Tuesday, August 28, 2007

KingWatch: Enough with the quotes!

Vick is a sick dick.It was just last month that I decided to lay off Peter King, Sports Illustrated's most self-referential (and Favre-reverential) football columnist. Earlier in the summer, I had begun writing a weekly critique of King's Monday Morning Quarterback columns. It was fun for a while, but eventually I became overwhelmed. Cataloguing all of King's lazy hyperboles, transparent straw men, moronic navel-gazing, and house-of-cards logic was exhausting. I'd just get finished with one week's column when the next would get posted. So I gave up.

Then that fucker started pushing buttons. A couple weeks back, he had seven "Quotes of the Week." That was bad enough, but I just rubbed my temples and told myself it would go away. But no. This week, he's up to eight Quotes of the Week. There's no telling where he'll go next. (Nine, I suppose.) And it makes me realize that someone needs to hold his ass accountable. So we're going to try this a little differently. Rather than try to recount every dumb thing King says or does, we'll just hit the highlights. We'll call it "The 5 Dumbest Things King Said This Week." Read this week's column here.

1. Because I just can't let it lie, I'm going to start with those eight goddam Quotes of the Week. King's column is written by formula. It's filled with "categories" ("Stat of the Week," "Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me," "Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note," etc), into which he can drop whatever items he happens to have left over in his notebook. It's done this way because it's very, very easy. He doesn't have to bother explaining why he's prattling on about, say, the lobster bisque at some hotel restaurant in Charlotte because he can just point to the category and say, "See? I have to write about this! It's part of my travel experience!" Never mind that he's the one who dreamed up the formula, and that because he travels all the time, half his damned life is made up of "travel" experiences, few of which any of us can relate to. (Unlike King, we don't have any expectations that air travel will be pleasant.) Or rather than take the time to figure out why the 49ers have been outscored 66-13 in the second quarter this season (I made that up) -- and to figure out whether that means anything going forward -- King just dumps it into the "Stat of the Week" hole and lets us try to figure it out.

When King does this, he's abdicating his role as the "expert" in his relationship with readers. We go to SI.com to read MMQB because, presumably, we don't know as much as King does. We don't have his connections or insight. But any one of us, given 10 minutes and a bunch of box scores, can find out how the 49ers perform in the second quarter. We want King to tell us more than we can find out on our own. Similarly, we also count on him to use his expertise to separate the wheat from the chaff. One of the most annoying things King does during the regular season is create categories for offensive, defensive and special-teams players of the week, and then pick three or four players to share each of these "awards." Doesn't he realize that we can read the box scores in the newspaper, too? We don't need King to tell us that Drew Brees went 29-of-36 for 357 yards and 3 TDs, and that Shaun Alexander ran for 145 yards and a pair of scores, and that Antonio Gates had nine catches for 132 yards. What we need him for is to tell us which of those three guys had the best game, and why. That's called expertise.

When King gives us eight quotes of the week, six of which are about Michael Vick, he's doing it because it's easy to just throw them all out there and let us sort it out. That way he doesn't have to build a coherent narrative. And, especially, he doesn't have to do the kind of heavy thinking that would be required to identify the one truly compelling quote that sums up the whole affair.

2. When former Giants running back Tiki Barber and current Giants quarterback Eli Manning got into a little spat recently, King sided with Barber, his new colleague on NBC. Big surprise. (Barber said on national TV that, based on his own experiences, Manning wasn't a leader in the Giants locker room. Manning responded that Barber is a funny guy to talk about leadership, having announced in the middle of last season that he was quitting and going into show biz, and then running his mouth about how bad the Giants coaches were.) Here's what King says about the dust-up: "The day Barber walked out of the Giants' locker room forever, he ceased to be a New York Giants' employee and became an NBC employee. He now owes his 110 percent to telling the truth as he sees it for NBC, not to anyone else."

First of all, let's talk about Barber. A week ago on the Sunday night pregame show, there was a discussion about whether Michael Vick would roll over on other players who get off on dogfighting. Barber said there's no way Vick would do that, because that would be stabbing other players in the back, a violation of the players' code. Barber also made it clear that he still believes in that code. Then he stabbed Manning in the back, on the air. That's hypocrisy.

Back to King. For some reason, I'm reminded of the movie Wall Street, in which Bud Fox first gets the attention of Gordon Gekko by passing along insider information about Bluestar Airlines, where his dad is the head of the mechanics' union. Gekko calls Fox back and says, essentially, thanks for the information, but it doesn't show me anything about your abilities except that you're willing to take advantage of your father. That's similar to what Barber did. King calls it "telling the truth as he sees it," but I see it as playing kiss-and-tell. Barber's comments about Manning don't establish him as a noteworthy commentator at all, because he is basing his credibility not on his years in the league and his special insight on the game of football, but rather on the fact that he used to be a New York Giant. Next week, when the topic is Vince Young, why am I supposed to care what Tiki Barber says? He wasn't a member of the Tennessee Titans, after all.

It's all very meta, but what I'm saying is: Barber made a huge mistake by using his new position to settle an old score. King should know that.

3. In "Coffeenerdness," King complains about the music at Starbucks: "They've got all the music satellited into their stores, and someone in Seattle must have forgotten to change the CD, because I hear the same old Motown tunes every single morning I walk in there. What's going on up there? You guys got that music on some tape loop? Could someone up there change it please?"

Pete, why the fuck do you care? How much goddam time are you spending in there? So you hear Ain't Too Proud to Beg, or whatever, every morning when you stop in for three minutes. So what? Get your overpriced coffee and hit the bricks. Or ... maybe you could stop for a second and consider this: Perhaps Starbucks doesn't want you to linger. Perhaps they know that hearing the same songs every morning gets on your nerves.

Starbucks probably wants its customers to come in, order a drink, maybe sit down and enjoy it for a little while. Here's what they probably don't want customers to do: Come in, order a small coffee, plug their laptop into the wall and leech off the electricity and WiFi all fucking day. Half the Starbuckses I've ever been in were so full of these cheapskates that there wasn't any place to sit. Playing music makes your establishment an attractive place for customers to drop in. But playing the same music over and over and over makes your establishment an unattractive place to linger for too long.

4. King says that the league should follow the advice of new Cowboys coach Wade Phillips and manufacture a bunch of regional rivalry games -- Giants-Jets, Raiders-49ers, etc. -- that would be played every year. And why do you suppose that Phillips is so keen on the idea? Because the Cowboys would get to play the Texans. It's a fantastic idea when your designated rival is a doormat, but not so much when you've got a built-in game against the Patriots every year while your division rival gets the Browns. You'd think King, who has the seed of half the Boston Red Sox running down his chin, would remember the excellent point Chipper Jones made this year about baseball's designated regional rivalries for interleague play. Jones' Braves have the Red Sox as their designated rival. The Florida Marlins, meanwhile, get the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. You call that fair?

King calls it "absurd" that the Raiders and Niners, for example, play only once every four years. I don't think it's absurd. I think it's fair. What I think is absurd is King's belief that the Raiders and Niners have much of a regional rivalry anyway. The Raiders' top rival is the Kansas City Chiefs. Always has been, always will be. The Cowboys' chief rival is the Redskins. Football is a national sport, remember? The biggest rivalry in the game right now is Colts-Patriots, which has no basis in geography. Finally, the schedule is already packed with regional rivalry games. They're called division games: Bears-Packers, Browns-Bengals, Giants-Eagles, etc. I know it's hard for King to understand, what with the way he bends over and spreads his cheeks for the boys of summer, but baseball is destroying itself with cockamamie gimmicks like these. Football need not follow suit.

5. The No. 1 thing that King "thinks he thinks" is this: "I think if the 90s had O.J. as a sports star falling from grace, this decade has Vick." What the hell does that even mean? Is he really trying to tell us that he's like the only person to think of O.J. Simpson during the whole Vick scandal? Really? And this is something he "thinks"? I'm pretty sure it's not a matter of opinion: O.J. fells from grace in the '90s, and Vick did so this year. Thanks for dropping that wisdom on us. Next week: "I think if the 90s had Steve Young playing QB for San Francisco, this decade has Alex Smith."

Besides, everyone knows that the truly appropriate comparison here is not with Simpson, who by 1994 had been out of the game for 15 years and was considered more an actor and a personality than a "sports star." The apt comparison is obviously with Mike Tyson, right down to the protesters. Though Tyson had lost his title by the time he went to prison for rape, he was the top-ranked contender. After he did his time, he still had some fight left in him, but not much. Get a clue, PK.


Nick Bergus said...

What bugs me is King's suggestion that there are "sensible" rivalries -- outside of regional ones -- being ignored. You know, Arizona-San Diego, Seattle-Denver, Detroit-Cleveland, the match-ups America has been clamoring for.

PCS said...

Don't you know? America is demanding Green Bay vs. Tennessee every year. Buffalo vs. New Orleans! And the granddaddy of them all: Indianapolis vs. Carolina.