"Q&A Jeff Pearlman"
Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL
Author: Jeff Pearlman
- What makes writing about sports come out of you so naturally?
That's pure myth. It doesn't come naturally, or easily. It's always a ton of work, and it feels like work. There may well be some writers who consider themselves to be naturally gifted, and it's this wonderful present from the gods of pens. That's not me. I dig and dig and dig; suffer and suffer and suffer. I hate 95% of what I write. It never feels natural.
- You worked for Sports Illustrated for many years, was it a competitive writing environment?
Oh, very. I started there when I was 24. I was placed in a hallway called "The Bullpen," which was, oh, 15-to-20 aspiring writers in their 20s busting ass to get noticed (while checking facts most of the time). I was there in the mid-1990s, and among my colleagues were Jon Wertheim, Grant Wahl, Paul Gutierrez, Seth Davis, Matt Rudy, Bev Oden. On and on. We all wanted—pretty much—the same thing: Bylines. It was insanely competitive. But also wonderful.
- What "beat writing", journalistic techniques do you still use when authoring a book?
I was a magazine beat writer, which is hugely different (and easier) than being a newspaper beat writer. So I covered Major League Baseball, and it became really important for me to establish working relationships with the players, where the important ones would remember me. Hence, I started wearing a really ugly Kangol hat, and sorta became known for that. Ir was silly, but it worked. Identify yourself.
- What is the best advice you have for getting over writer's block?
"Write through it." — Stanley Herz, author of "Conquering the Corporate Career."
- What is the one thing you want readers of your new book, “Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL”, to know about the USFL?
It was such a crazy and unique outpost that once, the San Antonio Gunslingers placed a player on the disabled list for slamming his [male organ] in a trunk. True story.
- You have written many biographies, what is the secret to "capturing the voice" of the individual who you are working with to tell their story?
Everything in journalism comes down to research; to taking the 10 minutes to know about the person you're writing with. It's a really important lesson. Know. Your. Stuff.
7. What is a sports story that you wanted to tell but, for reason or another, weren't able to?
There was a Yankees shortstop named Andre Robertson. This was back in the 1980s, and I knew he was destined to be a star. Then a car accident ruined everything. That story.
8. What is the best advice you've received on storytelling?
"Nobody cares about you. Just write the damn story." Catherine Mayhew, The Tennessean.
9. Bonus question: If you had to listen to one "A Tribe Called Quest" album for the rest of time, which one would it be?
Oh, the Low-End Theory. No second thoughts.
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Facebook: Jeff Pearlman