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Stay classy, Jeff Pearlman

Jan 6, 2010, 8:55 AM EDT

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. Matty - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    Craig – Maybe this is just me, but Pearlman’s writing on subjects like this isn’t based in “some root idealism based on the expectation that athletes should be heroes of some kinds and sports should be pure”. It’s based on the idea that athletes should treat others as human beings, instead of big-timing everyone who isn’t important in their eyes. I don’t think that’s real common in locker rooms, and Pearlman is one of the few to point it out. A lot of beat writers and other sportswriters who spend time in locker rooms get hammered for being too chummy with the athletes. Pearlman actually stands up and lets people know when someone’s a jerk. It’s a different perspective that I always enjoy.

  2. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    Gelardia — there’s a difference between a personal blog and one’s private sentiments. Pearlman has thousands of readers. He intends for people to read his opinions, and neither he nor no one else can expect that those opinions won’t be talked about from time to time.
    And you’re right: he’s totally entitled to his opinions. I’d never censor him or anyone else. But by the same token, I’m entitled to my opinion, and my opinion is that this is a very small and petty post that says way more about Jeff Pearlman than it does about Randy Johnson.
    Matty: I don’t have a problem with Pearlman offering a different perspective. I take issue with the tone in which he chooses to do it. Pearlman’s a good writer. He could no doubt write a good story about the ways in which Randy Johnson acted poorly over the years. If he was as bad as Pearlman suggests he was, his actions will speak for themselves.
    But to call the guy a “punk?” What kind of perspective is that?

  3. jbay8 - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    Mr Pearlman,whining about athletes you cover is very unbecoming. You chose your profession. Randy Johnson didn’t choose it for you.
    Could Randy be an ugly human being? Sure. We all can be that way.
    If you didn’t like how he treated you, maybe you should have sought out some of his teammates, that you would have been more comfortable with. Bottom line: It’s still a free country and if he wants to act like that, it’s his perogative. But the whiny, baby routine from you is getting old. Deal with it or get a new profession.

  4. Greg - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Once a rat always a rat. This guy thinks is opinion matters & if you come across as a rat, people will treat you that way. By the way being a punk does not mean you are cruel or tough. It actually applies to you Jeffery. A punk is someone who lets other people take advantage of them or in your case when you had the chance to confront him you got scared & waited until her retired to talk bad about Randy & the other guys you mentioned. Your the punk Pearlman. You would think a writer would no the meaning of a work before he used it . Maybe if you used asshole or dickhead in referring to these guys would be the correct response punk boy.

  5. Evan - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    If this didn’t have to do with baseball, you’d probably have a point. However, you’re ignoring a very very important reason for Jeff’s article.
    When Randy Johnson first announced his retirement, what was basically every single baseball fan and baseball writer thinking? Cooperstown.
    For most, (including myself) Johnson is a shoe-in for Cooperstown. That said, the voting for players into the Hall of Fame is supposed to be based on record, integrity, playing ability, sportsmanship, CHARACTER and other contributions. So not only is Pearlman’s article TOTALLY appropriate, its downright necessary.
    I knew Johnson wasn’t a media darling. I didn’t know that he was as bad as Pearlman claims. Though I doubt Pearlman’s article and/or Johnson’s character will keep him out of the hall, I applaud Pearlman for bringing this up.

  6. sk8bum23 - Jan 6, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Jeff Pearlman is obviously taking Estrogen supplements!

  7. Lilo - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    And if we go over to the LoHud blog we’ll see someone not only speak of the not so good but the good too. Thats reality. These profiles, biographies of people as all good or all bad are not real. You should definitely give the side-eye to them.
    Just because Pearlman doesn’t have a nice thing to say about Johnson doesn’t mean there aren’t nice things to be said. Be careful of taking one person’s all negative opinion as truth simply because they’ve been in the clubhouse or locker room.

  8. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    Evan — that’s fine, but what does Pearlman offer us in the way of evidence regarding RJ’s character and fitness for the Hall of Fame? Nothing. Not one anecdote. Not one piece of evidence that might persuade anyone to question RJ the man. It’s all “he’s horrible, he’s a punk, he’s a nasty, nasty person!”
    I agree that character is part of the HoF test, but what Pearlman wrote about RJ’s character is no more useful than someone saying “Dave Parker was really, really awesome” when promoting his on-the-field merits for the Hall of Fame.

  9. Pablo - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    for whatever it’s worth I find Jeff Pearlman’s blog to be pretty entertaining. In this case what I take from it is that he thinks Randy is a 1st class d-bag and not that everyone in the world thinks that or that it is a fact. Just his opinion. I read his blog for entertainment and not for the definitive last word. He’s just a writer or a “source” and one of many that I read and reference. In some cases, like John Rocker, I’ve read enough other stuff about him to fairly safely assume that he is in fact a d-bag. Same with Roger Clemons. Sorry if I’m offending anyone here but I think he’s (Jeff P.) pretty funny warts and all.

  10. Chris W - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    You say you “didn’t know Johnson was as bad as Pearlman claims”.
    Well how do you know now? There’s not one shred of evidence or anecdote in that blog post. That’s not to say that Pearlman’s lying, but rather that he hasn’t given us the opportunity to make up our own mind by giving objective evidence.
    If someone you don’t really know tells you a restaurant is “awful” do you really know it’s “awful?” What if his definition of awful is overpriced? Or maybe he’s British and hates food that has any salt on it? Or maybe it is truly wretched in every way, the service is poor, the wait staff is rude, and all the ingredients are rotten? The point is if they just tell you it’s “awful” you have absolutely no basis as to what makes it awful.
    Likewise all Pearlman said is that Johnson is a jerk and a small person. Does that mean he was standoffish to Pearlman? That he blew off an interview or two with Pearlman along his career? Or that he verbally abused and physically threatened reporters every single day? We have no clue because Pearlman refused to give anything that even resembled a fact in his indictment of Johnson.
    So when you say “I didn’t realize he was as bad as Pearlman said,” I guess I’ll ask again: So why on earth do you think you know now?

  11. Gobias Industries - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    Ha. Anus.

  12. Paul in KY - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    I have heard the same thing previously. Doesn’t surprise me. I hear Don Drysdale wasn’t a sunny dude either.

  13. themarksmith - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    First of all, you can’t say someone is a bad person because they treat the media badly. It leaves out his interactions with the other 99.9% of people he runs into. I’m not saying he is great with those other people, but Pearlman doesn’t give evidence the other way either.
    Second, and someone mentioned this, Johnson has never been known as a particularly nice man. It’s not a bad thing to remind everyone that the man has his flaws, but I’m not sure why Pearlman needed to say this when everyone else has just been remarking about his outstanding playing career.
    Third, though character is involved in Hall voting, you would have to remove players like Ty Cobb from the Hall for being d-bags if you want to exclude Johnson. You have to face the facts that not nice people are already in the Hall and will continue to enter it.
    Let me put it another way. Tiger treats the media well, but we know how he treats his family. Which is more important and gives us the real insight into his character?

  14. PalookaJoe - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    I agree, character is an important part of the whole package. But Pearlman’s post doesn’t read like an assessment of Johnson’s character. It sounds a lot more like a projection of Pearlman’s hurt feelings. There’s so much hyperbole and anger there that it’s impossible to make an informed judgment.
    Think about it from your own perspective. When you want to make people aware of a problem, do you start by ranting about dog #*%$ or insisting that everyone knows you’re right? That may give you a cheap thrill and earn a few cheers from like-minded people, but it doesn’t convince anyone. It’s just petty, self-indulgent noise.
    Instead of focusing on his own feelings, I would love to hear Mr. Pearlman actually talk about Randy Johnson. I’m sure he has at least one good story that demonstrates why he feels so strongly. It would be so much more interesting, and informative than what he posted so far.

  15. David Stout - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    Note: Randy Johnson also refused to pay child support for his daughter – His ex-girl freind originally didn’t want any support because she wanted to distance herself and her child from the “creep”. When she later sought assistance- car and a small stipend when the daughter was in high school taking college classes, Johnson hired high powered attorneys to keep from paying about a $1,000 per month – this from a guy making $10 million a year. He’s a ruthless, nasty scumbag who doesn’t deserve our attention or adulation. I’m just sayin’

  16. johnny in toledo - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    Many of the “personality traits” that we despise in people around us are the same traits that drive athletes to excel. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan and others are obvious narcissists. And that’s why when they’re beating their competitors badly, they try even harder. Terrell Owens and Ochocinco have huge egos. Keeping those egos fed is hard work which is why they love to make big plays. A**holes like Randy Johnson feed off their hatred of their fellow man. That’s why he wins. Most of us don’t have those personality traits and thank goodness for that. All around nice guys and “happy go lucky” may be the kinds of people I want as friends but they’re not who’s going to lead my team to the promised land.

  17. Gary B- - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    I have to add my two-cents here. I was at a youth baseball tournament in Phoenix about 5 years ago. There were 50 plus teams from all over the country playing in the event. Johnson attended one of the games in a large ballpark complex- (a family member was playing in one of the games) (10 or more fields in play at the same time). Quite a buzz was created when he showed up (he is hard not to notice). Johnson watched the game and left via limo. He walked past a number of games in play as he left, including our game. The kids were in awe and all games stopped for a moment as he walked by. He didn’t acknowledge any kids, wave or tip his hat to these kids who had stopped playing to watch him walk by. No one was asking him for anything other than an acknowledgement or wave… what a jerk he didn’t even look toward the kids. mind you these were 12-13 year olds watching a great ‘star’. I lost all respect for him at this point.

  18. Tom - Jan 6, 2010 at 12:46 PM

    While Randy was in Seattle I had several opportunities to speak with him, with my sons in tow. He was always pleasant to us. My oldest is now a minor league pitcher. The day that he pitches, he is so focused that he is a complete rearend to everyone. I have to chew on him many times to be civil. Every other day, everyone loves him. I think Randy may have had the same focus, and when do you talk to an athlete? Typically the day they work, in his case pitch, so things may not be pleasant that day. Does that excuse him? No! However it can shed some light as to what an athlete has to do to prepare and be good at what they do.

  19. Charles Gates - Jan 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    It’s not what he said, it’s how he said it.
    It’s one thing for Pearlman to say something like “RJ had a brilliant career, but my personal interactions with him were’t so good. Here are X, Y and Z examples of such.” It’s a whole other thing to do what he did.

  20. Hoops McCann - Jan 6, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    WOW! If that story about not contributing to supporting his own daughter to the tune of a measly $1,000 a month for a few teenage years is true – that is about the worst indictement on the true character, or lack of it, I could possibly imagine of any man in his position! It’s despicable! I gladly and proudly pay that much to my 2 teenagers and I make less than $3,000 a month. Why doesn’t Perlman verify that and any extenuating circumstances if he really wants us to know the true character of the man instead of just whining?

  21. Long Island - Jan 6, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    Baseball is full of unpleasant characters. I don’t hear anyone bringing up the incident of Reberto Alomar spitting in the face of an unpire.

  22. TheChoad - Jan 6, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    GB..I dont know about Sanford, but I live in AZ. I watched Randy his whole time here and I know a a guy who work security at Chase Field…the stories he used to tell about Randy didn’t surprise me at all. RJ is just an all around “I own the world” asshole. Even at jersey or card signings…the dude is just is just a dbag. He couldnt even must up a fake smile.

  23. joel - Jan 6, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Completely wrong. If the man is a first class creep then there is no better time to talk about it than now. Nothing, to me anyway, is more offensive than the funeral eulogy where people talk about how great a person is and all the good he/she did when the fact is that the person being eulogized is a pile of…. To me, even at a funeral there is no problem clearing out the closet. In this case Johnson isn’t dying, he is retiring from playing a kid’s game for a lot of money. All the more reason to never be a creep but be eternally happy.
    So I say, if it merits, pile on, and from this fan’s perspective, he did always come across as entitled.

  24. cubfan48 - Jan 6, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    Thank you! You made me LOL!!!

  25. Curious George - Jan 6, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    “and from this fan’s perspective, he did always come across as entitled”
    I think you’ve described the vast majority of pro athletes.

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