This is Part II of our lengthy interview with Sports Illustrated's Peter King. Part I is available here. We finished Part I with Peter discussing how he'd like it if people would, at least, try and understand how much effort and hard work he puts into his stories before they bash him.
Peter continues this thought...
Peter King: But, listen, fans are fans. They’re passionate about their team. If I lived in Indianapolis and I wrote two paragraphs on the Colts making the Super Bowl on Monday Morning Quarterback when I’m writing 7500 words, or something, I’d be pissed off too. So, I’m not unaware. It’s not unfair that that reaction was made. But, just the vitriol, and the anger, and the "I wish I could punch you in the nose." You know, those kind of things. Anyway, so…
BBS: Physical harm is not… yeah.
PK: Yeah. But again, I wouldn’t be anywhere if there were no fans. So, I mean, if there wasn’t intense interest about the game. So, I’m not, I mean, I don’t go to bed saying "Oh my God! I need to make people love me." You know. I’m not going to.
BBS: You can’t do that.
PK: I can’t! There’s a bunch of people that are going to hate me more regardless.
BBS: You’ll be more miserable.
BBS: I want to talk to you more about Favre later, but I want to ask you this question now; you started out in newspapers, right?
PK: I worked for five years at the Cincinnati Inquirer and then I worked for four years for Newsday.
BBS: I remember seeing one of your Inside the NFL pieces on Sam Wyche and how you used to the cover [the Bengals.]
PK: Oh yeah.
BBS: Do you like doing what you are doing now? You have a ton of exposure now. You’ve got the SI article, just in the magazine. You have your online content. You’ve got the TV stuff. Just in terms of all of the work you do, do you enjoy doing all this work, or did you enjoy like it when it was a little bit simpler where you just had, you know, the beat?
PK: No. when I first got to Sports Illustrated, the first three or four years, it was like being on vacation. I write a four page column in the fall, Inside the NFL, in the fall. That’s what I do. That’s the only thing I do. And then, during the off-season, I might do a few stories, but you know you got four weeks vacation and then you got another eight weeks where you’re not asked to do anything. I said, "My god! What a job! (BBS laughs) This is unbelievable!
BBS: That’s great.
PK: But, it’s also a little bit of a phony life. You know? When si.com first came in, first it was cnnsi.com in 1997, and when that came in, I mean, that was really a little bit more up my alley because I’m not Gary Smith or Rick Riley. I can’t write like that, and I’ve never been able to do that. So, I’m more of a newspaper guy. And so, you know, I just, I think this fits me a little better. I think this world fits me a little bit better because the emphasis in Monday Morning Quarterback is on what I call "quality volume."
BBS: it almost reads like a blog.
PK: Yeah, that’s what it is.
BBS: It almost reads like a blog.
PK: Dick Ebersol calls it a blog.
PK: Yeah, he said, "I consider your column the first blog that I remember." You know, because I’ve been writing it since 1997. And he always says "Hey, I read your blog today." (BBS laughs) Which, you know, it’s about what it is really. Isn’t it? I don’t know.
PK: Just throwing out my thoughts about things mostly.
BBS: And it’s the [gold] standard, in a lot of ways. Because so much of what… I’ve been doing this for only four years.
At this point, a football fan walks over to us and apologizes for interrupting our talk. He smiles and asks to shake Peter’s hand. Peter smiles back and says hi, returning the handshake. The fan is from Long Island, NY and is surprised that Peter is staying in the same hotel as he is. Peter tells the fan that if he ever wants to chat football or anything, he can find him in and around the hotel. The fan, seemingly giddy, thanks Peter and apologizes to me for interrupting. It’s all good. Seeing the guys face light up when he got to shake Peter’s hand is kind of what all this football fan stuff is all about. Also, the whole thing is a bit, I don’t know, fitting. Here we are talking about fans calling Peter "gay for Favre" and other wanting to kick his ass for not writing enough about the Colts after the AFC Championship Game, and here is a fan from Long Island all happy and bubbly that he got to meet Peter King.
The fan steps away and we continue.
BBS: I’ve been doing this for four years, and what I do, I come from a family of journalists (I mention my wife, my aunt, etc.). I was never trained for this. And everything I’ve done is I’ve come into things with the point of view of a fan. Everything I’ve written has been opinion based. It has been almost nothing but throwing thoughts out onto the internet. And as I’ve done this over and over, it has been refined. And since I’ve come here [to Miami] and I’ve seen how the machine works, and I’ve seen guys like you work, it has been eye opening. Because it has been so very, very, VERY easy to read your five pages of Monday Morning Quarterback, and just bash the hell out of it. Because it’s the [fan] instinct that comes out. Because I view everything as a fan. And when you think that a team is great, infallible, and then you see criticism, or not even critics! You see the team just not get the coverage that you think that it deserves, oh my God it’s the worst thing in the world!
PK: Right. Yeah
BBS: So, I mean, I guess I’ll ask you, what do you think of all this new media? Because so much of what I talk about with people is this is the clash between the old and the new.
PK: I think the new media is, for the most part, I think it’s fantastic. Because it’s quick. It’s what my two daughters read.
BBS: They read blogs?
PK: Oh yeah!
BBS: What blogs do they read?
PK: I don’t know. It’s almost all like, I would say, entertainment related. You know what I mean?
PK: Yeah. They’re big on TMZ and everything like that.
BBS: They’re starting a sports section soon.
PK: Yeah, I heard about that. But anyway, they’re big on that and they feel like they… that’s basically how they get their news. My one daughter lives in Los Angeles, and she’ll read the LA Times online every day. And, she’s into it. And she even reads the news, but it’s totally foreign to them to read a newspaper. Now I have to have the New York Times in my hand every day.
BBS: You can’t read it online?
PK: I do sometimes when I’m on the road. I will read it online a lot of times, especially if the only thing I can get is a very early national edition. Anyway, I’ll read it online a lot but I gotta see that. I much prefer to touch it every day. But see, I understand that the world is changing. There’s a reason why I try aggressively to do Twitter. There’s a reason why I understand why Monday Morning Quarterback is sort of my meal ticket to the future. And that other things, every day this week I did a podcast for si.com. I mean because, people don’t want to wait. They really don’t want to wait. Now, my columns are, I think, still well read but I think that in the magazine, when I do something in Scorecard, this week’s Scorecard is "Does Kurt Warner belong in the Hall of Fame? And, you know, those are good things. But, my feeling is we have to embrace the new media or its going to run us over. And I’m 52 years old, and I’ll be a dinosaur soon enough. But I want to fight that period as long as I can. And I want to try as best I can to know how people get their information, how they work, and what I should be doing. So, the only thing I don’t like about it is when it’s intensely personal. But I understand that people are gonna have strong feelings. It doesn’t really whack me out too much.
BBS: What advice can you give bloggers like me in regards to covering sports and writing?
PK: For you, it’s gotta be really hard because, I guess, you can’t talk to the players.
BBS: No. This is the only time I’ve ever been able to talk to the players and it’s been absolutely awesome! All I’ve done today, I’ve talked to 17 players and 7 coaches.
PK: See, that’s fantastic!
BBS: And I’ve transcribed anything and it’s been awesome. The information that I’ve gotten, the insight I’ve gotten, has been like, boom! And its killed me that I don’t have this kind of access [regularly]
PK: See, I don’t know what the NFL should do. I really don’t know. I don’t know what the rules should be, but, and I’m really not positive, but we have to acknowledge that people are getting their information from a different way. What you told me today about the intense interest on your blog of what happened with the Colts.
BBS: In Week Sixteen.
PK: I mean, now if some blog is getting 2000 hits a month, well then I don’t think the NFL ought to credential them. But, if somebody is getting, you know 750,000 hits a month, then I think the NFL has to take that pretty seriously and we gotta let this guy in.
BBS: I get 50,000 a day.
PK: Fuck! You should have credentials!
BBS: My stuff gets placed on Yahoo Sports. On USA Today. On cbssports.com.
PK: See, you should have a credential.
BBS: Well, it’s the teams that control it. And the Colts have this very strict no blogger policy that they enforce to the letter. In fact, when [Mike Lombardi] tried to get creds for National Football Post, they told him no because he was associated with a blog. This is the guy who was the former GM of the Browns!
BBS: So, they’re very strict about it. But, now they’ve totally frozen me out after the criticism I levied against them for week sixteen, which is unfortunate because I like their PR people. But, it doesn’t come from them.
PK: I’ve got a theory about the Colts and Week Sixteen.
BBS: What’s your theory?
PK: They may have talked about it today.
Some gents in suits walk over and get Peter’s attention. Apparently, he’s running late for something.
BBS: By the way, if I’m holding you up, I’m sorry.
PK: We gotta go, but my theory is that I think it’s entirely possible that the Colt looked at the landscape and looked Week Seventeen in Buffalo.
BBS: In Buffalo; in the snow.
PK: In Buffalo. But, not only looking at Week Seventeen at Buffalo in the snow but looking at week seventeen buffalo moved to a Sunday Night Game on NBC.
BBS: You mentioned this [theory] on a radio show that I listened to, that is [game] would get moved.
PK: Don’t you think that Peyton Manning, going to duplicate the Patriots, don’t you think there’s a very good chance? Unless there was a team that, you know, win and you’re in. And I think that maybe they would have taken the Colts over that. But I’m saying that, do you think the Colts want to be in position, ten below zero, with maybe some snow, slippery field, to have the Bills playing with their drunken fans? You know. 80,000 in the stands.
BBS: In a blizzard! It would have been a blizzard at night!
PK: In a blizzard. You know, potential to have to win the game to be undefeated, do you think they would want that? I don’t.
BBS: In a primetime setting where if they sit starters in primetime like [they did in week sixteen]-
PK: The human cry is going to be even more massive.
BBS: it would be huge.
PK: So, I don’t know. My theory is that I think that and, I’m not asked, I think Bill Polian did not mind losing in [Week Sixteen].
BBS: I don’t think he did either. And I know he really didn’t care what we thought, you know, because he told us. But, hey, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate it.
PK: Sure, no problem. Good luck.
We shake hands and I pack up my things. Peter finishes his Pilsner Urquell. The two gents approach peter and he says, "Yeah, let’s do this. We can do this here." I assume he’s doing another interview, or maybe a podcast. It’s now near 9pm. The dude has been working all day, like me. However, unlike me, he isn’t done. He is STILL making content. Me? I head back to the pad where I’m staying.
I place my recorder back in my bag and walk out. I nod to the valet guy. It’s just a friendly "sup" nod, not a nod that he go get my friggin car ASAP! My car isn’t parked at the hotel. It’s back at the media center. I walk out into the night. South Florida this evening is cool with a nice breeze. I head back to the media center, steal a Mountain Dew from one of the dozens of complimentary beverage fridges, and head to the parking garage. "Fat hump," I think to myself. I am one for drinking this crap, but I need the caffeine to get home.
The drive is quiet. No radio. No music; just me and my thoughts. I digest everything I’ve heard throughout the day. I let it sink in deep. I let it settle. I realize that I didn’t ask Peter more questions about his supposed "love" for Brett Favre. But, right now, those questions really don’t matter. I think back on all the harsh, nasty, hateful words I’ve used to describe Peter King, and I cannot help but feel the bitter tingle of shame. Do I regret writing them? No. I believe in writing as a fan, and a fan’s voice is best written unfiltered and raw. No editing. No holding back; first thoughts in your mind pushed out into the digital world. And, quite frankly, many of the other media people I’ve taken shots at over the years deserve the harsh words. Hell, some of them write their crap to solicit those words. And in meeting several of them here, it has actually made me feel better about bashing them. They deserve it because they are lazy, stuck-up, entitled douchebags.
Not Peter King.
I once called him a lazy fat ass. Yeah, that was not an accurate slam on my part. On I-95 South, driving through downtown Miami on my way to Coral Gables, I realize how very much behind the curve I really am when it comes to creating new media content. Meanwhile, Peter King, the "fat, stupid, ignorant, closet Patriots fan" I have attacked for four years? Yeah, he’s kind of the gold standard in new media. He gets it. If anyone is fat, stupid, and lazy, it’s me.
I get to the place I’m staying after 10pm. I’m the first one home. The place belongs to my friend Chris, the Jaguars blogger at Big Cat Country. I pull out some left over Chinese food, pour a glass of wine, and dig in. Chris enters a few minutes later. He’s excited and anxious.
Chris: So, how’d it go with King?
I finish my cold Chinese, take a breath, prop my dirty feet up on the coffee table, and tell him how it will be very, very difficult for me to bash Peter King, the man, ever again. I will likely hate a future idea or an observation he makes. I may call them stupid. But is he stupid? No. No way. Peter King is pretty cool, and is nowhere near the dinosaur stage in his life that he so vigorously fights against.