Last June, Jeff Pearlman teased that he would have a long piece on what happened to Brooks Melchior, the mercurial founder of the website Sports By Brooks who disappeared from public view in 2012. Soon after, Pearlman revealed that the piece would not be running.
In October, Pearlman appeared on the Chris Mannix Show and talked about that decision (via Awful Announcing):
“Here’s what I can tell you. I wrote the story. I literally have on my computer a 10,000-word Sports by Brooks story that I busted my butt on hardcore. I wrote it for Bleacher Report and one of the editors said ‘I just don’t feel comfortable with this because it feels like a mental health illness.’ I did not find him, as in we did not have a face-to-face encounter. I found out, basically, what has become of him. And I’ll just say that I think my editor is correct in that it was the right thing not to…I’ll just say sometimes people go away for a reason. Not just because they fade out of prominence.”
Pearlman also put out some audio on Bumpers with some information on why the piece did not run. Pearlman detailed that he “worked with two private investigators, interviewed 50, 60, 70 people, made tons of calls, went to different addresses where I thought he lived.” Pearlman, who said “I pretty much got my answer of where he likely is,” also said he was initially pissed when the Bleacher Report editor, Matt Sullivan, decided not to run the piece, but then agreed with the decision.
So we should be good here, right? Brooks Melchior of Sports By Brooks did not want to be found, there are concerns about his underlying condition and revealing things, and Pearlman was never able to actually talk to him.
Brooks Melchior’s story is of public interest because he ran a high-profile website, was a controversial figure, and then suddenly disappeared from public view. He’s one of the early founders of the sports website model that includes our own. We got plenty of requests to look into him.
I never wrote 10,000 words in a draft copy, but I also dug around on Brooks, who is from the Kansas City area just like I am. He started with sports radio here in Kansas City before he ever started the Sports By Brooks site. I reached out to several people that knew him, contacted family members, did background research, and reached out via a cell phone number he had previously used. Ultimately, I came to a similar conclusion: he didn’t want to be found, and there were plenty of clues that it was something of a medical nature. With an unwilling subject, it was not something I was comfortable pursuing, despite knowing there was reader interest in the story.
I understand the frustration of putting in work on a story and then nothing coming of it, but that’s the business. We have “scoops” and stories we look into all the time, and decide it’s not something we can do, or after investigation, that it’s not a story.
So yesterday, Pearlman–who still must have some doubts about not running the story, or must have a desire to do so–posted on his Twitter account the opening paragraphs of his never-published Brooks story. It included details of going to a specific apartment complex in a specific community, based on private investigator tips. That prompted some responses, many wanting more info, but some critical of the decision to re-open this issue and put more info out there.
Pearlman eventually deleted the tweet that contained the image of those opening paragraphs.
I don’t know why Pearlman decided to share that in the first place, unless he is battling some doubts about whether it was the right decision. But at this point, it’s s*** or get off the pot, as the saying goes. In this case, just knowing what I know, and the decision of his editor, it’s time to get off this one.
You can’t post this story in its current condition with an unwilling subject with whom you were unable to ever speak. Maybe someday, Brooks Melchior will want to tell his story, or at least part of it, and there will be no shortage of interest if that happens. But until then, let it go, Jeff.
[image from SportsByBrooks Twitter account]