THE BAD GUYS WON!
By Jeff Pearlman
HarperCollins 287 pages $24.95
This is an article from the May 10, 2004 issue
"Bad, bad people." "Jerks." "Vile f------." "Villains."
"Unpleasant." "Obnoxious." "Scum." If you hear a group of guys
repeatedly described as such, you'd keep your distance. But if a
group of guys describe themselves that way--well, it'd be wise to
just run. The world champion 1986 New York Mets use all those
epithets, and more, to refer to one another. If even a fraction
of the gossip Pearlman reports here is true, they're letting
themselves off easy.
Yes, this is primarily a book of gossip; but that's not a
criticism. For gossip, like alcohol, comes in varying degrees of
quality and potency. Lousy gossip is like watered-down beer
("Sources on the set of Runaway Bride say the sparks are really
flying between Julia Roberts and Richard Gere!"). But the
high-end stuff makes your innards churn and your hair stand on
end. Try a few sips of Pearlman's finest, and judge for yourself.
On a charter flight two Mets whip out their private parts and
urge the stewardesses to pleasure them. On another flight, the
drinking and roughhousing get so out of control that several
players' wives emerge from the plane with "their snazzy North
Beach Leather outfits covered in vomit." Players pump themselves
up with amphetamines. (Even straitlaced Ray Knight tells Pearlman
he took them, though no more than 10 times in his career). Doug
Sisk dangles used toilet paper in Dwight Gooden's locker because
that is the Mets' idea of a joke.
Now, any honest sportswriter will tell you it's not particularly
unusual for ballplayers to act like jerks. But Pearlman, a former
SI writer now with Newsday, unveils a culture of crassness
remarkable not only for its depths but for the extent to which
the Mets were forgiven--even rewarded--for their affronts to
human decency. One night at a Hertz counter, according to a
witness cited in newspaper reports, Gooden had an altercation
with a clerk and called her "a stupid bitch," and his sister
tossed a drink during the spat. Four months later Gooden was
retained as a spokesman for Hertz's rival, National Car Rental.
"Gooden has had experience with other car-rental companies," an
executive explained, "but he prefers the treatment he gets from
On and on the stories go, for a hundred pages or so, and at times
the reader feels almost too grossed out to continue. And yet the
approach in the second half of the book is in many ways even more
shocking. Pearlman, you see, is a Mets fan, and despite making a
completely convincing case that these Mets, with a few
exceptions, were a contemptible bunch, he goes on to recount
their run to the championship as if they were just another
lovable band of rascals--the Very Bad News Bears. As a reminder
that most of us know absolutely nothing about the people we cheer
for, except that they wear our hometown colors, this is a
worthwhile read for any sports fan. But it's not necessarily
pleasant. Like sitting down to a steak dinner after spending the
afternoon in a slaughterhouse, you may find if difficult to
summon your appetite.