Thursday, May 17, 2007

We read MMQB so you don't have to

Mmm. Combo platter ... Down and Distance returns from its annual post-Super Bowl hiatus with a long list of ideas -- and, thanks to an amicable separation from our former employer and a quite lucrative home sale, new freedom to pursue those ideas. So let's get back to work by taking a few shots at a big, soft, blunt-fingered target.

Peter King's weekly "Monday Morning Quarterback" column on is an attempt by Sports Illustrated and parent company Time Warner to capitalize on what the media world calls "convergence." Convergence is when you "leverage" (force) your "assets" (employees) to "produce content" (turn out extra material) "across multiple platforms" (for print, TV and radio, and the Web). And as is so often the case when Old Media wanders into the New Media realm, unshaven and with its pants unzipped, what winds up on the Web (Monday Morning Quarterback) is the leftover crap that didn't make it into print (King's gig at SI) or on TV (King's gigs on HBO, NBC and God knows what else).

Regular readers of MMQB are familiar with the drill: King leads off with some football-related items, which demonstrate that the guy really does have fantastic access, and it's too bad he doesn't do more with it. The first page of the column is usually the only part worth reading. When there's anything worth reading.

From there, several features appear, in no particular order. King gives us his "Quote of the Week" and, during the season, identifies his offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week. Except he's never able to narrow it down to just one quote or player, so just about everybody gets a trophy, like in pee-wee soccer. Or the Special Olympics.

Next comes "Stat of the Week," in which King identifies some number that he finds really interesting. Often the stat he highlights says more about the undisciplined nature of King's thinking than about the subject nominally at hand. Like, he'll go off on how many draft "busts" are highly touted first-round picks, without recognizing that, by definition, only highly touted first-round picks can even be busts.

Next comes "Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note of the Week," the single most loathsome feature in any recurring NFL column. In it, King bitches about how hard it is to fly first-class and stay in nice hotels on the company dime. Seems a lot of minimum wagers out there aren't sufficiently chop-chop for King Peter. It isn't all negative. Sometimes he has nice things to say about his most recent $100 dinner.

In "Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me," King discusses something that, to his credit, usually interests only him.

Then we get to the best/worst part of the column: "Ten Things I Think I Think." The list is never 10 items long, of course, yet the name persists because long, long ago King and his editors committed themselves to an unsustainable and too-rigid format. (Who says Old Media is dead?) Several of the first nine items will have nothing to do with football, yet No. 10 always begins, "I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week," and there are up to a dozen of those.

The non-football thoughts offer readers a frightening glimpse into King's sad little world. He gives his take on the latest episode of The Sopranos, that mobster show on HBO that you quit watching two years ago. He fills us in on whatever his daughter and her idiot friends are up to. He announces that he's discovered the most amazing thing, like Velcro or the iPod or something else that's been around so long that you've already gone through more than one. A running item slugged "Coffeenerdness" deconstructs the goings-on at various Starbucks (where a true "coffee nerd" wouldn't be caught dead). And there's all sorts of shit about the Boston Red Sox.

So that's all you need to know about the format of "Monday Morning Quarterback." Starting this week, Down and Distance will be checking in with MMQB regularly, so you don't have to.



1. Two of King's "Quotes of the Week" come from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, an Eagles season ticket holder who thinks Philadelphia made a mistake in choosing quarterback Kevin Kolb with its first draft pick. King bleats: "Rendell was outspoken eight years ago against the Eagles' picking McNabb, saying they should have chosen Ricky Williams. Now he's upset the team has chosen a player to compete for McNabb's job." Eight years, Peter. Eight years! Rendell, then Philadelphia mayor, was hardly the only person in 1999 who thought the Eagles had wasted a pick on McNabb. The fact that he's now defending McNabb says only that he acknowledges he was wrong. King, however, is saying that if you were once wrong about a subject, not only can you never be right, you are no longer even entitled to an opinion. If that's the case, King -- every football writer, actually -- should have given up writing about football long ago.

2. King continues after Rendell by asking, "Why doesn't he just buy the damn team from Jeff Lurie and go make the picks himself?" This is horseshit. The business model of pro sports in the United States is built around the idea that a team is the emotional property of the community it calls home. Fans are encouraged to believe (erroneously, but who cares?) that they have a personal stake in team matters. They're encouraged to "live and die by the team." That's what Rendell is doing here. He's a fan and a customer. (Further, as the mayor of Philadelphia, Rendell was instrumental in getting the Eagles' new stadium built.) Lurie, I would imagine, wants fans like Rendell to be this emotionally invested in the franchise. For King to go to the I'd-just-like-to-see-you-do-better argument shows he doesn't understand the motivations of the fan. Which is probably why he writes his column the way he does: He thinks people are there as much to read about him as to read about football. But if he wants a simple answer, try this: Rendell doesn't buy the team because A) He's the governor of Pennsylvania, and B) He doesn't have $1 billion. And you don't have to be able to buy your favorite team to have an opinion about it. Dick.

3. With coffee on the brain, as usual, King observes: "Number of Starbucks on the Pennsylvania Turnpike while going west from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh: three. Starbucks on the Turnpike going back east: three." That's pretty neat, Pete. Here's a factoid that may interest only me: They're the same three locations. Stores at the Sideling Hill, Midway and Somerset service plazas are available both east- and westbound. There's also a fourth Starbucks available westbound at New Stanton. So the whole item is wrong. And the plural of Starbucks in Starbuckses, dummy.

4. King writes: "I think I hear really good things about (new Falcons coach) Bobby Petrino. I mean, really good things. About his organizational skills, his no-nonsense approach, his offensive plan. ... Imagine if Mike Lombardi had persuaded him to take the Raiders job 16 months ago, and Al Davis hadn't saddled the team with a wasted ArtShell/Tom Walsh year. Imagine Petrino working with JaMarcus Russell." Let's assume Petrino is as good as King makes him out to be (and he may well be, but don't count on it). Had the Raiders hired Petrino last year, they would presumably have turned out significantly better than 2-14. Which means the Raiders wouldn't have had the No. 1 pick in the draft. Which means Russell would probably have wound up a Lion, Buccaneer or Brown. If you're going to rewrite history in order to play a game of "what-if," then for every change in cause, you have to have a change in effect.


Peter looks at certain men and gets hungry: New Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is "meat-and-potatoes," though no more so than any other coach in the league. Drew Brees is a "combo platter."

Peter is well-connected: "I asked Falcons GM and league competition committee chair Rich McKay ... "; "I had a 40-minute chat with Brad Childress. ... I also had two chats with NFL front-office people ... "; "I know (Dolphins coach Cam) Cameron, and he is very big on personal accountability ... "; " 'This city cannot be forgotten,' (Drew) Brees told me last week ... "

Peter arrives on Earth: "Satellite radio and cell phones have totally changed car trips"; "My problem, quite frankly, is the rebuilding (of New Orleans) is too slow."

Peter is a drama queen: "All we want in a workout room on the road is a few stepmills, some treadmills and elliptical trainers. Can't you give us that without charging us?"

Total number of quotes of the week: 6

Total number of things King thinks he thinks: 16. Total number unrelated to football before he gets to his "non-football-related thoughts": 2.

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