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Stay classy, Jeff Pearlman

Jan 6, 2010, 8:55 AM EST

Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Pearlman — writing on his personal blog — reflects on the retirement of Randy Johnson and, as is typical for him, he totally takes the high road:

I have nothing but negative thoughts for Randy Johnson, a brilliant
pitcher but a pathetic human being. I covered baseball for a good chunk
of time. I had direct access to such unpleasant men as Will Clark, John
Rocker, Barry Bonds, Arthur Rhodes. But nobody–and I mean absolutely
nobody–possessed the pure dismissive cruelty of Randy Johnson.

I’ve heard it a million times–no one cares how athletes treat the
media. Well, I care. And Johnson was a punk. He bullied reporters, he
snarled at reporters, he occasionally threatened reporters. He is one
of the far-too-many professional athletes who believes the ability to
throw a round piece of animal skin 100 mph grants you the right to
treat other human beings as dog excrement. Just ask anyone who covered
Johnson during his days in Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona, New
York and, lastly, San Francisco. He was a first-class pitcher and a
first-class creep.

It’s probably worth noting that Pearlman is famous for taking the bad things said about him on blogs quite personally.  Just last week Pearlman wrote a post — starting with a quote from a comment on this very blog — in which he talked about what it feels like when someone criticizes him:

So, does hate mail hurt? In a word: Yes. Not that I cry over it. I don’t. But it never feels good hearing you’re a dolt, a moron, an anus . . . Fire away. Call me every nasty word in the book. But whether you’re yelling at writers or athletes or garbage men or actors, it never feels good.

Jeff, like Paul McCartney once sang: the love you take is equal to the love you make.  You’ve flung around personal crap like the above-quote about Randy Johnson for years. Is it any surprise when people do the same to you?  And even if it isn’t, is anyone’s life enhanced by the exercise?

There’s nothing wrong with being critical. Heck, in my view, sports writers should be more critical than they currently are, not less.  But there’s a difference between being critical and getting personal, and getting personal to the extent Pearlman does, especially at a time — an athlete’s retirement — when perhaps a bit of restraint along those lines might be in order is a totally bush league move.

  1. Matt - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    Craig, I think sometimes we don’t get this information from the people who actually interact with the athletes we follow, and I for one appreciate hearing about which guys are jerks to the media (just as I like to hear who’s a good guy). Pearlman’s nastiness aside, knowing that Randy Johnson stood out to him as an unpleasant person to cover is part of his legacy, and I don’t mind being reminded of that as we’re wrapping up his career.

  2. MatthewA - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    While your point has merit, please don’t say that news of Randy Johnson’s Grinch-like demeanor caught you by surprise at this point.

  3. Moses Green - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    It’s a legitimate gripe, and I’ve read many times that the Unit was a world-class d-bag. This the sort of personal-type memory that blogging is for, as you argue to the multitude of dolts who think you’re supposed to be a journalist.
    That being said, I also don’t like the timing of it. About 1.5 years from now would be a good time to vent that sort of thing, after retirement and well pre-HOF time. Pearlman definitely comes off as petty and (whatever the opposite of magnanimous is.) Of course his blog runs off the rails a lot more frequently and dangerously than his well crafted and well thought out articles. It’s a twisty roller-coaster of a blog, with derailments like his 4 pictures of his balding older self. Navel gazing crash! Ugly jogging injury – ugly photo – crash!

  4. Matt - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    Not at all, I just don’t see commenting on it as being out of bounds. If you treat people poorly, it seems fair to me when those people point it out when you come up.

  5. Wooden U. Lykteneau - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    I’d like to know what vitamins/supplements Pearlman takes to ward off the inevitable illnesses that accompany being so thin-skinned.

  6. Lilo - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    Before I take what a reporter says as truth about a player on a personal level I’d also like to know who I’m getting this character analysis from. There are some jerks and people who let their personal feelings get in the way of making honest criticism or even basic evaluation of performance in the media.
    I’m not calling them all malicious, but like everyone else they have their biases. They will blast one athlete for being a fraud and the other for being media savvy and noncontroversial. They both blew smoke up everyone’s butt, the only difference is one is liked and one is not.
    I agree Craig that it is one thing to be critical and another to get personal.

  7. Sanford St John - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    Why does the fact that a player is retiring call for “restraint”? Pearlman is right, Randy Johnson is a pathetic excuse for a human being, and just because he was an exceptional pitcher doesn’t change that fact. Johnson is one of those athletes that never seemed to remember that without the fans being willing to pay to see him perform he would be without such a lucrative job, and treated fans (as well as opponents, sportswriters, and anyone else that happened to cross his path) with contempt. Yes, he’s a HOF’er for sure… he’s also the biggest jerk to don cletes in the last 25 years.

  8. Wooden U. Lykteneau - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    I’d like to know what vitamins/supplements Pearlman takes to ward off the inevitable illnesses that accompany being so thin-skinned.

  9. GBSimons - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    Sanford, where’s your evidence for such character assassination?

  10. PalookaJoe - Jan 6, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    I also don’t mind hearing about how an athlete interacts with the media, but it seems like Jeff Pearlman’s article is more about his own hurt feelings than it is about Randy Johnson. He comes across as that maudlin drunk you can’t escape (whether he sits next to you on the bus, or corners you at the company Christmas party) and tries so hard to convince you that his ex wife was the worst person in the world.
    Jeff, I’m sorry Randy broke your heart. But when the florid prose and hyperbole get neck deep, I just want to get away, no matter how much you need a shoulder to cry on.

  11. hop - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    I know i will get attacked for this but unlike Pearlman i wont write a column and cry about it. Could it be that the media might have wrote something untrue about Johnson at some point in his career and from then on he didnt want to talk to them? It certainly wouldnt be the first time the media stepped over the line and it certainly isnt hard to imagine Pearlman doing something like this. This is the stuff jeffrey won’t talk about and it leads me to this, i will never, ever buy SI as long as this idiot is employed their. He has “zero” talent, end of story.

  12. Curious George - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    “and treated fans […] with contempt”
    How did he do this? He earned his paycheques by working diligently at his profession and, more often than not, delivering top notch performances. Was he meant to be cuddly as well?

  13. Chris W - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    I don’t think Pearlman’s blog post would be nearly so annoying if he actually gave some examples of Johnson being a jerk rather than just saying “Oh God! He’s such a jerk! Just trust me on this. Biggest jerk ever.”

  14. Moses Green - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:06 AM

    You have a special relationship with Jeff now, don’t you? You seem to stalk him, Hop. You hate Pearlman so much that you excuse decades of atrocious behavior by Mr. Unit by imagining one time he might have been burned by the media. Guess what – every public person has been burned by the media. That’s no excuse to treat everyone the way Hop treats Pearlman.
    Seriously Hop – get help. Your insane and irrational vitriol is no longer amusing.

  15. Grammar Police - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:07 AM

    Hop, you appear to be out of apostrophes. I’ve got a whole bunch. Please help yourself. ”””””””””””’

  16. DSFC - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:09 AM

    Hey, whaddya know? Another whiny blog entry from Jeff Pearlman!
    Jeff, any comment yet on your pal Selena Roberts and her character assassination on the Duke lacrosse players? Didn’t think so. Funny, that would seem to fit the classification of jerk status to me, yet our esteemed arbiter of jerkitude has remained oddly silent on this one.
    Jeff Pearlman is a fraud, and a childish one at that.

  17. John - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    I went to college with Jeff Pearlman, and know very well people who worked closely at ‘The Review’ at Delaware with him. He is a polarizing figure, and a petty, thin skinned, vindictive person who continues to spew venom at professional athletes, accusing them of very much the same attributes he shows.
    The Paul McCartney quote hits it dead on- he uses his status as a ‘reporter’ to attack, calling it journalism. Does anyone else find it interesting that the figures he so often criticizes (Clemens, Bonds, Rocker, now Johnson) all have a similar image to the one that most readers tend to have of him?
    I love kharma. I really do.

  18. Jake T - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    Hey maybe Pearlman can write another “fake” biography like he did about Clemens but this one will be about Johnson and he can load it up with a lot of BS like he did in the other book? Maybe he can tell us Johnson is from another planet and how “mean” everyone is that lives there. I mean the possiblities are endless with this idea Jeff! You can get even with that mean ole Big Unit after all!

  19. hop - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:32 AM

    John thanks for sharing some background on Jeffrey. I can’t say i am surprised by what you wrote, as a matter of fact its what i expected and it turns out i was right. Thanks again

  20. John Willumsen - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    You know, I found my way to the Pearlman blog post via Neyer and as soon as I read it, my first thought was, “I wonder what Craig’s going to say about this.” The last time you and Pearlman got into a tiff, I actually exchanged a couple of messages in the comments section with Mr. Pearlman, and of course he deserves credit for actually entering the fray and responding to critical comments. But, I have to say, I learned two things from that encounter. First: I realized that I–and many smart, respectable, admirable people–have been guilty of putting wit and snark ahead of compassion and rationality. My criticism of Mr. Pearlman, while not personal or out-of-line in my opinion, was unnecessarily unkind and could have been phrased in a much more neutral and constructive manner. So what I learned from that was that it’s better to try to engage in a useful and positive manner, rather than tear someone down, even if they deserve it (not that he necessarily did) and even if you have the mental acuity and writing skills to issue one heck of a verbal smackdown (not that I’m saying, I do, but there are certainly folks that roam ’round these parts who do have those skills).
    Second: I realized that Pearlman seems to be a complex character. He’s a talented writer who definitively has a way with words. He has often been a conscientious reporter. He has admitted mistakes he’s made. His style, whether by choice or by nature, can often be remarkably negative, and not in a world-weary, cynical-about-human-nature way, but in a superior and bitter way. He can be condescending (in his response to me back in Shysterland he managed to patronize me not only regarding my baseball knowledge, but also my overall way of thinking, and my general intelligence–I don’t think he meant anything by it, it just appears to be the way he communicates in some situations). Ultimately, the way I see it, hate mail is awful and no one should send it; that’s undeniably true. Working in journalism is stressful, especially now; that’s undeniably true. But by his own admission, Mr. Pearlman is working his “dream job.” I wish he’d take a little more joy in that, or at least make that joy more apparent in his writing. I’d be willing to bet Mr. Pearlman is a nice guy; but he doesn’t always come across as one in his written work.

  21. hop - Jan 6, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    I was thanking the guy who wrote the below post just to make that clear. Whoever wrote this is no doubt my hero because he has the courage to write the truth.
    I went to college with Jeff Pearlman, and know very well people who worked closely at ‘The Review’ at Delaware with him. He is a polarizing figure, and a petty, thin skinned, vindictive person who continues to spew venom at professional athletes, accusing them of very much the same attributes he shows.
    The Paul McCartney quote hits it dead on- he uses his status as a ‘reporter’ to attack, calling it journalism. Does anyone else find it interesting that the figures he so often criticizes (Clemens, Bonds, Rocker, now Johnson) all have a similar image to the one that most readers tend to have of him?
    I love kharma. I really do

  22. Moses Green - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    Buddy – Uhhh … no, I didn’t notice and don’t think Pearlman looks like he has AIDS. The thing that’s really scary about HIV, and one of the things that has helped it spread, is that people can pass it along for years and years before they ever become symptomatic. So Buddy, if you mean he looks HIV+, there is no such thing. If you mean he looks like he has full-blown AIDS, I disagree. Furthermore I find your idle jest in exceedingly poor taste. You better hope that karma doesn’t run over your dogma for that one, Buddy.
    Hop – Pearlman posted your hateful little screed against him because it was so poorly written and non-factual. The fact that it was a vindictive, bitter and evil little bittle of nonsense is what made it stand out. You seem to be puffing up your chest in pride for this. Why on earth would you take pride in being exposed as a moronic cheap-shot artist?

  23. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    John — your take is almost exactly the same as mine. Pearlman can be a good writer. He has shown journalistic talent. I’m not going to dimiss him the same way I’d dismiss a Jay Mariotti or someone. I simply don’t get where he’s coming from most of the time, and I really don’t understand what drives someone to attack someone like he attacked Johnson. There are better ways to communicate the fact that Johnson was a difficult character. There are much better times to do it.
    One thing that seems to drive much of what Pearlman writes is some root idealism based on the expectation that athletes should be heroes of some kinds and sports should be pure. He has had that idealism crushed via his unique view into professional sports, and for the past decade or so he has been writing from what can only be called a wounded perspective.
    I guess what I’d like to know is why he or anyone expects athletes to be different than any other people. There are jerks in the world. There are self-centered people in the world. There are cheaters in the world. Why is Pearlman so surprised to see that athletes can be that way too?
    And if he doesn’t hold athletes to some higher standard — if he’s simply treating them the way he’d treat anyone else — I’d really, really love to see how he gets along with his neighbors and co-workers.

  24. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:06 AM

    Moses — I deleted the comment you’re referring to as I found it in poor, poor taste.
    To whoever left that comment: please, let’s not go there, OK?

  25. Gelardia - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Being that this is from his PERSONAL blog, I don’t see anything wrong with what he wrote. Isn’t that what personal blogs are for, your own personal opinion? Now if this were an official S.I. article, I would expect/hope for something more objective and backed up with facts & examples. His personal blog is for fans of Jeff Pearlman who want to read his personal feelings. But instead, Craig Calcaterra has picked it up and is trying to turn it into a news story.
    Get over it people.

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