Buzz Bissinger Is Trying to Chill Out

The Pulitzer-winning journalist, author of Friday Night Lights and leather-obsessed shopaholic speaks at Penn’s Kelly Writers House this month. Here, he tells us about his new, less angry life.

Friday Night Lights Author Buzz Bissinger

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Buzz Bissinger. I was born Harry Gerard Bissinger III. “Buzz” was a nickname given to me at birth by my mother.

I grew up … in New York City, on the Upper West Side. It was great. The city was different, and my parents gave me the full run of it at the age of 11 or 12. It was incredibly stimulating.

I live … between my apartment in downtown Philadelphia and a home in Long Beach, Washington, which I bought in October. It’s basically where Lewis and Clark ended up, with the Pacific on one side and Willapa Bay on the other. I’m in Philadelphia a week a month, sometimes more. But I dress the way they do in Washington now. More Carhartt, less Gucci.

I am most proud of … canceling my Twitter account, despite 25,000 followers.

On Sunday mornings … I read the New York Times online. Then I lie in bed watching NFL football to see how my fantasy football team is doing.

My parents taught me … both the importance of culture and, much more, the importance of working and trying to succeed. Which is a double-edged sword, because there’s a limit to ambition, and when you’re always trying to reach the next level of success, you are never really satisfied.

My favorite Philadelphian … was Arthur Makadon. I loved him. He was an iconoclast, a character in a city where there are no longer many characters.

I hope the next president … is John Kerry. He’s very statesmanlike.

If you really want to piss me off … ask questions about what I’ve been through recently. I don’t want to elaborate. But it’s been intense.

The thing people get wrong about me … is that I’m a hard-ass. I’m not. I have a soft touch. I’ve changed. My temper was a manifestation of my own misery. I am embarrassed by the ways in which I displayed it.

You cannot beat me at … naming all the World Series teams from 1957 to 1982. But other than that, I’m astounded by what I misplace and what I forget. I’m 59.

The biggest problem with Philadelphia … is this still-Puritan mentality. It’s not a place of accepting people who are different.

The most overrated Philadelphia athlete right now … is Chase Utley. No, I take it back. Ryan Howard. The most ridiculous contract we’ve ever given out.

When I was 16 … I was horny. I also had a beard and a mustache.

My wife is always telling me … to chill out. And I’m getting better at it.

The Internet’s effect on journalism … is the effect on culture in general. People don’t read anything. We’re not just a culture of soundbites, but of soundbite paragraphs. Quality at newspapers is terrible. But we get what we want.

If you’re coming to my house in Philly for dinner … I will probably order takeout from Tiffin.

One TV show I wish they’d bring back … is, of course, Breaking Bad. But I also miss Dobie Gillis for some reason, which shows I am getting senile.

To all my haters, I say … if you want to hate me, that’s fine. I can’t control it. But you can go fuck yourself. I’ve learned not to care. I’ve made enough noise in my life for a lifetime. Making noise will make you crazy.