NSSA: Like all fans, King waits for NFL labor deal

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2011

By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY — Technically, Peter King is one of the most prolific writers covering the most popular professional sport in a country mad for athletics.
That sought-after title would be vaunted most years, but these days King is a watchdog for a game that has a damning cloud hovering above.
The NFL remains a league with abundant storylines among players, coaches and franchises:
Can the Packers defend their fourth Super Bowl title? Will Cam Newton dazzle the pro game like he did in college? Will the Brett Favre retirement saga ever end?
Despite all that, postering, lobbying and collective bargaining argeements has ruled the league recently with a lockout that’s approaching two months. One of the NFL’s greatest seasons is being followed by one of its most tumultuous offseasons.
Shall the league’s labor dispute climax to a disrupted or, even worse, canceled regular season, King says his gridiron wits won’t be denied because ultimately, football is football.
“If there’s no season, I will go to a high school or college game every weekend because Monday Morning Quarterback will live,” King said in between sips of raspberry wheat Shock-Top in the lobby of Goodman Gym at Catawba. “And it’s not going to be written about a labor dispute. It’s going to be written about football that’s played somewhere.”
King, a 1979 graduate of Ohio University, and on staff at Sports Illustrated since 1989, received the National Sportswriter of the Year Award Monday night. King is most prominently known for his ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column that appears on SI.com 48 times a year. He frequents numerous radio and television shows throughout the season and serves as a reporter for NBC’s Football Night in America. King has a popular twitter account and keeps an active online profile. His malleability is a testament to the always-expanding media scene, which King says is paramount for journalists wanting to stay relevant.
Oh, and he wrote a book in 2009, primarily a collection of his best columns.
“I basically need to be able to learn how other people are learning about sports,” King said. “We’ve all got to understand that if you want to get by in this media world, you’ve got to be versatile and do a number of things well.”
As expected, all this access grants him a documentary-style perspective into the biggest spectator sport in America. He knows things fans don’t know (Bill Belichick donated a massive library of football books to the Naval Academy) and things they don’t want to know (Rex Ryan attempted yoga while trying to lose weight).
However, all that said, he’s still as clueless as everyone else when it comes to solving the league’s labor dilemma, but keeps a hint of positivity.
“The thing that I say to people that are livid about this is the NFL has not lost games since 1987,” King said. “With society as litigious as it is, it’s the way life is. I don’t think yet that it’s time to throw anybody off a cliff. They won’t ruin the game forever no matter what happens, but they will definitely impact this game very negatively if this drags into the season.”
King, 53, modestly says there’s not much to his job, with multiple angles and interests in a sport that’s already deconstructed and dissected on a nightly basis during the fall. King’s crafted some rewarding passages, such as a piece on New York Jets defensive lineman Dennis Byrd, who suffered a broken vertebra in a 1992 game that left him temporarily unable to walk. There was a cross-country trip on John Madden’s bus and an behind-the-scenes week with the Green Bay Packers.
“Every week in the NFL, there’s 15 really interesting stories,” King said. “Every week, things seem to happen and the stories take care of themselves and I never really have trouble finding stories. The fun thing about covering football is that everybody has a chance every year. I think every team is a story.”
King accurately predicted last year’s Super Bowl, but the league’s unpredictability halted him from making a decision for this year just yet.
That’s what gives the league it’s charm. Even the Panthers can go from dull to intriguing with one No. 1 draft pick.
“Every team always looks great three months after the Super Bowl,” King said. “Teams can be good for a long time, but how long can they really be champions? That’s what makes it fun.”
“I just hope they don’t kill the golden goose.”
That’s one story that he won’t be writing.