The Monday Morning Quarterback Needs To Be Benched

When we think of media outlets doing the NFL’s dirty work, we’ve come to think of ESPN. Rightfully so. The leak to Chris Mortensen and Gerry Austin as well as their consistent false statements on the Patriots really cement that fact. ESPN has seen Disney stock drop, and with more and more people cutting the cord, their subscribers fees to cable companies, already the highest in the industry, are not going to continue. They need to cozy up to the NFL to keep their hope alive of being able to retain their partner status with the NFL.

So besides access, what is the excuse for Peter King and his little web startup, Monday Morning QB?

King was called out by Ben Volin (That guy again?) this weekend for the fact that he also parroted the “11 of 12 footballs…” leak.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen gets a lot of heat for overstating the deflation problem in his Jan. 21 story, but he wasn’t the only one getting bad information from the NFL office. Sports Illustrated’s Peter Kingwrote on Jan. 23 that he was “told reliably that . . . either 11 or 12 of New England’s footballs . . . (I hear it could have been all 12) had at least two pounds less pressure in them. All 12 Indianapolis footballs were at the prescribed level. All 24 footballs were checked by pressure gauge after the game. All 24 checked at the correct pressure.”

King responded in his column today:

I think you’re owed an explanation from me, in the wake of Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writing Sunday that it wasn’t just Chris Mortensen who got a bum steer from someone in the NFL about the deflated footballs in the AFC title game. Volin said it was me, too. I reported after Mortensen’s story that 11 of the 12 footballs were at least two pounds under the minimum limit of 12.5 pounds per square inch when tested by the league at halftime. I reported that I’d heard “reliably” that the story of the footballs being at least two pounds under the minimum limit was correct. As I said on Twitter on Sunday, I believe the person who told me this believed the story was accurate when, obviously, it clearly was not. So, were we used by someone to get a storyline out in public? Maybe … but the reason I’m skeptical about this is because with the knowledge that there would be a full investigation and clearly the air pressure in the footballs would be publicized at some point, the league would look stupid for putting out false information that would eventually come back to embarrass the league. Clearly, this story, along with the Ray Rice story from last fall, has made me question sources and sourcing in general, and in a story as inflammatory as this one, you can’t just take the story of a person whose word you trust as gospel. It’s my error. I need to be better than that. Readers, and the Patriots, deserve better than that.

Remember what he said at the time with the Ray Rice case? Remember that famously inappropriate line in that statement? No one from the league has ever knocked down my report to me,

But the rest of that statement. Does it sound at all familiar?

Who said these lines:

No one forced me to write that story, and it’s important to note I do not believe I was ever lied to. I believe my sources intended to provide accurate information, and it was incumbent on me to vet it more fully.

The Patriots deserved more time to investigate and respond.

I’m confident it will make me a better reporter.

I truly believe it’s a privilege to serve as a link between the fans and their team.

On Feb. 2, I let you all down. Today I hope to begin the long road back.

Oh, that’s none other than John Tomase when being forced to apologize to the Patriots.

Has any franchise every had more media outlets forced to apologize for things they’ve written or said about it?

King is lazy. He has twice now in the past year has been lied to by his sources because they know he won’t verify what they tell him.

It’s time for this Monday Morning Quarterback to hit the bench.

Oh, there’s one more thing. This Cris Carter bit. This is what King wrote about it today:

• You are kidding me, Cris Carter—and you are kidding me, NFL. My first reaction to the story of Carter telling NFL rookies at the 2014 Rookie Symposium that they have to find a “fall guy” in a player’s “crew” who will take the blame when the player commits a crime: My jaw dropped. My second reaction mirrored 12-year veteran Osi Umenyiora.

Precisely. Carter apologized, and though the NFL tried to distance itself from Carter’s idiotic remarks, how could the league have placed the offending video of his talk on NFL.com until yanking it Sunday? This is so offensive it boggles the mind that some person with the NFL would say, Let’s show the world this great advice about obstructing justice from a Hall of Fame hero to impressionable rookies. Also: How could NFL VP Troy Vincent, who is in charge of the symposium, have allowed Carter to spew such venom? Carter, by the way, was in his yellow Pro Football Hall of Fame blazer. In all ways, this is the biggest example of inmates running the NFL asylum that I’ve seen in years.

Apparently this weekend was the first time that King heard about this, and that when he heard it, his jaw dropped. He describes this as so offensive it boggles the mind and the biggest example of inmates running the NFL asylum.

He never heard about this.

You, know it’s funny. King protege, the notorious Robert Klemko, whom he apparently loves like a son, attended that Rookie symposium, and wrote about it, including a very detailed bit about the session hosted by Carter and Warren Sapp.

Except he didn’t mention the part where Carter talked about having a “fall guy.”

So let’s get this right, A Hall of Fame player says something that makes a reporter’s “jaw drop.” It is described as so offensive it boggles the mind and the biggest example of inmates running the NFL asylum – but Klemko didn’t feel it worthy of being mentioned?

Sounds legit.

UPDATE – Klemko: Why I didn’t report Cris Carter’s “fall guy” comments in 2014

So, Klemko cooperates with the NFL and leaves that out of his story, but he doesn’t tell his boss? I’m not sure which is worse, the above scenario or this one.

Long Way To Go For Patriots

Going into yesterday, most people expected the Patriots to beat up on the Oakland Raiders, who were making their second East coast trip in three weeks, and heading out to London for next week’s game.

The Raiders put up a fight, and the Patriots continued their struggle to put the ball in the end zone yesterday, and wound up with a 16-9 New England victory. They held off a last-second Raiders drive when Vince Wilfork grabbed a deflected ball to come up with the game-sealing interception.

It wasn’t a satisfying win, but it was a win, and we’ll take it. Get all the coverage at PatriotsLinks.com.

Ray Lewis is not a good TV analyst – Chad Finn nails it here, especially in light of Lewis’ mind-boggling quote from yesterday – “There’s some things you can cover up. And there’s some things you can’t.“

A salute to the great sportswriter Joe Murphy – The legendary Eagle-Tribune columnist passed away on Saturday at the age of 89. Michael Muldoon had written this column back in May remembering Murphy, who in many ways was a prototype of the cynical, opinionated sports columnist of today.

ESPN’s Cris Carter’s on-air growth showing in NFL coverage – Richard Deitsch looks back at a crazy week of NFL media.

On Friday, ESPN’s Outside the Lines released their devastating report on how the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL handled the Ray Rice case.

Rice case: purposeful misdirection by team, scant investigation by NFL

Done by Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenburg, the report had the Ravens scrambling and promising a detailed reply this week.

While there is a ton to digest in the report, from a media perspective, and keeping a theme going that I’ve had on this site over the last few weeks, here’s another damning bit of evidence against Peter King and his role as Roger Goodell’s mouthpiece.

From the ESPN report:

By early July, NFL beat reporters kept hearing Rice would get a six-game suspension. But privately, Ravens officials said they felt confident Rice would get only two games. One source who spoke to Cass said he had heard at least two weeks before Goodell announced the penalty that Rice would receive only a two-game suspension. Rice’s friends say he didn’t hear his suspension was two games until July 23, the day before Goodell announced it.

This is from King’s MMQB in MAY:

Rice likely faces a short (maybe two-game) suspension from the commissioner for being a first-time offender under the personal-conduct policy. He’s got a strong résumé and is greatly admired for his work in the community. He shouldn’t be thrown out with the trash. But he’s got to realize that the performance the other day was tone-deaf.

So King knew that the suspension would be “maybe” two games before the Ravens or Rice did? How exactly did he know this, way back then? The reasons given are also what Goodell cited. He’s awful. The worst.

<insert picture of smoking gun here>

I also love the audacity of King to suggest someone else is tone-deaf. King has mastered the art of tone-deafness. Finn touched on it in his Sunday Mailbag yesterday.

Let’s look at today’s MMQB for some more tone-deal, ugly-American examples:

Walking back from Central Park around noon Saturday, I spied a crazy-long line outside the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue. The line weaved in a maze of crowd-control stanchions, hundreds of people in the maze, and at the end of the maze, the line went east down 59th Street, a full city block to Madison Avenue.

It wasn’t too tough to guess what it was for—the rollout of the iPhone 6. I asked one of the security dudes: “How long a wait if I went to the end of the line right now?”

“Six hours,” he said.

So I went to the end of the line and asked a couple of young guys, 20 or 23, waiting with their heads in their iPhone 5s, “Did you know you’ve got about a six-hour wait in front of you? That’s what the security guy told me.”

“They told us it was about five,” one of the guys said.

Well, that certainly makes all the difference.

The guy who Tweeted delightedly about being able to inform a restaurant host about Robin Williams’ suicide now eagerly runs to the back of the line in Manhattan – where he lives – to inform the people there that they have to wait six hours. That last line is vintage Peter King.

6. I think if you’re waiting for me to call for Roger Goodell to be fired, you’ll have to wait a while. I’m not into mob rule either.

So people who are saying that Goodell needs to be gone are part of a “mob.” This is like when Peter referred to the “shrill cries” for his own job. And of course he isn’t going to call for Goodell to be fired. He’s got too much at stake himself.

Peter is also not into mob rule, but he is the one leading the crusade to change the name of the Washington football team.

a. My best to the family of Dave Rahn, former 49ers PR man, who died of melanoma Thursday. Dave was a good, good man with a terrific work ethic, and he was as professional a person as I’ve dealt with in this business. Rest in peace, Dave.

Well, that’s a nice sentiment, Peter.

b. I’ve had two significant melanoma surgeries, and it’s nothing to fool around with. Sunscreen and regular checkups are the only way to beat it—or to compete with it.

Of course. It’s always about Peter. He can’t even pay tribute to a man who died of cancer without making it about himself.

Tone-deaf doesn’t begin to cover it.

Peter King Needs To Turn The Finger-Wag On Himself For Once

The rise of Peter King in the sports media world is a curious one. The 57-year-old King really vaulted into prominence when he began writing the weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column back in the 1990’s. The Internet was still new, and getting this fast overview of the weekend’s football action was a popular idea that took off.

peterkingPrior to this, King had been a fairly ordinary sportswriter, with stints at The Cincinnati Enquirer and Newsday prior to joining Sports Illustrated in 1989, he wrote several books during the 1990’s, but it was Monday Morning Quarterback which really lifted him above his peers in terms of popularity and stature.

He had been a solid reporter, and in addition to the football reporting, people seemed to enjoy his “10 things I think I think” and non-football thoughts of the week, tales of travel woe, as well as updates on his favorite coffee stops, and later, his choice in (inevitably citrusy) beer. The MMQB success made him a sought-after guest on sports radio programs – here in Boston his guest spots on the midday show with Dale Arnold and whomever his current partner was at the time were very popular segments – and also TV shows, such as Inside The NFL, then still on HBO.  When the NFL came to NBC, he was a big part of that, providing in studio reports on Football Night in America.

Then, last year SI, following in the footsteps of Bill Simmons at ESPN, gave King his own website, and team of writers at themmqb.com. He was (and is) at the pinnacle of his career and power.

Yes, power. One of the more annoying things that King has developed over the years is his penchant for the finger-wag at those he feels are deserving of his scorn. He somehow has come to believe that he is a moral arbiter of society, taking people to task for failures in their own lives and professions. In addition to lecturing people inside the league, he’s weighed in on people’s lives outside of football, he’s scolded Red Sox players, and generally acted the part of the ugly American in dealings with any sort of service industry employee. He went to visit troops overseas and gave away details of the location of the camp. These things are all annoying, but mostly harmless.

He has also, like many in the media, gotten close to the subjects he covers and spends a lot of time pumping them up. He was a regular at Brett Favre’s house. Who can forget him eating popcorn in Jerry Jones’s office? Or spending  a week “embedded” with official Gene Steratore and his crew? Or the numerous exclusive sitdowns  (6000 words!) and gushing profiles of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

For some, those columns on Goodell serve to solidify the notion that King is nothing more than a publicity agent in service of the Commissioner. Events of this summer are further disturbing in exposing King’s reporting as being shoddy, incomplete and dishonest.

When the original two-game suspension was handed out, King wrote a column explaining what Goodell’s thinking was in suspending Rice for really only four days – the Ravens played Sunday and play again on Thursday night. The article, complete with bullet-points, was written at the time in which the public had only seen the tape of Rice pulling his fiance of the elevator, seems to be a direct missive from the Commissioner. In fact, King doesn’t say “I think this is what Goodell’s thinking was here.” he says This is why Goodell was softer on Rice than a four-game suspension.

The bullet points, which included he’s never done it before and he does a lot in the community rang hollow to many people who responded back to King in anger. He attempted to defend himself by citing “evidence” that he hadn’t mentioned in the first column.

Note the wording here.

There is one other thing I did not write or refer to, and that is the other videotape the NFL and some Ravens officials have seen, from the security camera inside the elevator at the time of the physical altercation between Rice and his fiancée. I have heard reports of what is on the video, but because I could not confirm them and because of the sensitivity of the case, I never speculated on the video in my writing, because I don’t think it is fair in an incendiary case like this one to use something I cannot confirm with more than one person. I cannot say any more, because I did not see the tape. I saw only the damning tape of Rice pulling his unconscious fiancée out of the elevator.

(Emphasis mine)

So much here. King never explains why he didn’t think it was “fair” to mention the tape on Thursday, but it was OK to mention it four days later. He also definitively states that the video had been viewed by both the NFL and the Ravens. (Later, we learn that he actually did not know this for sure.) He then goes back and forth with a bunch of contrasting phrases I have heard reports/I could not confirm and I never speculated/I cannot confirm.

I’m trying to make sense of this. He states the tape was viewed. He heard reports on its contents, could not confirm so he’s not going to speculate. It’s especially unfair to use information that can’t be confirmed with more than one person – essentially giving us unwashed masses a lesson in the ethic of journalism here.

EXCEPT – he lied. He uses the information in an effort to defend himself, but it was information that he in fact did NOT confirm with more than one person.

You may know this as the John Tomase rule.

King however, wasn’t that humbled by the blowback. He concluded that section by writing:

In retrospect, I would have added a paragraph or two to the story at the end about what I thought, because that is clearly what so many of you expect from me.

Two things – I look at that sentence as just dripping with condescension. Isn’t he admitting right here that the talking points in the original Goodell defense were not his own, but were actually Goodell’s? The original article was written in such as way as to make you think that King is merely observing the whole situation from on high, detached from the situation and saying “This is what Goodell is thinking.” In reality, they were Goodell’s thoughts. and now Peter is distancing himself from them and saying he should’ve offered HIS thoughts too, as they would be very different from Goodell’s. The impatient “clearly what so many of you expect me from me” bit makes me ill.

How do we know he lied? He copped to it yesterday in this curiously titled addendum to the Ray Rice coverage.

He writes:

Earlier this summer a source I trusted told me he assumed the NFL had seen the damaging video that was released by TMZ on Monday morning of Rice slugging his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City elevator. The source said league officials had to have seen it. This source has been impeccable, and I believed the information. So I wrote that the league had seen the tape. I should have called the NFL for a comment, a lapse in reporting on my part. The league says it has not seen the tape, and I cannot refute that with certainty. No one from the league has ever knocked down my report to me, and so I was surprised to see the claim today that league officials have not seen the tape.

I hope when this story is fully vetted, we all get the truth and nothing but the truth.

For King to write within the same paragraph that something had happened and then say “I don’t think it is fair in an incendiary case like this one to use something I cannot confirm with more than one person.” is completely mind-blowing.

His defense is “no one ever told me I was wrong“? (Aside: How tone-deaf does someone have to be to use the phrase “knocked down” in referencing to his own reporting on a case which involved a woman getting knocked unconscious and dragged across a lobby?) This is the guy lecturing on ethics and the importance of multiple sources?

Then the last sentence. Isn’t that YOUR job, Peter? To advance and vet the story?

He continued on the topic with his mailbag today. Many readers were still upset, and King attempted to placate them and apologize – but not really.

I’ve been a reporter for 34 years and I’ve made my share of mistakes. This certainly was one of them. And I realize that a lot of people will not trust what I say on this issue, but I can assure you that it was simply an honest mistake. As far as resigning, if my bosses inside Sports Illustrated and Time Inc. don’t want me to report anymore, they’ll tell me. But I won’t be voluntarily quitting. I’m not sure what good that would do, other than to satisfy some fairly shrill cries for my head.

After looking at the above, can we really call this “an honest mistake?” Not at all. It was deliberate. There was no “honest mistake” involved in the least.

How about that last line? Again, the tone-deafness of Peter King is just insane. Does the term “fairly shrill cries” fill you with warmth at the thought of a humbled man looking to make good on his errors? Or does it leave you with the picture of a testy, impatient man scolding “leave me alone you screeching vultures?”

Way to go, Pete. Get your house in order.