On talking golf with Eddie Van Halen; on why Deadspin exists alongside Slam Magazine and Bill Simmons in innovative sports lore; on TV fame transforming people into assholes; in staying busy as a modern scribe.
This is a special episode of Two Writers Slinging Yang, in honor of the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I roamed the event (held on the campus of USC), seeking out interesting people. I found Daynabelle Anderson, who lost her 19-year-old son three years ago—and decided to speak to him via daily letters. She pieced the notes together into a book, then self-published. Remarkable woman whose story deserves to be told.
On how a blue-collar kid with no journalistic aspirations became one of America's great football writers; on covering athletes fairly, compassionately; on the death of a defensive back and the downfall of a daily newspaper.
In the first-ever Two Writers Slinging Yang recorded before a live audience, we travel to Ohio University to discuss Tom Brady's sadness after a Super Bowl setback; ways to write about 9.11 in the immediate aftermath; rules all young writers should consider following.
On finding new material about a beloved championship team from 50 years ago; on ghost writing athlete autobiographies and bringing unique voices to Mariano Rivera, Carli Lloyd and R.A. Dickey; on discovering depth and meaning via a former baseball phenom whose life was forever changed by 9.11.
On profiling Adrian Peterson and dealing with the detractors; on making a brief time with Antonio Brown count; on wearing jerseys in Instagram posts; on understanding the plight of the young African-American athlete.
On the absolute joy of a tiara atop the head of Cory Booker's 99-year-old grandmother; on directing your words toward humor and glee during the Trump Presidency; on knowing when to walk away from a column idea; on the unspeakable joy of seeing your play performed live.
On writing a book (and having it sell) on a relatively obscure library fire; on choosing just the right words to describe a moment; on why she never uses a recorder and rarely turns to direct quotations.
On covering the (zzzzzz) sleep inducer that was Super Bowl LIII; On finding new turf with a team that's been covered ad nauseam; on an angry James Harrison and a giddy Patrick Chung; on writing about three Super Bowls by age 24.
On what it is to cover the Super Bowl; on the heaven/hell that is Media Day; on whether it's possible to know Carson Wentz's true feelings; on existing as a fly on the wall (in an NFL locker room) alongside 500 other flies.
On scoring his first NBA press credential at age 14; on the kindness of Steve Francis and the uniqueness of Kwame Brown; on whether to talk sexual assault with Kobe Bryant and how to conduct a righteous interview.
On discovering the humanity behind America's opioid epidemic; on interviewing subjects in awkward, uncomfortable situations; on the time he demoted and suspended me (Jeff Pearlman) from our college newspaper.
On her newspaper's battle with the Springdale (Ark.) School District over a pulled article; on fighting for freedom of the press; on what a 17-year-old aspiring journalist thinks of the media landscape.
On Stanley Teeven and writing about the legacy of a World War II victim he never knew; on whether an author should place himself in a narrative; on coming out of the closet via a Boston Herald column; on Robert Kraft's kindness.
On being thrown onto an NFL beat without much notice; on watching Alex Smith's leg being broken—then reacting as a writer; on whether players care whether a writer exists; on Major League Baseball presenting the Iran hostages with lifetime passes.
On finding the courage and strength to come forward and blog about being raped; on the inevitable backlash of Internet trolls; on the liberation that comes with speaking out; on the nonsense world behind bubblegum pop.
On Tweeting about every ... single ... thing Donald Trump says; on why presidents can lie and get away with it; on covering former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, having him accuse you of being a stalking pedophile—then admitting it was all a lie and offering a bobble head doll as a peace offering.
On the highs and lows and glory and humiliation of promoting a book; on writing about a man (Bill Belichick) who tells his peers not to speak with you; on competing with the killing of Osama bin Laden for TV time.
On her riveting, detailed profile of Heidi Cruz, wife of Texas Senator Ted Cruz; on covering politics without slant or bias; on visiting an island that rising seas will ultimately engulf—and learning to understand why its inhabitants have faith in Donald Trump
On rising up from low-level fact checker to one of the world's elite soccer scribes; on having a gun held to his head in an unfamiliar nation; on the move from college basketball to soccer; on living out his dream career.
On how to navigate the football locker room in an era of NFL media indifference; on the awfulness of Bill Belichick and the anger of Danny White and the heartbreak of Dennis Byrd; on finding the real Jerry Jones in a new book, "How 'Bout Them Cowboys?"
On the writing and thinking behind "There Is No Escape from Politics"—one of my favorite pieces of 2017; on wasting away behind the desk at a fading newspaper; on the value of a forward-thinking editor and the trials and preconceptions that still (regrettably) come with being a young African-American scribe.
On profiling Chris Davis, Baltimore's first baseman, as he struggles through one of the worst seasons in Major League history; on worrying/not worrying whether a subject is happy with your work; on lessons learned from observing Tom Verducci.
On why, after nearly two decades in newspaper and magazine, he left; on sharing a name with one of America's most-famous scribes; on being locked in a minor league stadium and covering a young Ryan Lochte.
On becoming the first woman to ever cover an NFL team; on having athletes hit on her and present her with underwear; on Bert Jones and Chuck Fairbanks and Jim McMahon and the legend of the 1970s Boston Globe sports department.
On the ways experience, savvy, empathy and patience merge to make great journalism; on John Thompson and Coach K and sitting in the bleachers alongside the men (even when people demand one move elsewhere); on whether a woman will ever coach a Division I men's team and why a departure from ESPN was an unexpected blessing.
On the art and craft of the lengthy feature; on why he doesn't think of himself as a "sports journalist"; on Richie Parker and Radio and diving deep into a subject; on relying on a flip phone and going nowhere near Facebook and Twitter.
On finding beauty and reason in writing about death; on bidding literary farewell to the daughter of a Nazi, a Yankees pitching coach and a woman who fought cancer courageously; on Stuart Scott's final days and delving into the making of "The Pride of the Yankees.
On tracking down an escapee monkey; on 15 minutes on the phone with Paul Reiser; on covering the Parkland shooting tragedy; on having a newspaper steal your words; on the value of Millennials and the power of large quantities of coffee.
On the life of a small-town newspaper sports editor; on the college basketball coach who brought a gun to practice; on the sad decline of The Tennessean and why media needs to keep focusing upon high school athletics.
On #fakenews and "failing New York Times" in the era of Trump; on chronicling John McCain's farewell; on the exciting slog of three presidential elections; on phone time with Joe Biden and why covering politics is like covering sports.
On whether sports columnists have a place in 2018; on squaring off against an agitated Juan Gonzalez; on liberal writing in a conservative part of America; on the saga of an amazing woman (raped at 12) and her Dallas Cowboy son.
On spending a night with Stormy Daniels at Thee Doll House in Tampa; on her remarkable piece about the trials, nightmares and slow growth of a feral child; on knocking on strange doors and sleeping side by side beneath a bridge with sex offenders.
On making every story count; on covering Cal Ripken, Jr. and writing beautifully on the night he broke Lou Gehrig's Iron Man record; on staring down Bobby Bonilla and Scott Erickson when things turned heated in the Baltimore clubhouse; on passion and love for a profession.
On covering 130 games (of oft-bad baseball) per year and still finding things to write about; on the awkwardness of the Major League clubhouse; on Kevin Quackenbush's beard and the Padres' need to return to brown-and-yellow uniforms.
On the advantages of speaking Spanish in a Major League clubhouse; on showing your face after infuriating an athlete; on opining on a sport you know little about; on profiling the widow of Darryl Kile shortly after her husband's death.
On what it is to go through a public layoff as a journalist; on moving on from ESPN (and to a different country); on covering Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow and the New York Jets; on writing about the tragic death of Joe McKnight.
On pitching (and then being assigned) the story of a 70-year-old Polish kayaker who has crossed the Atlantic three times; on capturing a subject without speaking his language; on the terror of awaiting that first call from your editor.
On the bliss of covering March Madness; on finding nuggets of information inside a crowded locker room; on the tragic story of a Colorado shooting victim and the joy of a Michigan State football player's Craigslist-purchased cat.
On what makes great criticism v. meh criticism; on the beauty of Breaking Bad and the inconsistencies of Entourage; on why one man watches so much television—then writes about it with passion and grace.
On reporting and writing definitively on the lives of Vince Lombardi, Barack Obama, Roberto Clemente, Bill Clinton; on finding nuggets of information that make your head explode; on the difference between dealing with athletes and politicians; on the Donald Trump biography he will never, ever write.
On life at ESPN and BuzzFeed; On digging deep into the life of Earl Thomas when Earl Thomas is indifferent to the dig; on finding Michael Sam’s forgotten father; on knocking on strange doors and not knowing what awaits.
Minneapolis Star Tribune sports columnist on turning joy, anger, love, grief into a column; on writing about the bond between a girl with cancer and a crusty college coach; on Randy Moss moodiness and Larry Fitzgerald joy