Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Peter King Likes to Hear He's Right

As my tour of annoying online columnists continues (and I really do want to write about other things, but this week has just been aggravating)...

A few weeks ago Peter King wrote how sports fans just don't know the intensity of a big time sports event unless they live in along the Eastern Seaboard. It was a deeply arrogant and foolish statement, as I wrote about here, and others have also stated. While that statement alone was ridiculous, what he wrote the next day I thought was even worse.

First, a step back... About online mailbags. They're a staple of the online columnist. They're incredibly easy to write. Someone else comes up with your stories, all you have to do is offer some short responses after (hopefully) a minimal amount of research and effort. Plus, these mailbags offer some form of interactivity for the columnist. It could be used as an ideal place for corrections, or for reasonable debate over something written in a regular column. Or it could be a place for jokes, as Bill Simmons has nearly perfected. The interesting thing is that not two of these mailbags are alike. Simmons goes for laughs. Dr. Z has lots of inside jokes (maybe not the right word to use here) and doesn't reprint letters. Dennis Dodd thinks the mailbag is there just to mock people and offer no insight whatsoever. John Donovan and Rob Neyer raise interesting debates and are surprisingly respectful toward writers. Stewart Mandel reverts to ad hominem attacks and misdirection when his writers call him on something wrong. Matt Hayes is just a dick.

But then there's Peter King, who usually offers some insight in his mailbags, though perhaps that is just in comparison to his increasingly vacuous MMQB. Or at least so I thought for a while.

Like I said, after his easily disputable, remarkably off-the-mark comment about intensity among sports fans, I figured King would immediately wish to retract it and include the next day an email from some wild Packers or Chiefs fan or maybe someone from the Black Hole in Oakland. The email would say "Hey we're pretty intense here too!" and King would get to write something like, "That's true. I didn't mean to slight anyone else. In fact the intensity I wrote about is palpable most places, which is what makes the game great!" and we could all feel good about ourselves and feel satisfied over our lattes.

But instead he selected the following letter:

LOVE THE EAST COAST, BABY. From Doug of Columbus, Ohio: "Your East Coast sports comment is dead on. My brother, who lives in Boston, was home for a reunion this summer. I mentioned that I was going to go to the opening night for the NHL in Columbus. I was just going down and buying a ticket. He said that was something he missed about the Midwest -- just going up to the window or a scalper at gametime to purchase a ticket. He said finding a ticket to a Patriots/Celtics/Bruins/Red Sox game is just about impossible. Whether you can afford it or not is another story.''
Your brother is a wise man.

I'm not sure whether this is technically self-fellatio, since there's another person involved. But it sure seems pretty close.

But it got me wondering how often King did something like this, and by "this" I mean use a letter that backs him up on something foolish he'd written. Well, I've waited a few weeks, and there appears to be a pattern. The last email of the Tuesday mailbag three times in the last month has been an oddly inserted email that says how right Peter is about something, and that something is usually insignificant in the broad scheme of things. So it's basically a way to end the column with a "Gosh, Peter, you sure are right." and Peter gets to respond with "Hey, thanks! I guess I am!".

Three weeks ago, in reference to Peter's near-death experience with a drunken degenerate gambler at the racetrack:

THANKS FOR PUTTING MY MEADOWLANDS ENCOUNTER IN PERSPECTIVE. From Todd Prins of Salt Lake City: "You asked if you made the right choice headed to your car. Well, did you come home? Then you made the right choice. I'm not saying anything would have happened if you would have taken the other half-step toward the drunk aggressor, but you start thinking about Ken Hamlin and Jerome McDougle, then you take your Magic Eight Ball and imagine the story we would have read today if things had gone all wrong in the parking lot. All of your fans who appreciate your work, talent and candor, and your family and friends who appreciate all of that and more, let me just say -- yeah, you made the right decision.''
Wow. That is an incredibly nice e-mail. Thanks for writing it.

And this week:

COFFEE SNOBS AFTER MY OWN HEART. From Ron and Joyce Galvin of Ashland, Ore.: "Re the poor quality of egg nog lattes at Starbucks. We've been thinking the same thing about the metallic taste, so, as an experiment, we ordered straight espressos (which we never do) and found the same tinny taste. We think the problem is in the pods and not the nog.''
You are beautiful human beings. This e-mail will be shared with my New Jersey baristas this week and we'll try to get to the bottom of it.

It just seems like this is almost his formula. Finish with a flourish and let the crowd applaud you. And I think it's kind of silly. But hey, it's his column, and he can do whatever he wants. And with Mailbags, who knows? I'm sure a lot of the emails aren't even picked by the writer himself. If that's the case, Peter's editor seems to trying to bolster his writer's ego. And while silly, I still guess it's better than Dodd and Mandel publishing the most mouthbreathingest letters of the week so we can all see what they have to suffer through (the horror of having to write about sports and get paid for it!).

So to those of you who have lofty dreams of having your name in an interent mailbag, try complimenting Peter's diet and how it accentuates his nuggetpouch. Or some bullshit about how he's right that old House is just so crotchety.