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September 14, 2007

by Ric Sweeney

In my 35-year career as a human, I’ve been compelled (read: angry enough) to fire off a letter to a sports publication exactly once. The year was 1986 and Mike Scott had just tossed a no-hitter to clinch the National League West title (sounds weird, doesn’t it? "National League West title"?). I eagerly awaited the next issue of Sports Illustrated, sure that Scott and his amazing accomplishment would grace the magazine’s prestigious cover…

They didn’t. Darryl Strawberry did, though. That week, Strawberry had done… absolutely nothing (other than blow and a hooker), but there he was, smiling in my mailbox. So I whipped out my mom’s typewriter and constructed a tersely-worded vent ripping them for ignoring Scott’s incredible milestone in favor of an east coast team everyone outside of the east coast hated. The more things change, right?

I stuck a stamp on that bad boy very nearly 21 years ago today and in the interim, I’ve never given even half a moment’s thought to sending off a second “Letter to the Editor…”

Until this week.

Every Monday, Sports Illustrated’s (them again…) Peter King posts his "Monday Morning Quarterback" column on their web site. It’s universally recognized as essential reading for NFL fans. In fact, I can’t recall the last Monday morning bowel movement I’ve had during the fall and winter months that didn’t prominently feature Peter King.

And though I could complain endlessly about the damn thing (his coverage is usually myopic and focused exclusively on the teams featuring players that King likes; there’s more Peyton Manning than a commercial break; and there’s even more Starbucks), it usually scores quite well on the “entertaining read” board.

Until this week.

This week’s column named Mario Williams Defensive Player of the Week. Yea and all – it’s great to see Williams get some recognition after the guy spent 2006 in a shadow created by lazy bums like King. Not so satisfying, however, was King’s write-up, which included the following:

We used to poke fun at (Mario) Williams during the NBC Football Night in America show, since the Texans made such an … ahem … interesting decision drafting him over Reggie Bush and Vince Young.

How absolutely petty and childish. Having said that, had King just kept his laptop shut from that point forward, I would have been irked, yes; I might have even posted about it in our forum. But I doubt I would have put finger to keyboard and ended by 21-year streak of not letting morons like Kings get to me.

But then King located a straw and shattered a poor camel’s back with it. The very next day, King wrote this about Cowboy Terrence Newman and the injury that has sidelined him for all of 2007 thus far:

Write this down: You don’t get better from a plantar fascia injury by playing football, or by hurrying it.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong – I don’t think I am, but, please – your job is to keep me honest: Didn’t Williams play all of last year with plantar fascia?… Why yes, yes he did. All sixteen games. And he didn’t miss a single f-wording start.

“So, I’m curious,” I wrote to King, blood practically pouring out of my eye sockets. “Are you and the NBC crew poking fun at Newman this year? I’d also be interested to know if you ever bothered to mention Williams’ condition in any of your ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ columns last year? I’m going to skip scanning through your archives and assume the answer is ‘no’ considering you ‘poked fun at’ him last year in lieu of you actually doing homework and getting your facts straight.”

There may have been a “you fat f***” or two thrown in there, as well. Or four.

Why would anyone, let alone a supposedly professional journalist, make fun of Mario Williams? Because he drafted himself first overall? Ripping poor play is one thing; making fun of a guy… that’s on a different level. It wasn’t enough to label him the 21st century Sam Bowie before he ever laced up a cleat; they were making fun of the guy?

It seems a whole bunch of media members drew a conclusion on April 28, 2006, that the Texans had made a mistake with Williams and then spent/relished the next however many months making sure that’s exactly how it played out.

So Bush and Young’s otherwise pedestrian rookie seasons were shoved down our throats with more spin than a Dick Cheney press conference. Bush was “electrifying;” all Young did was “win.” And then their misplaced agendas began to spread throughout the entire media, getting nastier and more bitter as they went, culminating with those vicious EA Sports spots that featured Bush and Young taking not really thinly-veiled shots at the Texans.

When and why did this get personal? Seriously, what did Mario Williams ever do to any of these people?

Well you know what? I’ve had enough. Take Baby Vince’s 65.8 career passer rating and Bush’s career 3.6 yards a carry and shove ‘em straight up yours and the Montclair girl’s field hockey teams’ ass, Peter King. You poke fun at Mario Williams; you poke fun at me, and that’s where I draw the line.

Because here’s one thing I think I think, hungry, hungry hippo: I won’t be reading your column any longer. You’re as dead to me as Britney Spears’ career.

You’re a journalist; you made a commitment to do your homework, report the facts and leave your petty little biases stuffed somewhere inside a grande latte Starbucks cup. And you should be above making fun of the players in the league you’re supposed to be covering without prejudice, and damn sure smart enough not to admit making fun of them, dummy.

That’s your obligation to us; it’s what separates you from message board posters and radio talk-show callers. Believe me, if all we wanted was filtered, ignorant opinions, those two forums provide plenty (no offense; I’m guilty myself). Instead, we expect you to use your privileged access to the NFL and your national spotlight as a reporter for the top weekly sports publication in the country (not to mention, your gig on the NFL’s weekly national broadcast) responsibly. I don’t think that’s asking too much, do you, tunsa?

(Wouldn’t it kick all kinds of major ass, by the way, if I was actually saying this to King’s face? And as my anger and passion swelled, a large contingent of Texan fans fell in behind me? And it’s all playing out over the quiet, plaintive opening strands of “America the Beautiful”? And I mean the really big, capable of kicking serious dick Texan fans, not the little pussies who wear Owen Daniels jerseys because “he’s nice.” Wouldn’t that redefine “cool”? It would; of this, I’m certain.)

I didn’t need a reason to pull for Mario Williams; he’s a Texan and I’m a Texan fan – it goes without saying. But I hope to God he throws down 23 sacks this year, agrees to an interview with King and then answers his very first question thusly: “I actually have two answers to your thoughtful query, Mr. King: The first is ‘F***’ and the other is ‘You.’”

And then walks out.

And make no mistake about it, Peter; if that happens, I will most definitely “poke fun at you."

(O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain…)

Peter King Peter King Home

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