Dennis Morrell, Stadium Journey

Gunslinger: Q&A with Author Jeff Pearlman

Former Sports Illustrated writer and proud Delaware Blue Hen Jeff Pearlman has done it again, delivering his seventh sports-related book. With his latest, Gunslinger, a pull-no-punches biography on NFL great Brett Favre, Pearlman has solidified himself as one of the go to authors in the sports publishing field. Jeff took a few minutes away from polishing his next book, which tackles the USFL, the defunct football league, to answer a few questions.

STADIUM JOURNEY: Why Brett Favre? Was it something you wanted to do for a while, and the time was just right, or was it something more immediate?

JEFF PEARLMAN: So it was sorta a serendipitous thing. I had no interest in a Favre book. None. Guy just didn't interest me. My dream sports book has long been the USFL. And I wrote a proposal, shopped it around — nothing. My agent actually said, "Jeff, nobody wants a USFL book." Ugh. I don't surrender easily on things like this. So I thought, "Maybe if I attach it to another book." And Favre somehow entered my head—huge name, never a definitive book, passionate market. I wrote the proposal, shopped them together. Thankfully Houghton Mifflin, a place I really have come to love, bought in. And the crazy thing—I love the Favre experience. Love, times 1,000. Favorite book I've ever written, as far as experience, people, joy.

STADIUM JOURNEY: You've done books on all types of sports. In general, what differentiates football players from other athletes?

JEFF PEARLMAN: Well, of all the sports, football comes with the greatest post-career punishment and regret. So while I don't think there's a huge difference, personality-wise, between NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL guys as a whole, I find football players, by far, the most riveting folks to speak with after it's all done. Because they're usually dealing with a lot of pain, a lot of conflict, a lot of debate whether it was all worthwhile. If that makes sense.

STADIUM JOURNEY: Green Bay is a unique professional sports town. Compared to New York or Chicago or LA, it's just tiny. Because of the intimacy, was it easier to connect with people and get them to open up?

JEFF PEARLMAN: Honestly, I don't think it makes much of a difference. People are people; they talk because you take the time to show up and ask good questions. I mean, if anything, it may well be a bit harder, because people feel protective in smaller environments. Green Bay loves Brett Favre; he's one of theirs. In New York, even the greatest stars aren't considered pieces of the town.

STADIUM JOURNEY: You did over 500 interviews for the book, including some quality time with Brett's mom. However, you couldn't nab Brett himself. How close did you get to scoring that interview?

JEFF PEARLMAN: I reached out to him early on; sent him some of my books and a letter. Then I had two or three arranged times with him, and was blown off. Then I sent him another letter, and he sent me a text, explaining that he didn’t wish to talk. I’m not mad—it’s his right, obviously. Plus, his family members were amazingly open and cool. Spent a lot of time with Bonita, a good chunk of time with his siblings, interviewed aunts, uncles, cousins. So that worked out for me.

STADIUM JOURNEY: The photograph of you in a LA Dodgers cap is kind of your signature. Are you a fan of the team? What teams do you root for, or you do follow press box protocol to the letter and stay unbiased?

JEFF PEARLMAN: Ha. I just happened to be wearing a Dodgers hat that day. Bought it for $8 at a local Ross Dress for Less. As a kid, I was Mets-Nets-Jets-Islanders. As an adult, I'm really just Delaware Blue Hens, my alma mater, and a little Jets. But I really root first and foremost for good games. I also watch very little sports these days. I'm a dad, my kids are 10 and 13, times flies. Given the choice between hanging with them or sitting in front of a TV yelling at a screen—I take my kids.

STADIUM JOURNEY: During your many travails, what stadium trips stand out for you and why?

JEFF PEARLMAN: Well, I always loved Shea Stadium because it was so ... Mets. Grimy, peeling paint, dirty. Forever loved it. I'll always remember being there the first game after 9/11, when Mike Piazza hit that bomb against Atlanta's Steve Karsay. Goosebumps all around. This is gonna sound obscure and goofy, but when I was at Delaware, covering men's basketball, they played in a crappy little gym, the Delaware Field House, with a track circling the court. It only seated about 2,000. Anyhow, in 1992 Delaware made the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and they did so by beating Drexel in the conference title game. And being in there, courtside, everything shaking, deafening noise, just absolute bliss and glee. That's my greatest stadium memory—and it wasn't a stadium. Just a crap gym.


Jon Hart is the author of Man versus Ball: One Ordinary Guy and His Extraordinary Sports Adventures.


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