Jeff Pearlman is the New York Times best-selling author of eight books, including biographies of Brett Favre, Walter Payton, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and the 1986 New York Mets and 1990s Dallas Cowboys. He is a former ESPN columnist and Sports Illustrated senior writer whose 1999 profile of then-Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker remains one of the most widely read stories in the magazine’s 64-year history. He has covered everything from the World Series to the Olympics to the World Electric Football Championships and women’s mud wrestling.
A multi-time Best American Sports Writing honoree, Jeff has made hundreds of appearances on national sports television, and is a weekly regular on ESPN Radio. He has been called “an insider’s insider” (Sports Illustrated) and “one of the best sports biographers in the country" (Bleacher Report).
Jeff’s career has placed him up close and personal with some of America’s biggest stars and weirdest characters. He sat across a desk from a shrunken, jaundiced Walter Payton for the legendary running back’s final interview. He rode shotgun as former Braves closer John Rocker ripped on foreigners, New York City, minorities and the characters at Disney World (really). He experienced Barry Bonds’ rage, Joe Torre’s euphoria, Allen Iverson’s weirdness. He’s been threatened by David Wells, mocked by Emmitt Smith, befriended by Jeanie Buss. He’s sat across from a naked Rodney Dangerfield as he smoked from a bong and had a former Green Bay Packers tight end threaten to kill him. The stories are rich, absorbing—and endless.
Over the course of thousands of articles and eight books, Jeff has devoted hours upon hours to understanding the psyche of the athlete at his/her highest level. Why do some become legends, while others (often of equal-to-greater talent) flame out? Why is Walter Payton in the Hall of Fame while his brother (Eddie Payton) a mere footnote in NFL history? And what can we learn from our sports stars when it comes to accomplishing greatness in our own lives?
Jeff has written the definitive biographies of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers and the 1990s Dallas Cowboys. He will discuss, with a PhD-level understanding, how these franchises were constructed and maintained. The Cowboys, for example, went 1-15 in Jimmy Johnson’s first season as head coach. Yet instead of panicking, the organization traded its only star for a bushel of players and draft picks, then turned those draft picks into even more draft picks. Every player added to the roster was measured for a dozen different intangibles. Every move was thought out 100 times before being enacted. Jeff will take you deep behind the scenes, into the locker rooms and front offices.
Few football players have captured America’s attention like Hall of Famer Walter Payton, and no public figures have been more riveting and mysterious. From leading the desegregation of schools in Columbia, Mississippi to reaching the national dance championships on Soul Train; from breaking Jim Brown’s all-time NFL rushing record to hiding in a closet after Super Bowl XX (because he didn’t score a touchdown), Payton was a man of remarkable depth and contradictions. Why, on the day he died his obituary paid tribute to a 45-year-old man. Walter Payton was, in fact, 46.
The field is more confusing than ever. Print has all but died. Websites expect people to write for free. Twitted demands speed over quality. It can be dizzying, frustrating, irksome. And yet, Jeff has carved out a 20-year career as a writer—and you can, too. Here are the secrets, the tools, the approaches, the ideas that genuinely work.