Many Deadspin readers were probably introduced to Pat Jordan's work thanks to his Jose Canseco piece that was published here. If you looked a little closer at some of the other stories he'd penned in the past, you may have realized you'd read one of his stories before. Some of Jordan's best work is archived in the new book " The Best Sports Writing Of Pat Jordan," which is exceptional reading for anyone interested in sportswriting that's vital, literary, and human.
As you may know, Pat Jordan ain't no Rick Reilly. Jordan's profiles— from Roger Clemens, to Carlton Fisk, to O.J. Simpson, to Pete Rose Jr. — are all painstakingly excavated, analyzed and scrutinized through his head-first reporting. His stories reveal a darker, unflattering side of some — okay, most — of his subjects, but his technique is so refined it is more revelatory than gossipy. And although some of the stories are more than 30 years old, they feel remarkably timeless.
Here's a short interview with Pat Jordan that'll give you a little better idea of the type of writer — the type of man — behind some of these stories.
AJD: There seemed to be a time when sportswriters could befriend athletes — actually hang out with them, go to dinner with them, have a relationship that's convivial and not antagonistic. Are those days completely gone forever?
PJ: Gone forever. Now, you're lucky to get 20 minutes at their locker with everybody interrupting you. It's a big mistake on their part. Fans don't get to know them as people, to form a relationship with them as people, so they only know them as athletes and an image. See A Rod. Which is why fans delight in catching A Rod in gotcha moments with a stripper. These guys foster love-hate relationships with their fans because of the distance they maintain from them. If they let guys like me profile them, we could show fans their human side. Now, I was supposed to do a profile on Josh Beckett this spring, but he backed out of it. On one hand, I don't blame him. From his perspective, what does he have to gain? It's Beckett's prerogative, of course, but it would make him more human if I did a profile of him. Now fans just know him as a great pitcher, who's a sullen, red-ass, Texas boy. My profile would help him survive bad times in Boston when they come. But he can't think that far down the road.
AJD: Was there ever an athlete — either you've written about or just met casually — you perceived as an asshole who pleasantly surprised you?
PJ: Yes. Bo Belinsky (author's note: Bo Belinsky!). I thought he was a guy who pissed away his career, carelessly, but he was a man who was very sensitive, a good guy, who could never hurt anyone but himself.
AJD: You seem to have an admiration for players who are a little prickly, who have principles both on and off the field, like the piece on Carlton Fisk in your book. Do those athletes even exist anymore?
PJ: I don't know. I haven't interviewed such guys lately. Seaver, Fisk, they were men first, and athletes second. I admired them as men, and then, secondarily, as athletes. They had fucking standards. Maybe not my standards, but at least they had standards. They were AUTHENTIC. That's all i expect in a subject.
AJD: I found the story (Breakers West: Where The Kissing Never Stops) about the Williams sisters disturbing. It had this very incestuous vibe to it. You seemed to go out of your way to point out how their father wasn't the usual overbearing tennis father (in his mind, at least), but you had it peppered with those odd "I love you Daddy/I love you, Venus Williams" exchanges throughout. Were you genuinely freaked out by Richard Williams?
PJ: Second worst pathological liar i have interviewed. OJ was the first. Richard was a scary guy. A manipulator. He was not an authentic man.
AJD: You're married to Meg Ryan's mom. You did a piece slamming Meg because of some of things she'd said about your wife. Do you still have animosity toward her? Do you consider her, uh, a step daughter?
PJ: Technically, Meg is my step-daughter, even if she does refer to me in Hollywood as the Anti-Christ. But I hold no animosity toward her as long as she leaves her mother alone. I am known in Hollywood as Meg Ryan's mother's pit bull. No one fucks with my wife, especially not her kids. If Meg called her mother today and said she was sorry and she loved her, I'd be the first person to pick her up at the airport.
AJD: Obviously, Jose Canseco didn't appreciate the story you wrote about him. In fact, he (and his girlfriend!) pretty much discredited the whole thing by making it seem like you were an angry, bitter writer taking out your frustrations on him. How much of the version that you published on Deadspin do you think would've been in the piece had you actually spent some time with Canseco? Would an hour of his time really have changed the direction of the story that much? Or is Canseco just telling the truth again and you're just an angry, jealous man?
PJ: I certainly am not jealous of Jose. I never aspired to stupidity. But I was certainly pissed off at his dragging me to LA for three days and canceling our interview. He definitely would have come off better than he did if he'd have talked to me. Maybe he could have made himself more human in my eyes in a way he wasn't from a distance. His mistake.
AJD: Do you think the majority of sports writers are pussies?
PJ: Abso-fucking-lutely. Most have yet to grow pubic hair. They idolize and are resentful of jocks that have a talent they never had. They fawn over them one minute, and slam them the next. Very schizophrenic. I never admired athletes because I was one and knew just because we were athletes that didn't make us any better than anyone else. So I could throw a ball faster than a non-athlete, so what. Anyway, I admire athletes who are, again, AUTHENTIC. I am not a fan. I am a writer who appreciates authentic people, whether they are jocks, actors, politicians, or unknowns.
AJD:When was the last time you got into physical altercation with somebody?
PJ: I was 52. My wife and I were pedaling our bikes on the sidewalk on Fort Lauderdale beach. This big guy, maybe 220 lbs, 28 years old, was roller blading backwards toward us without looking. He clipped my wife's bike, almost spilling her to the sidewalk. When he passed me I said, "Hey, asshole, watch where you're going." So he skates back to me in a threatening way and says, "What did you call me?" I said, "Asshole." Now he's thinking, this is an old guy, but not that old, and then he slams into my wife's bike again and knocks her to the sidewalk. I leap off my bike on top of him and we're wrestling on the sidewalk. I have his head in a headlock, when my bicep rips, and I let go. He jumps off and skates furiously away, screaming back at me, that I was crazy. I told you, nobody fucks with my wife. Anyway, my bicep is still ripped and I never had it repaired. Long story, huh?
AJD: Does publishing a book like this depress you at all? Of course, it's gratifying, but at the same time, it's your life, or at least a huge chunk of it. Doesn't putting together a collection like this open you up to second guessing any of the choices you made?
PJ: Nothing depresses me, in my job, except when I'm not writing. Writing is an end for me, not a means. I aspire to nothing, ESPN-TV, fame, fortune, or anything, other than to be able to write each day and pay my bills. The collection has some of my best stuff, not all. I don't live in the past of everlasting regrets. Every story I do next, I think will be my best. That's what keeps me going. I am first, last, and always, a professional writer who lives to sit at the typewriter each morning. As for regrets, I have none, except for my sins, which will remain private as far as you're concerned. Certainly I have no regrets about my career. I never thought of my career as a career. It was God's gift. I fucked up the first gift God gave me, and hope He isn't still pissed off at me. Then He gave me a second career which I know I haven't fucked up. I do the best and truest work I can from story to story and let the rest of you decide whether their good, bad, or irrelevant. and you guys, Alex (Belth, the editor of Jordan's collection), and anyone else who reads my stuff is the point for me. I write for my readers, not me. If i don't please you, I failed. As for second-guessing, that's for losers. I live with my choices, even if I wish I hadn't made some of them. It's called, being a fucking man, guys.