Two days beforethe 2007 Super Bowl in Miami, SI's NFL writers and editors gathered for dinnerat Joe's Stone Crab. At one point senior writer Peter King, who was sitting atthe end of the table wearing a bib, was simultaneously cracking crab legs,taking a call on his BlackBerry, writing in his reporter's notebook and keepingup a somewhat heated conversation with Dr. Z about the point spread. Takingthis in, Peter's wife, Ann, turned to NFL senior editor Mark Mravic and said,"People ask me what it's like to be married to Peter King...."
This is an article from the Sept. 7, 2009 issue
It is a variationon that theme to be one of King's colleagues. This is his 20th NFL season withSI, after being recruited from Newsday, where he overlapped briefly with TimLayden, now also an SI senior writer. "It's fall 1988, and I'm new,"says Layden. "Newsday assigns me a nebulous midweek story in advance of aGiants-49ers game. I have no idea whom to call. I walk into the press room atGiants Stadium. I ask Peter what to do. Just as I ask, the phone on the tablerings. Peter picks it up and starts talking. Then the phone next to it rings.Peter picks that one up too and starts talking. One corded phone to each ear.Then he tells each person, 'Hang on one second.' He turns to me and says, 'Youneed to talk to Sam Wyche. His private number is ***-***-****. His secretary isMaggie [not her real name]. Call her at 12:18 because that's when Sam gets hiscoffee and he'll be outside his office. Tell her you need three minutes withSam.' Then he puts each of the two corded phones back to his ears and resumestwo conversations."
The stories keepcoming (often with pizza), but they all end the same, with King helpingsomeone. At Giants Stadium two weeks before the 2008 Giants-Patriots SuperBowl, reporter Elizabeth McGarr was on her first NFL story for SI, a sidebar onMichael Strahan. It was a rough assignment for a couple of reasons: Strahan canbe prickly, and the Giants were howling underdogs. After Strahan's pressconference King had a nervous McGarr follow him out the door to a golf cart,where Strahan sat in the passenger's seat, a Giants p.r. guy at the wheel.Peter spent five minutes interviewing Strahan, then seamlessly told Strahan,"I'd like you to meet a colleague of mine at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, ElizabethMcGarr." The p.r. guy already had his foot on the accelerator, but Kingeased around to the other side of the golf cart and struck up a conversationwith him. McGarr got about seven minutes with Strahan, and when her notebookwas full, she caught Peter's eye. "O.K.," King said, to the p.r. guy,"thanks a lot." The golf cart sped off. Senior writer Lee Jenkins, whotells this story, calls it the "coolest example of teamwork I have everseen in this business." McGarr, who had been at SI for a short time and hadnever met King before that afternoon, felt a combination of exhilaration,relief and pride, "like being initiated into Peter's very specialtribe."
After longtimefriend and colleague Paul (Dr. Z) Zimmerman suffered a series of strokes, Kingorganized a benefit in New Jersey attended by 250, including journalists, NFLinsiders and the coaches of both New York teams. The event raised more than$150,000. King's nickname at NFL headquarters in New York City is Relentless.Do they read him? "Have to," all agree, from commissioner down.
King has beenwriting his Monday Morning Quarterback column for SI.com—and asking NFLofficials, "What does your gut tell you?"—since 1997, back in thePleistocene of sports websites. Those 800 words a week have become 8,000. Andbecause there essentially isn't an off-season in the NFL, he writes 48 weeks ayear instead of 24. Senior editor Larry Burke, who edited King's forthcomingbook (a collection of his columns updated with new material, below), says thatwhile other people multitask and divide their attention accordingly, King doesfive things at once and gives his all to each of them. "It's really how helives his life," says Burke, "reporter, writer, TV analyst, husband,father, coach, friend, humanitarian, coffee-drinker."
During the seasonKing will do about a dozen radio interviews a week, take numerous calls fromcoaches and general managers, and field questions from strangers on the street:"Hey, Peter, what about the Vikings?" Here's what happens next: Kingstops and says, "Here are the four things you have to know about theMinnesota Vikings this year," and does five minutes on all thingspurple.
Ask King's variedassociates to tell you one thing about him, and you'll get: He drives fast;he's interested in sandwiches; he does his TV in one take; he knows what he'sdoing, knows what he wants; he walks into a training camp cafeteria, andplayers cheer; he won't let anything get in the way of his friendship withyou.
Peter King onceoffered to give back a chunk of his pay to help save jobs at SI. His colleaguesdidn't know that until now. I'm sure they're not surprised.
This week four covers were shuffled at SI's six printing plants.
Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback: A Fully Caffeinated Guide toEverything You Need to Know about the NFL will be in stores on Oct. 13 andavailable online at si.com/mmqbbook