my nasal hair in airport bathrooms."

LB: i can't tell if that's dirty or not. bloggers/amatuer writers with big dreams about getting into professional sports journalism should make sure they do what, in order to best increase their chances of one day making their living from writing? please don't say moving out of their parents' basements,

JP: First, start contributing to magazines/newspapers/online publications/etc. And do reporting—real, honest-to-goodness reporting. Interview people. Interview people's mothers and fathers and high school coaches. Pitch pieces to as many places as possible—the local weekly paper, the state's official magazine, Jugs, whatever. Bust yourass. The thing about blogging is that, while it's great, it's also lazy. I know—I write a lame blog, and it's literally me on the couch. It may well show you can write, but it doesn't show you can report.

LB: i'll keep that in mind. most of your recent columns are about baseball- if baseball didn't exist, what sport would you focus on the most?

JP: Running. My passion.

LB: understood. this is cheesy, but our several readers want to know- if you could have lunch with 3 figures from sports history, dead or alive, who would they be?

JP: Red Smith, Jim Murray, Tyler Ugolyn.

LB: i have no idea who those last two are, so i'll have to look them up. who finishes with more career HRs- bonds, arod or pujols?

JP: Bonds.

LB: my god, i hope not. finally, off the record- how the hell did you originally find our blog back in may of this year?

JP: On the record, Jesus led me to you.

LB: alright, that's all i've got. thanks for being here.

JP: Sure. No problem.


eriz said...

Jeff, if you're reading these comments:

1) Thanks for taking time to answer some questions for Larry (who also happens to be a huge asshole in real life too)

2) I enjoyed your column about the University of Delaware and Delaware State conflict. I love reading sports columns like this: something that I wouldn't have known anything about before reading it. It's not another tired USC/Yankees/Patriots topic that's been beaten to death.

I am a University of Colorado alumni, and I can really appreciate the in-state football rivalry game. You mentioned a bunch of other great annual in-state games, but you forgot to mention the CU-CSU one which has been immensely entertaining over the past ten or so years.

But I guess Colorado is a state of only like 4 million people, so you're forgiven.

Chris W said...

that was a fucking dope ass dan pasqua reference

jeff pearlman is no longer on my shitlist

pnoles said...

Agreed....I miss Dan Pasqua.

The Racehorse said...

Nice interview. A few things;

JP said that in non-standard game story-lines the envelope must be pushed. Why? If a story is truly compelling and interesting, shouldn’t it stand on its own merits?

I say this because I couldn’t disagree more regarding JP’s take about NY and Milwaukee. I’m a small city guy from the heartland [not Milwaukee, btw]. I do understand that proportionally from a national perspective, teams from the major markets should be given their due. I get that. However, I find it hard to believe that there aren’t just as many [if not more] interesting and compelling stories out there from Milwaukee, Denver, Arizona, San Diego and Seattle… versus the constant barrage of filler stories about A-Rod/Jeter/Torre, Theo/Red Sawx Nation, Sweet Lou/Lovable Loser-Cubbies, ad nauseam.

I did like his take on the blogosphere, but I think the most important thing Pearlman said was that the web has opened everything up and how so-called celebrities never have any time off. The quicker today’s athlete [especially big-time celebrity athletes] understand that it is wide open, the more they should be inclined to stay away from nefarious activities. People in the military get paid beer money compared to these guys and are held to higher standards… if Joe-six-pack in military can handle rigorous drug testing and stay drug free while being a solid citizen, so can professional athletes.

The world becomes more electronic everyday, and everyday it becomes easier to dig things up and put it out there. Pearlman said he hasn’t decided how he feels about this yet, but I know how I feel about it. Memo to all MLB, NFL, NBA players; don’t cheat, period.

I’m no moralist… but the moment mainstream sports become a cartoon, ala the WWE, I’m out of there.

larry b said...

thanks for the input, racehorse. i agree with a lot of what you said, although i'm not sure about the whole comparing the military to professional athletes thing. a career in the military is inherently steeped in discipline. if you work for uncle sam, not only are you expected to have a disciplined private life, but your day-to-day activities while working will also be highly contingent on discipline. meanwhile, being a pro athlete is contingent on one thing: being really great at your sport. other than not getting your team penalized, there's no discipline necessary. so i think you've got a little bit of an apples to oranges thing going on there.