The Sports by Brooks mystery resurfaced thanks to Jeff Pearlman.

Perhaps the biggest sports media mystery out there is “What happened to Sports by Brooks’ Brooks Melchior?” Melchior ran a successful sports site from 2001 to 2012, then stopped tweeting in 2013 and vanished. Renowned sports author Jeff Pearlman (GunslingerThe Bad Guys Won, Boys Will Be Boys, The Rocket That Fell To Earth and more) solved the mystery in 2016 and teased a long forthcoming piece on it for Bleacher Report on June 2, but then tweeted June 20 that he wrote the piece and decided not to run it. Last October, Pearlman went into more detail on The Chris Mannix Show, saying he still had the story, but his Bleacher Report editor felt uncomfortable with it and Pearlman decided the editor was correct. And that’s where it lay, until Pearlman tweeted out the start of the story Wednesday.

Update: Pearlman has since deleted the tweet, which is why the photo no longer shows up. It was essentially the first page of his story, providing details about waiting outside an apartment where he expected answers. Here’s the exchange where he talks about deleting it:

For reference, here’s exactly what Pearlman said to Mannix last fall about why the story didn’t run:

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 added in his conversation with Mannix that he regretted “teasing” people with the potential story, and some people interpreted his posting of the lede Wednesday as yet another tease.

Some brought even harsher criticism:

This is a complicated situation, and one that’s impossible to fully evaluate without knowing exactly what Pearlman knows and what his story would contain. In some ways, it’s refreshing to see Pearlman (and the B/R editor who expressed his discomfort) err on the side of not publishing. Once a story is published, that genie can’t be put back in the bottle, and we’ve seen how damaging chasing and publishing certain stories can be. And many writers and outlets would be determined to publish what they found, especially to try and recoup some of the time and money spent on a project like this. No one on the outside can really know if Pearlman and B/R made a good call to not publish this piece, but they may well have, and at the very least, they’ve avoided potential perils that could have come from publishing it.

However, the criticism of Pearlman for bringing this up again is also interesting. It’s understandable why he decided to put this out there; he undoubtedly worked hard on this story, the part he released is a nice piece of writing, and it makes it clear that it wasn’t an easy hunt. It also is decent evidence that he did find at least part of the answer to “What happened to Sports By Brooks?”; Pearlman’s comments to Mannix revealed he didn’t meet Melchior face-to-face, so knocking on that door didn’t produce a face-to-face conversation, but it clearly had some significance to the overall story.

At the same time, though, this certainly does feel like another tease about the story, and one that might build up more demand for a definitive answer of “What happened to Brooks?” And just because Pearlman and B/R decided not to run their story in the end, that doesn’t bind all media members or outlets (or people outside the traditional media) to not pursue it. That brings up some questions, too; while Pearlman Xed out the address in his piece, he provided the city, the apartment sign, the year, make and model of the car, and the name of one of the private detective agencies involved, factors someone else might be able to use in their own hunt for Melchior. That would probably be a bad idea (Pearlman and B/R probably had a decent reason for dropping this story), but it might happen.

Maybe no one else will actually try to hunt down Melchior, or maybe those mentioned facts aren’t enough to put anyone on the right trail (or have changed substantially in the meantime); we don’t know from the outside. But we do know that Pearlman’s mention of this got people talking about Melchior again, and gave them a glimpse of what his story looked like. That’s interesting for the curious, but it does also feel like teasing this again, and bringing yet more attention to Melchior’s disappearance.

[Jeff Pearlman on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.