A Front-Row Seat with the Sportswriters Who Sat There
Sit down with host Todd Jones and other sportswriters who knew the greatest athletes and coaches, and experienced first-hand some of the biggest sports moments in the past 50 years. They’ll share stories behind the stories -- some they’ve only told to each other.
Peter King: “It Was the Golden Age of Covering the NFL.”
Peter King enters his 40th year of covering the NFL by sharing tales from his distinguished career. He recalls giving a car ride to rookie Boomer Esiason, being questioned by Bill Parcells as a young reporter, and watching an old movie at the home of Brett Favre. Peter tells us about being around Lawrence Taylor daily and what made L.T. special. Hear how Mike Holmgren granted King unlimited access to the Packers for a week. And Peter talks about owning up to mistakes like the one he made while reporting on Deflategate, how he has balanced working relationships with sources, and much more.
King is a prolific NFL analyst for NBC Sports, which he joined in 2018 after 29 years of covering professional football for Sports Illustrated. He has been named national sportswriter of the year three times (2010, ’12, and ’13) in a vote of his peers by the National Sports Media Association. Peter has been a member of the Board of Selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1992 and he became a Hall of Famer himself in 2009 when the Pro Football Writers of America named him recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award.
Peter writes a Monday morning NFL column each week for NBCSports.com, makes weekly appearances on “Pro Football Talk Live” with Mike Florio, and, as he has since the station’s Sunday night studio show debuted in 2006, contributes to “Football Night in America.” He also appears on “The NFL on NBC” YouTube Channel and hosts “The Peter King Podcast.” In addition to his pro football responsibilities, King reports on NBC Sports’ high-profile events, including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The nearly three decades King spent at Sports Illustrated were highlighted by the widely popular “Monday Morning Quarterback” column that he wrote from 1997 through 2018. The column morphed into “The MMQ,” a pro football microsite for which he also served as editor-in-chief, overseeing a staff of reporters during his final five years at SI.
Besides appearances as an NFL insider on NBC, King has worked on television for the HBO show “Inside the NFL” as a managing editor and reporter, was a halftime correspondent on ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” and served as an NFL reporter for CNN.
After an internship at the Associated Press, King’s career began in 1980 with a five-year stint at the Cincinnati Enquirer, mostly as a general assignment reporter before taking on the Bengals’ beat in 1984. A year later, he moved to Newsday, where he covered the New York Giants until leaving to join Sports Illustrated in ’89.
King earned a bachelor of science degree from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of journalism in 1979. He was born in Springfield, Mass., and grew up in Enfield, Conn.
Well, thanks, Todd. It's good to be with you. And I think one of the things that's fun about events like this is that because we are so often prisoners of the moment, we don't often sit back and think about our lives and our jobs. And I enjoy doing that. So, I'm happy you asked.
Yeah. It's nice to think that, I mean, this year, this season, 2023 will be the 40th season I've covered the NFL. And so, when you think that the NFL's been alive for 104, I've covered more than a third of them.
Yeah, I know a lot of those guys too. So, that's a cool thing too. Because when I was a kid I was like anybody else, I loved sports. Not anybody but so many other people, I loved sports and I just wanted to be involved with sports.
And so, it's kind of cool that I've been able to have a finger on the pulse of the sport that's really become America's game over the years. And so, it's been good to be able to follow it, the good and the bad over the last four decades.
Well, you've certainly chronicled the absolute growth of the passion that people have for the NFL. You've done it on so many different platforms, now, with NBC Sports, obviously, 29 years at SI, TV, radio, podcast, a decade at a couple newspapers, member of the voting panel for the Hall of Fame since '92.
And when I was in high school, in fact, in Enfield, Connecticut, I remember going to get the Boston Sunday Globe every week and sitting down and inhaling Peter Gammons notes columns because I was a huge baseball fan at the time.
And he was just starting out. And I said, "How incredible is this that this guy gets one full newspaper page every week to just empty his notebook and to write about baseball?" And I mean, I've met Gammons quite a few times, talked to him a few times over the years.
And I said, “I just want to tell you something. When I was in high school in Enfield, Connecticut, probably the most significant thing that happened to me, honestly, is that I was introduced to your notes column. I read it every week and I said, that's really what I want to do in whatever business I do.”
I wasn't even sure I was going to be a sports writer. When I went to Ohio University, I didn't write sports at all. I mean, now, I covered the women's softball team when I was a freshman for the school paper. But then sophomore, junior, and senior years, I never wrote one word about sports.
But I never really thought of being a sports writer until I got a call from a fellow named Frank Hinchey, who was the new sports editor at The Cincinnati Enquirer in 1980. And he wanted to know if I wanted to be a general assignment reporter in the sports department. I said, "Hell, yeah."
And so, anyway, but I didn't have to be a sports writer. I mean, it's been fun and I'm glad it worked out that way, but I could definitely have seen my life going in another direction. And I definitely could have seen myself covering politics or doing something for a paper and who knows, a website.
And that's really my advice to young kids these days, because you just simply do not know whether you're going to turn into a great podcaster, a great TV reporter, a great reporter. But at the heart of it, has to be your ability to connect with people and to be a really good reporter.
And you learned that at Ohio University because your roots really for your career, date to Ohio, just like the NFL's roots go back to Ohio. And you started out at Ohio University, like you said, not knowing if you're going to be a sports writer, but you learned the journalism skills that you needed.
I have a two door Volkswagen Rabbit, and I find out the flight he's in on, and I go out and I wait at the gate and they come in, Pete Koch and Boomer Esiason. And I said, "Yeah, I'm Peter King. I'm with the Enquirer. I'm here to pick you up."
And I just walk out to the car and there's Pete Coch. He's about 6'5" 290 defensive end. And Boomer, who's big, but he's not 6'5" 290. And so, obviously, Boomer's going to fold himself into the backseat. So, he does so.
And as soon as the door closes, he goes, "Well, welcome to the effing NFL." And he always kids me when we're together now, that he always introduces me as, "This is the guy who picked me up from the airport in a microscopic car." And it's true, it happened. Yeah.
Well, one time I did a story with him. I was at SI and I did a story with him when they were playing Washington, and Matt Millen was the veteran linebacker for Washington. And Boomer had said he's incredibly hard to game plan for because he's unpredictable. You watch tape and it's just so different and all that.
And I wrote about this, I quizzed him on his game plan on Saturday night. I would give him the formation and the play call, and he would say, "Okay, here are my keys. I'm looking at this, this, and this."
So, that was really kind of a fun thing. But you could do that with Boomer. The least surprising event of my NFL coverage career is watching Boomer Esiason get into TV and radio and make his living post-career in that way.
Because I mean, how about this, Todd, the team I walked into, two of the three or four biggest stars were Boomer Esiason and Cris Collinsworth. Have there ever been two guys made to do TV who played football more than those two guys?
Exactly. That was the whole locker room that I walked into as a young reporter. Boomer would have the reporters over at his locker almost every day and just go on and on. And then he would say, "You guys have enough?"
Oh, well, those were the days. But those guys, when I was a rookie beat reporter in 1984, the dorm at Wilmington had one or two payphones, and there's whatever, 80 guys, 90 guys on that team. So, the payphones were never free or never available.
And I had a phone in my room. So, the guys who were smart would understand that the guys from The Post and The Enquirer used to live at training camp, had phones and you should make friends with them so you can use their phones at night.
Every day. And as I say, it's such a great regret of mine that I didn't walk back on the first floor of the dorm where the very few members of the media had rooms. I just kick myself that I didn't just sit there and spend 10 minutes writing down what he said that day or things. But yeah, that was a tremendous influence on my career.
So, a year later, you end up in New York and you've got the Giants as a beat for Newsday, and you worked there from '85 to '89. The Giants have this coach Bill Parcells, who's coming into his own, that whole team is. Bill Belichick's the defensive coordinator, Phil Simms quarterback, Lawrence Taylor is the defensive star.
So, you're there the very first few days. It's around 7:15 in the morning, you're in the coffee room at training camp, and this new coach that you're going to be covering, Bill Parcells walks up to you and says what?
19. From Hartford, to New Haven, and Bridgeport, and Greenwich, and Rockland County, New York, and Westchester County. And then all the way through New Jersey, all the way down to the Asbury Park Press, and the New York Daily News, and the New York Post, the New York Times.
And I'm covering the New York Giants for a paper called Newsday, which was based on Long Island that the vast majority of people who played and coached for the New York Giants never ever saw. So, I was just some shmole coming on to cover the team. Somebody who basically chewed through these beat people all the time.
And so, I show up and I had asked my wife, who was tremendous, who was just really good about this. I said, "Look, what I would like to do in my first training camp is I'd like to get a room near Pace University in Westchester County, Pleasantville, New York.
I'd like to just get a room for the summer and I just want to get up at 6:30 in the morning, go over to camp, sit in the media room, be the first one there, and then be the last one to leave. And I just want people to be able to see me and get to know me.
So, most of the reporters, there wasn't anything to do until 10:30 maybe, or quarter of 11 most days. And so, they weren't coming in until later. But I was there every morning by 7:15, and there was a common coffee room where there were coffee, donuts, and all the newspapers.
I said, "Bill, there's 19 papers that cover this team. I'm determined to make an impact and to be good. And so, I just want to get to know everybody as best I can. And even just this little interaction right here, it's something that hopefully, I can build some relationship with you."
Yeah, he did. But I worked pretty hard at it and we had our moments. But the one thing he did really appreciate was work. I covered the team for four years, and at one point he told me, "Hey, listen, if you ever really need something, meet me in my parking space at 5:45 in the morning,” thinking that, "Oh, he'll never do that." But I did it five or six times.
And the one thing about Parcells that I thought was really interesting is that he understood and he knew how important, at least in those days, the people who covered the team were. And every Thursday night, he would have this session at about a six o'clock.
I remember I used to tell my wife, "On Thursdays, I'm probably not going to be home till 7:30 or 8:00 because Parcells comes down and he sits in the room and he'll stay as long as anybody wants and answer any questions you want, as long as it was totally off the record."
Yeah. It just wouldn't happen. In fact, there is a coach in the NFL who's young, who just got the job recently, and who asked me, "You have any advice for me?" And I told him the story of Parcells, and he said, "Wow, that's interesting." And he didn't do it.
And everybody said, "Well, how can that benefit a coach?" Very simple. In those days, there were two running backs on the team. Joe Morris and George Adams. And Joe Morris had a huge year in 1985, but the Giants drafted George Adams and they wanted it to be a job share. And Morris was very pissy about it.
But anyway, so, we would say, "Why would you do this?" And he would tell us basically all of the facts as he saw them with the two running backs. And the fact that it's very hard in the physical world of running the football in the NFL.
Joe Morris was 5'9", and it was going to be very hard for them to ensure that he could stay healthy the whole time. And George Adams was a bigger guy. He's Jamal Adams's dad, and they're built very much like each other, big, bruising, very physical guys.
So, you get to know that, so that then when you're sitting down to write about Morris being all ticked off, instead of saying, "Oh, he has every right to be ticked off." At least you have the other side of the story that you’re wondering-
And one of the guys who was one of the beat guys, Bill Parcells banned this guy from the meetings after he saw too much in the paper that he felt that this guy had written, that was off the record. So, he said, "I'll do it, but I'm not going to do it with this guy in the room." And so-
Yeah. But also, there were many times where I remember several of us would wait and after a press conference would say to Bill, "Hey, Bill, I know you talked about this a couple of weeks ago, but this is now, an issue we got to write about it." And he would understand.
But it also, was funny because at one time the Giants at the time were kind of a rising team. And Newsday asked me to write about Parcells, the Jersey guy because he was born and raised a few long spirals from Giant Stadium. So, a few, I mean many. But he wasn't very far away, a few miles away.
But anyway, I asked him one time, I said, “Hey, can I ride to work with you one day?” And he thought about it and he said, "Yeah, be at the end of my driveway at five o'clock in the morning and blah, blah, blah. Just wait for me there and whatever."
So, I did, I met him there and we rode to work and he drove me past his high school football field, and he drove me past the bowling alley where he used to set pins. And he went and stopped and got coffee and got all the newspapers, the local papers.
And he always used to say, "I don't give a bleep what you guys write. I don't pay any attention to that stuff." And I laughed at him this day because he sat there for about 20 minutes with his coffee in the car, with the car idling, reading every word that everybody wrote. He had like five or six papers and he went through every one.
What was it like to cover Lawrence Taylor as a beat reporter on a day-to-day basis? Was he accessible? Did he like dealing with the media? I mean, we know what he was like as a player, but on a day-to-day basis as a reporter, how did you find that working relationship?
We were basically the dirt on the bottom of his shoe. He didn't care about us, or no, I don't care that he didn't care about us. But occasionally, he would talk, but he had no interest in cultivating any sort of relationship or in talking for feature stories or anything like that.
In a lot of ways, I mean, he was just an incredible person to cover because he obviously was an incredible player, but he was also, such to me, an admirable player because I saw him play hurt so many times.
I saw him play with one arm in a game and get two and a half sacks against the Saints when he could only use one arm. And afterwards, how much pain he was in, in having to get help in taking his uniform and his pads off and wincing.
I saw him after a game in Buffalo one time. It was one of those strike games in 1987 where he came back and crossed the picket line and he played tight end that day, and the Giants still lost the game.
But at the end of that game, he played so hard that Wellington Mara came up to him and hugged him, and I heard what he said to him. He goes, "That's one of the most unforgettable games a giant has ever played. Thank you."
And probably, the story that really helped me get to Sports Illustrated from Newsday was one of the years I covered the team, Taylor got suspended for the first four games of a season for failing a drug test.
And I got the story on a Sunday night, and I wrote it. It was in Monday's paper, and the Giants and the league were not going to announce it until Monday. And so, I broke it in Newsday. And that was kind of, for me anyway, a bit of a momentous thing.
Yeah. And the other thing is, I mean, I never knew Lawrence Taylor. Like I would doubt if I saw him today, he would even remember me, even though I was around him almost every day for four years, four seasons. But who cares? That doesn't matter. But he was-
And when I got this job, man, my father (who unfortunately died after just one year I covered the team) was so thrilled, and he goes, "Oh my God, you get to be around these guys. You get to do all this."
And I just said, "Hey, dad, dad. Those days are over. Like I don't go in the press box and say, 'Man, I hope the Giants win today.' I go into the press box and say, 'Man, I hope I write the best story of anybody sitting here, and I hope I break some news today.' That's what this life is about. It's not about cheering for your team."
And isn't it funny that, I mean, a lot of people really think that way. And I think one of the reasons, Todd, they think that way is that they hear people on the radio and TV basically, and I guess some people who are columnists, I don't know, saying, "Oh my God, we're playing awful," and all this stuff. And I don't know, that was never my thing.
Well, you break that story on Taylor, the cocaine abuse. And like you said, Sports Illustrated seemed to take notice, and Mark Mulvoy reaches out to you. You're 31 years old, 1989. And Sports Illustrated brings you a board and they want you to do what you were doing.
And that was, you were doing these Sunday notes. You were covering the league in a time when a lot of people weren't really covering the entire league. How do you think that helped you transition into the next phase of your career?
Well, you're right. There weren't a lot of people who were doing that at the time. John Clayton was doing it. He might have still been in Pittsburgh or he maybe was in Seattle by then, or Tacoma. Gary Myers was doing it in Dallas, and then later at The Daily News.
It was really my cup of tea because it was a lot. I kind of modeled myself and tried to be like Gammons and tried to get to know a lot of people in the league who just by covering the Giants, I wouldn't know. So, it was really good training for what was to come at Sports Illustrated.
So, how did you do that? I sound like my children when they say, "How did you do your job back then, dad?" No internet, no cell phones. It was just a good old fashioned landline telephone. How did you do your job in those days?
And so, you get to know a lot of people if you just simply show up. Because, Todd, as you know, in 1988, it's different than 2023. If a newspaper shows up at 49ers training camp in 2023, well, okay, good. You get to go to the press conferences and maybe afterwards you can get one sidebar question with Kyle Shanahan, but it's just not the same as it was.
And really, I grew up, honestly, in the golden age of covering the NFL, absolute golden age because if you just showed up ... I mean, I went to Steeler's training camp when I was in Cincinnati that one year I was there.
But anyway, I think that just leads me to say that all of the people who really want to cover the NFL these days, I feel bad for them because it's very hard to do it kind of using the base like we used to do it because you were able to get to know people on every team.
And especially, in 1989 when I went to SI, remember if SI and ESPN showed up the same day, both of them got treated very well. It wasn't like now, where TVs get all the advantage and SI doesn't get nearly the advantage it got 30 years ago.
But you have to have the dedication to show up, but you also, have the dedication to, as our friend Jeff Hobson says, make a call, pick up the phone. And I would love to have seen your Rolodex back in those days, because didn't you like to call like five people a week that you had never spoken to?
That was my big thing. Every week that I wrote the notes column, when I was at Newsday, I wanted to talk to multiple people. I forget whether it was five, I'm sure many weeks it was. But I remember one week, the 46 defense, I spent probably 46 minutes on the phone with Buddy Ryan who I'd never met before.
And the lead of my Sunday notes column was on Buddy Ryan and how did he invent this defense and what was the key to it and all that stuff. And it was just a different thing that I wanted to make sure that every week there was somebody in my column who I didn't know.
And I think that really is one of the things that had great meaning for me later in my career. I remember early in my TV years, there's a rising star in the NFL office named Roger Goodell, and I got to know him.
So, you figure out what people are significant and you try to get to them and form relationships, and some of them pan out as big stars, some don't. But if you don't sort of test the waters, you'll never know.
Well, your work throughout those 29 years at Sports Illustrated showed the type of trust and access you were able to gain. People would talk to you, and this notes column became this thing, this Monday morning quarterback.
And not only that, but like when you were reporting from games, you would take readers to places that they just never got to go. You always seem to find a way to be with somebody after a game, for example.
Well, that was the benefit of working for SI, honestly, Todd. And look, part of it was my ability, I think, to do everything in my power to say, “I'm going to make sure that I get Jerry Rice alone somewhere for even if it's only three questions.”
And I think the other part of it was that I spent a lot of time — I remember in 1995, I spent a lot of time in that off season. There was one story I really wanted to do. I thought it was a white whale in our business, and that was, I wanted to spend a week inside a football team.
And I wanted to do that without somebody saying every five minutes, "Now this is off the record, can't use this. You can't ..." Because I went in and I probably asked 15 coaches, I said, "I want to see everything. So, if you're not confident in what you guys are doing as a team or an organization, you're probably not going to want me to do this."
But at the end of the day, Mike Holmgren of the Packers, they were a rising team, Favre was just getting good. And they let me do it in a week they were playing the Minnesota Vikings.
Peter King (40:53):
And Holmgren stood in front of his team early in the week and said, "Guys, this is Peter King, he's going to be around us. I'm giving him access to the team and blah, blah, blah, can sit in meetings, everything."
And I was actually at his house twice, two nights that week. And I kept thinking to myself, "This guy is unbelievable. He's never tired." And little did I know that Favre at the time was hooked on Vicodin, and at the end of the year, he had to go into rehab.
So, one of the great things about doing that story is that at the end of the year, Favre told me the entire story and how it happened. And he told me the night before he was going into rehab, and that's the only thing that anybody heard from him for six weeks, was my story on Favre going into rehab.
Well, because that year, luckily, Holmgren had given me access and I hung out in Favre's house until odd hours, like two nights. And Favre was a really funny guy because he would ... I remember this one night we were watching Son of Flubber the movie on whatever, either HBO or-
That's right. That's right. And I fall asleep on the couch and I had a hole in one of my socks. And so, then every time Favre would see me after that, he would say, "Hey, you got the holy socks on today." Or that kind of stuff.
But Todd, honestly, I think he picked me because there was a lot of Favre in that story because they beat the Vikings 38-35 that week. And that was the first game I think everybody started to say, “Wow, (the way they would talk about Mahomes now) Favre might be the best quarterback in this game or he has a chance to be.”
So, I don't know, I mean, over the years, you really have to weigh the balance to, of how close you get to a guy. I don't know this now, but with Favre's current troubles, I'm sure that he wishes that I would write some very nice stuff about him based on the fact that I was very close to him for a long time.
I can look back at things with regrets. And I look back at some things with regrets, but I can always say that there's a scene in Spotlight, the movie that's about the Boston Globe breaking the story about the priests in the greater Boston area, molesting so many young boys.
Todd Jones (45:19):
Yeah, great movie.
Peter King (45:20):
Great movie. And there's a scene late in that movie of the Michael Keaton character who I think is the city editor at one point, but now, he is running the Spotlight team, which is the independent investigative arm at the Boston Globe.
Peter King (45:36):
And one of the sources says, "We told you guys all about this. You knew all about this, whatever, six or seven years ago, and you ran the story small on an inside page, and you gave it no credence. You didn't look into it, you didn't follow up, you did nothing with it. And so, that's why we don't trust you to do the right thing now."
Peter King (46:02):
And everybody sort of looked at Michael Keaton, who at the time made the decision to not play the story up.
Todd Jones (46:12):
Right. At the end.
Peter King (46:12):
And Michael Keaton, who went to BC High School, who was a Catholic boy. And basically, he looked at everybody and said, "That's my fault. I made a mistake."
Peter King (46:28):
Todd, I've made a lot of mistakes in my career. A lot. And the only thing I know how to do is what my father always used to teach me. And that is, if you make a mistake, stand up, admit it, correct it. That's what you have to do.
Todd Jones (46:48):
And you've done that, Peter, you did it when you said, “I made a mistake on the Ray Rice story.” The domestic violence story in 2014. You did it with DeflateGate. You actually went to Sports Illustrated at the time and said, "I am willing to resign because of the mistake I made in reporting on DeflateGate."
Peter King (47:07):
The DeflateGate thing, that's one of the things that I really ... and it isn't that I don't want to think about it because you should think about your mistakes, but I know exactly to this day the mistake I made. I trusted somebody.
Peter King (47:30):
The story was Chris Mortensen reported that I think 11 of the 12 footballs had been deflated more than two pounds per square inch, which was significant. It would really make the football a lot softer if you deflated it by two pounds.
Peter King (47:53):
But anyway, so, Chris Mortensen reported that. I think he did it on a Monday morning, and then by late in the afternoon, I wrote a story confirming Mortensen's report. And I know exactly what I did wrong.
Peter King (48:12):
The person who I called as my second source on that story was wrong, has never admitted he was wrong. And was wrong because he didn't take direct knowledge of what exactly had happened.
Peter King (48:38):
But I'll believe till the day I die, he got it on hearsay evidence. And I assume that the only way he would know this is by knowing it straight from the horse's mouth.
Peter King (48:51):
But it doesn't matter how I got it wrong. I got it wrong. I made a mistake and I should have ... and look, if they had said, “We accept your resignation,” that wasn't a show thing by me. Absolutely, I would've quit.
Peter King (49:10):
And I guess in some ways, I'm fortunate that I didn't lose my job. But if I had lost my job, I would not be in any way bitter at SI because that is a big mistake to make, to confirm a story, the biggest story in sports and you're wrong.
Todd Jones (49:33):
It sounds like it still gets to you, Peter.
Peter King (49:36):
Yeah, yeah, of course. Because I made a mistake on my beat that was a huge mistake. And I think that to this day, it's actually, even though I have tremendous regret over it, in other ways, I'm happy that it happened because it has made me a lot more thorough, especially about stories of great import, the way that one was.
Todd Jones (50:17):
Well, I really admire the fact that you're willing to talk about that. And I agree with you, we all make mistakes. It's how you react to that mistake. I've made mistakes as a reporter and got called out on them. We all have.
Todd Jones (50:30):
You certainly made way less mistakes than the great stories you did and the great work you did. And I think the thing that matters is that the work has always mattered to you, the journalism. Which is why you're willing to say, "I screwed that one up." Because it's about the work. It's not about the reporter himself or herself.
Peter King (50:52):
In my opinion, Todd, that's the whole thing. Here I am, I'm sitting here getting ready for my 40th year covering the NFL. And my whole thing is I'm trying to think of new ways to do stuff in my column that are going to resonate with people.
Peter King (51:16):
My column is going to be shorter in words in 2023 than it has been the past two or three years. And it might have more sort of video or sound elements than it's had before. We're still determining that.
Peter King (51:37):
But I'm trying to meet people where they are rather than just say, "Well, hey, listen, I write an 11,000 word column. If you want to read it, great. If you don't want to read it, that's great too, whatever. But this is what I do." That would be foreign to what I'm telling young students now.
Peter King (52:04):
And what I'm telling young students is you better be able to be versatile and to be able to adapt to the times that you live in.
Peter King (52:13):
And honestly, Todd, there aren't going to be a lot of people. There are going to be some, but there aren't going to be a lot of people, and there won't be many young people who are going to read 11,000 words about the NFL every week. So, why not try something to meet them where they live?
Todd Jones (52:31):
Well, you certainly, have never been afraid to change and adapt. And I think in 2013, they took Monday morning quarterback and they made it its own website at Sports Illustrated. They still had editorial control, but it was a thing, it was a separate thing.
Todd Jones (52:45):
And you also, provided a lot of opportunities for young journalists at that time, which I think is fantastic. Like you saw the landscape and said, "You know what? Things are changing. We've got young talented people that can come in and help those things change for the better."
Peter King (53:01):
Well, one of the things I always felt, Todd, is that at least in my opinion, I think that traditionally, that the bigger beats at places like Sports Illustrated and big newspapers and ESPN have gone to veteran people who've done the job for a long time.
Peter King (53:27):
At SI, they basically gave me, in 2013, a salary cap to hire X number of people. And they said, "You've got X number of dollars that you can go out and hire people." So, I hired younger, sort of less noted people.
Peter King (55:05):
But anyway, my whole point is that I'm not sure that if you hire somebody who's covered the league for 10 years, and who's 36 years old, and who you have to pay a little bit more to, I'm not sure that they're going to be better than the 26 year old person who's incredibly hungry. Who I tell, I said, "Your future is up to you." And so, I mean, a lot of-
Todd Jones (55:35):
Well, that's who you were, right? At 31 when SI hired you, you were young and hungry and you had, what, five or six years around the NFL?
Peter King (55:42):
Todd Jones (55:43):
They took a chance on you.
Peter King (55:45):
Todd Jones (55:45):
And you proved that that chance was worthy.
Peter King (55:48):
Well, I hope so. And look, all these people who we hired, I mean, I'm just so proud of all of them. But the one thing that I think they all have in common is that they're self-starters.
Peter King (56:06):
And that is so incredibly important in this job because in order to distinguish yourself, you can't just wake up in the morning and say, "Well, got to go cover this press conference. Here we go. Another day." You got to say, "Damn, what am I doing today to be better than the guy who's sitting next to me?"
Todd Jones (56:26):
Well, that's the spirit you took from Sports Illustrated over to NBC in 2018. It's a spirit that has you on all these different platforms, TV, radio, podcasts, thinking about trying to change your writing.
Todd Jones (56:38):
And a spirit that goes back to (I'll close with this) in 1979, you're an intern for Associated Press in the Netherlands and you're in Amsterdam like a month and there's a ship wreck.
Peter King (56:50):
Todd Jones (56:51):
Three months. There's a shipwreck. You don't even really speak the language. You're trying to do your job and you found a way to go cover that story. That's what it's all about, right, Peter?
Peter King (57:04):
Look, this is weird because there was no sports involved in this internship, but when I left Ohio University, they have a great program they give out, I don't know if they still do it, but they gave out ten foreign internships to seniors leaving school. And so, I was assigned to Amsterdam.
Peter King (57:31):
And so, this one day, this shipwreck happened in Rotterdam, I bet I was two or three weeks into the job. And they said, "You got to go to Rotterdam and cover this shipwreck."
Peter King (57:45):
And obviously, I had to find out where Rotterdam was. I looked on a map, I took the train there. It was maybe 10 o'clock in the morning and they say, "Call us by four o'clock and you can dictate a story."
Peter King (57:58):
And I think 44 men died. And I just found a couple of people who I could piece together a couple of quotes from. And I stayed there for a couple days covering it.
Peter King (58:12):
But how invaluable was that? How invaluable was that experience getting plopped down into the middle of a country where you don't speak the language and working there for three months and going to cover things?
Peter King (58:25):
And just those are the kind of things that really help in journalism that there's no way I would've ever had the career that I had without those three months in a foreign country knowing nothing about the people or anything about it.
Peter King (58:45):
And just really getting to understand that reporting is reporting, even if it's hard to find somebody who you can make yourself understood to.
Todd Jones (58:59):
Well, you always have that notebook in your back pocket as a young reporter and you still carry that idea to this day.
Todd Jones (59:07):
And I think after all these years of covering the NFL, and being on the front lines, and being on a helicopter with John Elway, or in the limo with Steve Young, or behind the scenes with whoever it might be, that's the type of adventuresome curiosity that we need in the business.
Todd Jones (59:25):
And I really admire the fact that you're trying to nurture that with young journalist and pass on the torch in a way.
Peter King (59:32):
I appreciate it, Todd. Thanks a lot. It's been fun to talk to you and to relive some of those days.
Todd Jones (59:39):
Well, you said you hope your professional tombstone says, "He was fair." And you've been very fair and generous with us with your time and your stories. And Peter, I really, really appreciate this. It's been a lot of fun.