SBD/May 20, 2011/People and Pop Culture

Catching Up With Sports Illustrated's Peter King

Kings accepts National Sportswriter of the Year award at NSSA banquet
SI's Peter King on Monday night was recognized by his peers as the National Sportswriter of the Year, accepting the honor at the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Awards banquet in Salisbury, N.C. King has become infamous for his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column, chiming in on all aspects of the NFL. King took a few minutes to chat with Staff Writer Theresa Manahan about the process behind his weekly column, what the future of sports media holds and Twitter.

Favorite Starbucks coffee: A triple grande whole milk hazelnut latte.
First Red Sox jersey you owned: CARL YASTRZEMSKI, 1964.
Favorite non sports person to follow on Twitter: NPR’s DAVID FOLKENFLIK because he’s a smart person who sees all sides of a story and gives me interesting things to think about. I also like Huffington Post.
Summer reading list: I’m in the middle now of “The Last Boy: Micky Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood.” My wife just gave me the memory book. Humm… it’s a memory book that I forget the name of. “Moonwalking with Einstein.” And then I finished “Unbroken.”

Quick Hits:
Roger Goodell: Under pressure 
DeMaurice Smith: Has the upper hand
Chad Ochocinco: Wearisome
Cowboys Stadium: Ninth Wonder of the World

Q: What is one thing you think you think about the future of sports media?
King: I think anybody who is in the sports media better be able to adjust and better be able to do multiple things, because my daughters don’t get news the way I get news. I love spending an hour with the New York Times. That would be the most nightmarish thing that they could do. So I have to learn how they are getting information and how they are learning. When I go speak to schools, high schools or college, I want to find out "Do you like Twitter? What do you do on the Internet? What sites do you go read? Do you go read a website?" It’s up to us to learn how 20-year-old kids are going to learn. And if we don’t, we will be left by the side of the road.

Q: If you were NFL Commissioner for a day, what would be the first three things on your agenda?
King: Number one, I would ask De Smith if he would be willing to go away for a weekend with me or two or three days with me where we turn the cellphones off, there’s no e-mail, there’s no anything. You just talk and it is all off the record. And you have a discussion about how can we get this done. The second thing is, I would get the owners together and I would say, "As much as we want to make more money and raise income in this game, it’s unconscionable to think we should ever play an 18-game regular season." Too many players getting hurt too seriously to think that 18 games is anything but a bad idea, unless teams are willing to sit players so that the maximum number of games that any player plays in a season is 16. … Number three, I would continue to press to be more vigilant and more proactive about head injuries and concussions, because it’s very clear that players are hitting each other harder than they are before.

Q: How has Twitter changed your reporting?
King: I think Twitter is fantastic, even though twenty-five percent of the tweets I get are telling me I’m a worthless bag of crap. I think in a lot of ways our predecessors in this business had it easy. They were shielded from the world. They wrote their stuff, they went home, nobody knew who they were and at the end of the day, they made their paycheck, they went home and that was it. They didn’t really respond much to the outside world. And I think the thing that I like about it is not only that I can see what people out there are thinking, but in many ways, people can keep me honest. When I write Monday Morning Quarterback and it’s posted by let’s say seven in the morning, by 8:15 many times I’ve had three corrections. … The thing I believe that’s dangerous about Twitter is it’s easy to become a slave to Twitter, and it is easy to sit there for four hours in a row and answer questions.

Q: Can you take me through the process of MMQB?
King: During the season it’s between 7,000-9,000 words and then in the offseason, it’s about 4,500-6,000, somewhere in there. Basically I try to make sure that during the week I gather enough so that when I wake up Sunday morning a quarter of it is done. It’s impossible when I sit down to write at 11:30 on Sunday night, it’s impossible to write 9,000 words in seven hours. ... So I think it’s important to get a head start. A lot of things happen during the week that you can comment on. I find that I get into a mentality of it that I start thinking "Oh this would be a good factoid,” or "This would be a good travel note." Because I know how many times I have sat there at 4:30 in the morning on Monday morning and said, "My God! I didn’t travel this week, what should I write about?" The biggest concentration point is get a lot done before midnight on Sunday because if you don’t, you’ll pay for it.

Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what line of work would you be doing?
King: I’d be the general manager or groundskeeper for a minor league baseball team.
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