After a twelve hour day yesterday, with most of my time dedicated to transcribing interviews with Pat McAfee and Larry Coyer, I cross 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale, walking towards a nearby hotel. I stroll into the hotel lobby, sit in some post-modern, art deco lobby chair, look at some emails on my smart phone, and wait. I'm in the hotel because I've got a date with Peter King, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and human target for just about every football blogger on the planet.
I resign myself to the notion that King will likely be late. Hell, if he shows up at all, I'll be shocked. We discussed talking at 8:30am that morning, just prior to the Colts press event. The reason we were talking in the first place yesterday morning was that Peter had, for no obvious reason, randomly decided to park at the table I was sitting at.
"How are you this morning, gentlemen?" he said to the group of us.
We all grunt a collective "hi" because we are under-nourished and sleep deprived.
Peter drops his bag down and sits. I lean over and introduce myself. I tell him I'm a Colts blogger and, to his credit, Peter does not start screaming and running away in terror. We then strike up a 30 minute, casual conversation that ranges from the Colts resting starters in Week Sixteen to Norv Turner's coaching in the playoffs to how overwhleming this whole Super Bowl media thing actually is.
Eventually, the subject turns to blogging, and Peter starts opening up about how bloggers, and blog readers, think of him. This gives me the bright idea to ask for an interview; let Peter King himself chat it up with one of the very bloggers who has called him every name in the book. He agreed, and he told me to meet him at the lobby of his hotel at 8:15pm.
Skip ahead. I'm in the hotel lobby in Fort Lauderdale. It's 8:15. I'm chuckling to myself as I wipe fatigue from eyes eyes and view the Photoshop jobs you readers did to my picture. I like the "Breaking News" one the best, but all are excellent. The lobby elevator doors open, and out walks Peter King.
8:15. on. the. dot.
Peter King: Hey, how you doing?
BBS: I'm tired man.
PK: Shit, let's get a beer.
On time and to the point. Already, I warm to Peter King.
We walk to the bar and he offers to buy me a beer. I tell him thanks, but a Diet Coke will do. I'm pretty tired and I have 45 minutes of driving to do after the interview. Plus, I do NOT want to get sloshed while interviewing Peter friggin King.
Peter asks for a Peroni, but the bar has none. He settled for Pilsner Urquell. A man of taste. I tell him I drank of lot of Peroni when I studied abroad in Tuscany as a college kid. He turns and lights up. I said his favorite word, "Tuscany," He vacations there with his wife, and has written about it.
The IU v. Purdue game is on, and Peter (knowing I'm from Indiana) points to the game on the bar flat screen.
BBS: You know, one of my colleagues wrote an article recently questioning if that game is still a rivalry.
Peter King turns to me and says, "WHAT! Was he kidding?"
I tell him I'm not sure.
We walk over to a nearby couch. I turn my recorder on. He pours his beer from bottle to pint glass and settles in. A white patch of hair waves through the center of his hair. He sips his beer. This is Peter King, right in front of me, ready to talk about anything I ask him.
BBS: What I want to talk about, if you don't mind, is you. I come from the blogosphere. I've taken shots at you. Many of colleagues have taken shots at you.
Peter King: Yep.
BBS: In the two days I've seen you work, you're just a regular guy. You work with precision. I'm wanting to know what you think of how bloggers think of you? Does it bother you? Does it baffle you? What?
Peter takes another sip of his Pilsner Urquell and thinks. It's a long pause before he answers.
PK: When I did a bunch of these [online] chats [like the Deadspin one several months ago]…
BBS: Some negative things were said.
PK: Yeah. "You’re a know-nothing, fat, piece of shit. You don’t know football. You're totally out of touch with reality. You’re an idiot. You’re gay for Favre." I… I don’t know what to say. I don’t know, I mean, all I can do is try and do my job, and do the best I can.
BBS: How long have you covered the NFL?
PK: Since 1984. So, it'd be my 25, 26th year, I guess.
BBS: That’s a long time.
PK: Yeah. But, you know, I see what the world is like. And I, look, I leave myself open for a lot of criticism, too. Like, I just, here is a good example today: Yesterday, I was on Sirius with Randy Cross and Bob Papa, and we had Chad Ochocinco on who, on the Week Seventeen game, was interviewed by Bob Costas before the game and he said, "If Darrelle Revis and the Jets shut me down, I'll change my name back to Chad Johnson."
BBS: I remember that.
PK: He got shut down not just once, but twice in the next two weeks.
BBS: Didn’t he try and say he was hurt with a knee injury?
PK: I don’t know what he said. Anyway, he said that he said that he was hurt, or that he’d said this and that. And then, so I asked him, "Have you changed your name back to Chad Johnson?" He goes, "No." And, he basically said that he was just kidding. And today, on Dan Patrick, he said that he had his fingers crossed. That he never meant it. And so, I just said, it’s a massive pile of horse crap. Which, it is. (BBS laughs) He lied. He told a lie on national TV. And so, that’s the kind of thing that, for some reason, and I like Chad...
BBS: Yeah, he seems like I nice guy.
PK: I’ve known him for a long time. He doesn’t do things to really hurt the game. He just is a funny guy. But anyway, so, he basically says that he didn’t mean it. And so, I said, I don’t accept that. I think you're a liar.
BBS: You told him that to his face?
PK: No. But, after he said today that he was just kidding, I was crossing my fingers, all that stuff, which he didn’t say on Sirius. But anyway, bottom line on the whole thing is that those are the things that I say that people, for some reason, seem to get infuriated about. I was on Twitter just before I came down here, and people just said [on Twitter], "Can’t you take a joke? You’re an idiot." Or whatever. You know. All that kind of stuff.
BBS: Does it bother you? Does it get to you? Because it seems you get inundated with it all the time?
PK: The only time it gets to… I’ll tell you when it got to me. After the NFC Championship game, I've got to write about 2200 words, a game story for Sports Illustrated.
BBS: Monday Morning Quarterback?
PK: No. For the magazine. I have to write a story for the magazine that gets in peoples hands by Wednesday and Thursday of the week. So, that’s my primary job at the NFC Championship Game. My primary job is to write for a magazine that has 3.1 mill subscribers, and I gotta do a good job and write something that no one else is gonna have. So, that’s my primary responsibility. Quite frankly, I think I did a helluva job. I went to the Saints, to Sean Payton’s party afterward, I saw what they did the night before the game. How he tried to inspire his players with Ronnie Lott in a video, and blah, blah, blah. Whatever. So, that’s my game story for the magazine. And, obviously, that took up a lot of time and energy after the game to go do that, to go to that party that Payton had.
BBS: It was the later game, too.
PK: Yeah, it was the later game. So, I leave the Super Dome, Eastern time, at 11:50 pm. I walk over to this party, spend about a half hour there. I get back to my room at around Eastern time at 2am-
BBS: Can I interrupt you?
BBS: When you’re at this party, you’re working.
PK: Oh yeah.
BBS: You’re not there partying.
PK: No. No, I'm just talking to Payton, talking to a few people there. And so, at SI, you really have to try the best you can to do something that’s going to be a little bit different in the magazine the following week. So, then I just wrote that. And what I wrote for Monday Morning Quarterback was... I knew I wasn’t going to have the normal amount of time after the game that I normally have because I've got to write this other story. And, I'm not even going to sit down until one or two in the morning to write either one of them. So on Friday and Saturday, I write two long things for MMQB. One, an interview with Tim Tebow. And one, grading all the juniors, and kind of placing them in the first round of the draft. And that’s about 2500 words. Those two things combined. So, I feel good that I've git two very topical things. Even though Tebow did a press conference in Mobile, AL Sunday night. I mean, I thought I had him first, and I did. Whatever. I've got some good stuff from him. And then, after the game, I think the most dramatic thing in the game is this idiotic interception that Favre thew, and also the handling of the clock down the stretch.
BBS and PK in unison: The twelve men in the huddle.
PK: All that stuff. And I knew that it would get so discussed that I'm not going to have time to get into it too much in my game story for the magazine that my job is; that that’s gonna get blown out over the next day or two. So, I said, I'm gonna flood MMQB with that, ok. Most weeks, on other big games in the league, I'm able to do some phone interviews. I know enough people that I could have gotten like, for the Indianapolis game that day... I couldn’t have gotten [Peyton Manning] on the phone, but I could have gotten Dallas Clark, or [Pierre Garcon], one of the guys. But see, I'm in the middle of covering the NFC Championship Game. So, I can’t spend 20 minutes on the phone with Dallas Clark or with somebody.
BBS: And you weren’t in Indianapolis. You were in New Orleans.
PK: I wasn’t in Indianapolis. So, anyway, I write this column. Its very heavy. It leads with Favre, very heart broken. And all this stuff.
BBS: It was very human towards [Brett Favre].
PK: Yeah. Which nobody wants anyway, and I knew that when I wrote it. That people would say, "Oh, here he goes again with Favre." But, to me, fuck, the Favre angle, in essence, is-- Why does that game have the biggest playoff ratings in 15 or 20 years, other than the Super Bowl? Because its got this Favre thing. Anyway, be that as it may, so I write this and by about 10 o'clock, and I don't sleep on Sunday night, and by about 10 o'clock when I'm on my way to the airport to go home, I pick up [the Blackberry] and I just look at Twitter. I must have had 150 tweets. "You Favre-loving asshole. We hate you and the horse you road in on. How dare you! Thanks for writing about the Colts and their great victory." And all this other stuff.
BBS: I'll be honest with you. I read your article, and I almost wrote something about that.
PK: Oh sure.
BBS: I was like, "COME ON! Manning's in the Super Bowl! Nothing? We don't get anything? Come on!"
BBS: And I stopped myself from doing it because, I thought, let me read what hes gonna say first before-
PK: What I probably should have done is I should have explained what I did on Tuesday in Monday's column. But, quite honestly, its a friggin fire drill on Sunday night to finish all those things and to try to write a really good game story that 3 million people are gonna read three days later. So, I'm a little bit, you know, preoccupied with trying to do my job for the magazine. So, I thought of it, and then I thought, Oh fuck it. I'll deal with that tomorrow. And, those were the only times where I said, you know, have some idea of what it is that I do and the job that I have to do before you hang me to the cross and put the nails in.
Part II will be posted later today.
[UPDATE]: Here is Part II.