Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2 comments MMQB Review: Screw the Super Bowl, Let's Talk About the Lockout Edition

It's Super Bowl week. It's all hype and no football. Everyone pretend you are excited. The week between the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl is an interminable period of time. Of course it is better than the month and a half wait for the National Championship in college football so I shouldn't complain. Peter isn't interested in talking about the Super Bowl this week in MMQB, he wants to talk about the lockout and he wants us all to know Roger Goodell, the same guy who earns around $11 million last time I heard, works really hard. In fact, he works so especially, really hard there are people worried about him. He has a work ethic while earning his $11 million paycheck you wouldn't understand.

When the Packers and Steelers practice Wednesday through Friday -- Green Bay at the Cowboys' complex in Irving, Pittsburgh at the Texas Christian University facility in Fort Worth, 38 miles west of here -- the daily high temps will be 27, 36 and 38, respectively. Oh, and with snow showers and wintry mix off and on. Gotta love these temperate Super Bowl sites.

I think there should be a rule. If the NFL refuses to rotate the Super Bowl sites among warm weather cities, then the NFL writers should stop bitching about how cold it is at the site of the Super Bowl. Having the Super Bowl in New Jersey isn't the greatest idea ever, I will admit that. Use your journalistic persuasive techniques to get the NFL to start rotating the Super Bowl among sure-fire warm cities or shut up. You are at the Super Bowl and getting paid to be there. Feel lucky.

Just for fun, let's look at the high for those three days in East Rutherford, where the Super Bowl, ridiculously, is scheduled to be played in 2014. The highs: 40, 22 and 31. So, the average high in and around Arlington, where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday, 34 for the three practice days. In New Jersey: 31.

Miami: 80. (True: Miami is predicted to have highs of 82, 79 and 79.) Hey, but who's counting?

I don't think it is a great idea for the Super Bowl to be played in cold weather, but it is one year. I think we can all bundle up and handle it. It's not like even in the coldest weather no one will attend the Super Bowl. Those who don't attend the Super Bowl will still watch and there will still be plenty of people who attend the Super Bowl.

We'll start off with a tease for a project of mine. I've spent some time this season following Commissioner Roger Goodell around

Peter hasn't been paid, mind you, for following Roger Goodell around. He's just been doing it on his own free will. He has some free time since Brett Favre had gotten injured at the end of last season and figured he would test the quality of the security system cameras at the Goodell Estate. Peter has learned if you hop the bushes in the back and try to enter the house through the patio, the cameras won't catch your presence at all.

Earlier this year Bill Simmons made a snide comment about King and Goodell taking this picture together (scroll down all of the way). The picture where Peter King looks like a little kid who gets to eat lunch with his hero and Goodell looks like he is passing a gallstone. At the time, I think Bill rightly criticized him, because eating lunch and being best friends with those he covers has always seemed to be a problem for Peter. So at the time, it was justified criticism.


for a story due to run in Sports Illustrated this week. It's the longest piece I've done for the magazine, around 6,800 words (if the editors are kind). It's not so much about the labor deal, more about just who this guy is -- though, obviously, I try to illustrate whether he can bridge the oceanic gap in these talks between players and owners.

He was eating lunch for an article he was writing. Peter probably went into the Sports Illustrated offices in mid-December and asked to write a story about Goodell and was told "no." Then Peter most likely brought out the 18 hours of footage he had taped where he followed Goodell around everywhere he went without him knowing, including in Goodell's own house. Sports Illustrated figured they may as well go ahead with the writing project to avoid a lawsuit.

Paul Tagliabue doesn't regret his 2006 deal. You know, the one everyone blames him for pushing through and causing this current mess. "We knew it'd be terminated at the earliest possible date,'' Tagliabue told me of the March 2006 deal that had an opt-out date after just two seasons for either side. "We knew it wasn't sustainable long-term.''

Well good. I am glad you got that non-sustainable short-term deal done until you were no longer commissioner.

This is the deal that looks so bad in retrospect. It's the deal that might well be keeping Tagliabue out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the thinking being that he shepherded the deal through ownership without being concerned about the aftermath.

I can see how someone would blame Tagliabue for pushing through a short-term deal that doesn't look out for the people he was intending to help and is only sustainable in the short-term. It sounds like a huge fail on its face. In terms of how Congress gets deals done, this is would be a huge success, but I am not sure NFL commissioners can look to the short-term results of this prevented lockout to measure success.

He seemed nonplused about it. "Would it have been better,'' he asked me, "If we'd had a lockout in '07 or '08? No. Not at all. The league has had three or four great seasons of football since then.''

Yes, but now there may be no football in the year 2011 and the two sides are nowhere near an agreement. Essentially, the problem got pushed back a few years and now both sides are more pissed off. From what I know, I am not sure how this position of Taglibue's could be defended. All the hard work that could have been done four years ago is having to take place now.

"History shows there's no real pressure to get a deal 'til you get to September,'' Tagliabue said.

If a deal gets done in September, I doubt football could start to be played the week after a deal gets done. So football will be missed, which was the "advantage" of the crappy deal in 2006. Basically, it sounds like Tagliabue just didn't want the lockout on his watch, so he set up a crap deal to appease everyone short-term knowing in the long-term bigger issues (18 game season, the Player's union not wanting a rookie cap) would rear their heads later when he was no longer commissioner. It just sounds like this is how it happened.

Goodell's friends think he's working too hard. "I'm mad at him right now,'' Jerry Richardson, a key negotiator for the owners and confidant of Goodell, told me in December. When I asked why, he wouldn't say. But Goodell said it's because Richardson believes he's working too hard.

Jerry Richardson then went out and fired every employee who works for the Carolina Panthers because they make too much money, hired replacement NFL players, and paid all of his new employees minimum wage...then raised ticket prices on the fans before he announced he did all of this.

(Yeah, I'm a bit bitter. The whole "we'll re-sign all of the important players when the lockout is over" promise isn't working for me right now)

Richardson is not the only owner who feels this way. One of Goodell's staunchest allies, New England's Robert Kraft, told me: "I am afraid he's going to burn out. He is indefatigable.''

Hey, if this sounds like pro-owner propaganda in preparation for the lockout, I want you know Peter King would never do this. Of course he would also never really question whether what he was being told seems like pro-owner propaganda due to his child-like quality of reporting exactly what people tell him. So Peter may not even be aware he seems to be spouting pro-owner propaganda.

So yes, to me this sounds like Peter is helping the owners paint Goodell as a hard-working guy who only wants to get the players back on the field as soon as possible...after he pushes through the terrible idea of an 18 game season and makes sure the owner's interests are met where they can essentially have the players help pay for the facilities they use to play games. The owners want the players to contribute more money to help pay the cost of running the owner's business. So after all of that is met, then Roger Goodell is all about some football being played.

I saw Goodell, at a Skyline Chili parlor in downtown Cincinnati, spend four or five minutes with a fan. He invited the two city cops assigned to escort him around town in for lunch with his party. The motorcycle cop said to me, "This doesn't happen in this line of work.''

I am sure DeMaurice Smith is a huge asshole who runs over motorcycle cops with his limo and murders puppies and kittens at every available opportunity just to show motorcycle cops how mean he can be.

Regarding Roethlisberger, Goodell said when he was investigating what to do with the quarterback, he talked to "I bet two dozen [Steeler] players ... Not one, not a single player, went to his defense. It wasn't personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, 'He won't sign my jersey.' ''

The sports media is reporting on this breathlessly as if this is new earth-shattering news. It's not. The Steelers success has really prevented this from being a bigger story (because when teams are having success inter-team conflict tends to get overlooked), but every indication has been that few Steelers players actually like Ben Roethlisberger. You don't have to like everyone you work with and this isn't the NBA where are 12 players a few coaches. The players that don't like Roethlisberger don't have to interact with him. Anyway, the signs have all been there, so I don't get the novelty of the story. That's all I was saying. The Steelers players may not like Roethlisberger, but he is a huge reason the team is successful and I am sure many of the players recognize that.

Later of course, Peter made an effort to prove that not only was he wanting to appear pro-owner during the negotiations, but he lacks journalistic credibility by falling on the sword for Goodell's out-of-line statement here. I don't doubt for a second that Goodell was talking about Steelers players and I think Peter's assumption (if it even was that) was correct, but I bet Goodell threatened Peter with some un-named punishment (cutting off access, etc) if he didn't clarify Goodell's remarks better, and like any good errand boy, Peter did clarify and fall on the sword for Goodell's mistake. At least he still has access and that's what it is all about to Peter. I don't doubt Goodell was referring to Steelers players so the parenthesis "Steelers" should have stayed in the quote.

Why would Peter King think Goodell was talking about any other NFL players and why would Goodell talk to any other NFL players outside of the Steelers organization about Roethlisberger? I believe Goodell was talking about Steelers players who made this statement and I also believe Peter King says he "got it wrong" after being strong armed by someone into saying so. Sure, it was an assumption, but I believe Peter should have stuck to his assumption.

And finally ... This is what Goodell told me about how he wanted to live his professional and personal life: "The one thing I would hope would go on my tombstone is, 'I made my parents proud.' ''

"And he got an 18 game schedule pushed through during the 2011 NFL labor negotiations."

I wrote a little Xs and Os forecast of the game in SI this week, and made the point that it's going to be vital for Green Bay to hem in Roethlisberger. When he throws on the run, or when he just plain runs, good things happen for the Steelers.

You heard it here first Packers defense: Don't let Ben Roethlisberger have a great game. That leads to bad things. I may be getting nitpicky, but this seems like an obvious point. How the hell do they go about making sure to hem in Roethlisberger? If Peter and Gregg Easterbrook got together to run a football team, well, that would be something I would like to see televised so I could watch it.

I don't blame women who won't forgive Roethlisberger for the story in Georgia last winter (including some very, very close to me), but the fact that he's been chastened and knocked down a few pegs by Goodell and others in his life has had a big impact on him this year.

We know this has had a huge impact on Roethlisberger because we are constantly told this. I have found in my limited window to the world that nearly all women, except for women who are Steelers fans, hate Ben Roethlisberger.

Saturday was the 16-year anniversary of one of the most interesting postgame experiences I've had at a Super Bowl: the aftermath of the 49ers' 49-26 rout of the Chargers in Miami. I trailed Young for the magazine, listening to him do every one of the live shots, answering the same questions over and over. Young was thirsty, and hungry, and at one point asked if I could find him some Gatorade or something to eat.

(Peter King) "Perhaps I could give you a foot massage?"

(Steve Young) "That's creepy. No thanks."

(Peter King whispers) "If not, how about I hook you up with an adult massage. I know this girl who taught me the greatest techniques. Give me five minutes and I will show you."

I went under the stands and found a food service area doing inventory, explained the situation, and finagled four bottles of red Gatorade, a couple of apples, and about eight or 10 sugar cookies. That's it.

That's it? Hell yes, that's it. This is just a snack in Peter's world.

When I accuse Peter of getting too close to the people he covers, this is what I am talking about. Can you imagine another sportswriter, covering an athlete for a major magazine, who would run and get an athlete food in this situation? I can't.

Young drank two of the Gatorades like a dying man in the Mojave, and munched down the cookies, and soon we were in his limo riding back to the Miami airport Marriott, their team hotel. Steinberg was in the car, and after a few twists and turns out of the parking lot, Young said, "I'm not feeling so ...'' RALPH! Out came what must have been 30 ounces of the Gatorade in its bright red splendor.

This story has no point, other than Peter is killing space and time by telling this story.

Even though he lay on the bed for the longest time with two needles in his arm, he wanted the night to go on forever. You could just tell. Gradually, the color, and a smile, returned to his face. The last thing I heard when I was about to leave (someone had to work that night, after all) was Young calling out to me at the door

"Don't go," he said. "You can stay. Stay! I'm fine. Really, I'm fine."

It's a pretty good job.

So essentially Peter goes through this story, which took up probably 8-10% of his MMQB to tell us how awesome his job is. Of course, he still finds menial things to complain about, like the weather.

Then Peter goes on to try and prove there is no East Coast bias in Hall of Fame voting, which I don't think there is.

Hall of Fame selections since 2000: 61.

New York players/coaches enshrined:
2 -- Harry Carson and Benny Friedman.

California players/coaches enshrined:
13 -- Howie Long, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Dave Wilcox, Jack Youngblood, Jackie Slater, Dave Casper, Marcus Allen, Steve Young, John Madden, Fred Dean, Jerry Rice ... and I've given George Allen and Bob Brown a half-California apiece since, roughly, they coached and played, respectively, for half of their careers in California.

East Coast (Washington to Boston) players/coaches enshrined:
7.5 -- Andre Tippett, Art Monk, Darrell Green, Harry Carson, Benny Friedman, Russ Grimm ... and George Allen, Bob Brown and Reggie White half apiece.

I am not sure who said there was an East Coast bias in Hall of Fame voting, but clearly Peter has gotten this accusation before. The point could be made that more players from the West Coast should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame from this period. So even though the West Coast numbers are impressive, with the 49ers success through the 80's and 90's, I am sure someone has argued there aren't enough players from the West Coast in, regardless of how many players have already been voted in. Maybe they have a point since the issue could be even more qualified West Coast players should have been voted into the Hall of Fame as compared to how many are in there currently.

There is no local beat man I respect more than Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He never falls in love with the Packers when the rest of the world does, and he's always suitably skeptical about the locals. Wish I could think of a few examples, but I'm always impressed with a local beat person who can be exhaustively good and thorough -- two traits McGinn shows consistently -- while resisting the temptation, even in the best of times, to pump up the team. But when he likes something, he won't hesitate to write it. And I don't recall him ever being as high on a Packers team as he is now, and I mean high about the long-term future.

A few excerpts from a column he wrote for the Journal-Sentinel over the weekend:

We all know how much I like the Packers this year, and Aaron Rodgers overall, but as bright as the future seems to be, I think McGinn is getting ahead of himself a bit. Let me break down what he said and focus on the real problems with a couple of his assumptions...

"Look at the overwhelming strengths of this team. The only thing that can stop [quarterback Aaron] Rodgers would be concussions or major injury. Jermichael Finley, 23, will be back wanting his piece of the action, and coupled with three ace wideouts in their mid-20s and perhaps venerable Donald Driver the Packers will have almost an embarrassment of receiving riches.

Donald Driver is going to be 36 next year. James Jones and Jordy Nelson haven't shown themselves to be quite "ace" wideouts yet. They are very good, but not "aces."

"Bryan Bulaga, just 21, didn't play a terrible game all season and should do nothing but get better.

Bulaga has also shown that he may not be a left tackle in the NFL, he could be best suited at right tackle, and Chad Clifton is not getting any younger. So tackle is still very much a need for the Packers.

Tramon Williams ... played at a Pro Bowl level, and Sam Shields is able to outrun many of his mistakes and improve dramatically as the nickel back. Old pro Charles Woodson will fit somewhere.

Here's another problem. Woodson may fit "somewhere" but Sam Shields isn't a starting cornerback in the NFL. His great value right now is as a nickel back. So if Woodson fitting "somewhere" doesn't involve him starting, then the Packers will have a need at cornerback in the near future.

Unless Thompson should retire prematurely, the Packers should have him finding the players, Mike McCarthy coaching them and Rodgers leading a formidable roster for years to come. Late last February, a personnel man for one of the four playoff semifinalists walked up to Thompson and told him that after careful study he had evaluated the Packers as the best team in the 2009 playoff field. Arizona and Kurt Warner extinguished the Packers' chances 12 months ago. The worthy Steelers could do the same thing next Sunday. No matter what happens, the Packers will not be going away ...

I'm not disagreeing at all, but can we let them play in the Super Bowl first? The roster seems to have great potential, but this is the NFL where teams have injuries that will have an impact on the team (the Packers were able to overcome their injuries this year) and things happen. The Packers may be on top for a while, there's no doubt it could happen, but let's calm down a bit.

No Fine Fifteen this week, due to the small, complicating matter of the lack of football games over the weekend.

Yet for some reason, Peter feels free to make a Fine Fifteen over the summer when there wasn't any games being played. Go figure.

So I've been looking for the perfect work chair at a hotel, and I believe I've found it. The Dallas Sheraton, which is housing the media at the Super Bowl, has these high-backed, red swivel chairs, with a firm back and just cushy-enough seat. For those of us who spend hours a day in them (and, unfortunately, I expect that to be the case several days this week), I applaud your decor director, Sheraton.

I am sure people who work outside in the cold weather are extremely excited to hear Peter has found the best possible chair to work in while at a hotel. It's such a huge problem to not have the best possible seat to place your ass in while you work. I know anyone works outside during the winter or summer can attest to how much of a headache that must be since they don't usually get to sit down for a good portion of the day.

I don't know if Peter ever understands how his comments and complaints come off to people.

"For those of us who spend hours a day in them..."

Because there aren't millions of other people who work all day in an office who sit in chairs too? Peter acts like he is one of the few who have to sit all day and work. It is just the issues Peter brings up in his weekly MMQB are just so trivial, like finding the right comfortable chair to write in, it makes him sound petty.

2. I think you can't win by telling the truth, as when Aaron Rodgers said Saturday the Packers had rallied around the replacements for trusted vets like Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley. Some of the injured players, Rodgers said, "are still a part of this team, but some of them didn't choose to stick around.'' Uh-oh.

Barnett, for one, said he could get better individual attention elsewhere, instead of in the Packers' crowded training room. And he and Finley were fuming about Rodgers' remarks.

Brett Favre would never had something like this. Partially because Favre would have his own locker room and would stay as far away from the Packers team as possible at all he would have no clue whether the guys on IR were with the team or not.

It's much smarter to go ahead and make the switch now and bring in a quality young assistant with the hunger and energy to make the most of a head-coaching chance with a good general manager in Mike Reinfeldt ... either that or hire Dom Capers the week after the Super Bowl. You can be sure Capers wants one more shot at a head job before he finishes coaching.

Well if Capers wants one more head coaching job, then I say give it to him. He does have a 48-80 career record as a head coach after all. Granted, that was with two expansion teams, but if he can't build a team the way he wants with an expansion team when can he do this? His time controlling personnel matters in Carolina was a pretty big disaster, so maybe he would be better just coaching...defenses.

5. I think, for the 73rd time, there can be no trades until the first day of the new league year, and there can be no free-agency movement for the league's 495 free-agents until then, which almost certainly means there can be no trades or free-market moves 'til there's a new CBA. That's a long way off. So could we please have a moratorium on the Carson Palmer-to-Arizona or San Francisco or anywhere rumors, and can we please stop speculating where Kevin Kolb's going to go? Come on. This stuff's months away.

Yeah everyone. Quit speculating where Kevin Kolb is going to go and trying to predict which players a team is going to keep and not keep. Peter is tired of this shit.

6. I think, not to beat a dead Eagle, that Kevin Kolb is going nowhere, unless Philadelphia gets a sick offer. Why would the Eagles trade a quarterback Andy Reid loves, for anything, when he's not sure Mike Vick can play 16 games? There may come a time, like in 2012, when the cost of keeping Kolb would be so prohibitive the Eagles would let him go.

Yeah, quit speculating where Kevin Kolb will go whoever wrote this last paragraph. Peter doesn't care that Kolb may go nowhere, because it doesn't matter at this point. Peter hates it when there is speculation about where Kolb may go.

8. I think when Kevin Mawae said to Sirius' Chris Russo the other day that he "can't sell'' the 18-game schedule to players, I was glad to hear it ... but the real question is this: If the league raises salaries across the board 15 percent, and if the league offers 10 years of post-career health care instead of the current five, and if players get vested at, say, 1.2 years of credited service for every year of an 18-game schedule played, then I'd like to hear if Mawae can sell it.

This feels like a pro-owner MMQB. If the owners also offered the players the entire profits from the running of the team and 4 years of credited service for every 1 year of playing an 18 game schedule, the players would accept it. Mawae is saying he can't sell the 18 game schedule to the players as things stand now, I think this is understood. Obviously things could change in the future, but he is negotiating by drawing a line in the sand. Why does Peter believe anything that is said on either side at this point is anything but a negotiating tactic?

a. Saw True Grit. Other than the absolutely brilliant remake of The Longest Yard, (and I jest only massively, because I appeared in the second one), this, I believe, is the best remake of a movie I've ever seen. First: I love movies that succeed in putting you back in time, in some period you've always imagined what it would be like. And the Coen brothers, I thought, did a perfect job on what I imagine 1880 was like. The Coen brothers did a great job of fulfilling Peter's image of what he imagines the 1880's would be like. Peter should be a movie reviewer.

"Battlefield Earth did a great job of showing what I think a post-Apocalyptic world run by aliens with dreadlocks would seem like. I can't rave enough about this. If there were a world run by aliens with huge hands then I don't doubt it would be a violet-tinted science fiction world we would live in. This movie correctly matches up with my preconceived notions and that makes it a great movie."

c. I feel for Hallie Steinfeld. She's 14, and I haven't seen acting talent in such a young kid since Natalie Portman in Beautiful Girls. But already I see she's being followed to the mall and wherever else by the paparazzi. Poor kid. Normal life, gone.

Poor girl! All she wanted to do was have a feature role in an Oscar-nominated film with A-list actors like Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Who knew if she was handed the starring role in the remake of a great movie the paparazzi would take a liking to her? All she wanted was a normal life where she was a movie star, is that too much to ask?

I hope somehow she finds a way to live her life out of sight for the most part, the way Portman did by disappearing, relatively speaking, and being a fairly normal student at Harvard.

Hear that Hallie Steinfeld, you must go to Harvard! Be like Natalie Portman. Give off the slight aroma of fema-doucheness and you can be just like her.

(I don't hate Natalie Portman, but there is something about her that always seems fake to me. Other than the fact she gets paid to pretend to be someone else of course.)

It's just so unfair how all of these award nominations are getting in the way of Steinfeld's normal life. Can't she do a big budget remake of a movie and get nominated for an Oscar without people paying attention to her?

i. Coffeenerdness: Unhappiness is landing in Dallas after 10 Sunday night, running into a Starbucks while rushing to the hotel to write this column and still get one hour of sleep, and getting two miles away from the place when you take your first sip of the quad venti whole milk latte, and discovering it's a quad venti soy latte instead. I know whole milk. I know soy. Yo no soy. Now that puts a damper on the typing, let me tell you.

Peter King seems like such a difficult person to like. We all get annoyed by little inconveniences in life, but when it comes a time to get an opportunity to voice your annoyances to the world, many tend to think twice about how they will come off. I have a ton of complaints that sound stupid when I voice them publicly.

In this situation, many people wouldn't talk about this because they would realize it makes them sound like a pampered asshole. Not Peter. He embraces looking like an asshole and I am not sure he even realizes it.


rich said...

Just for fun, let's look at the high for those three days in East Rutherford, where the Super Bowl, ridiculously, is scheduled to be played in 2014.

Because as we all know only warm weather teams play in the Super Bowl. It's not like the conference championships were played last week in a Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Every football game ever has been played in warm temperatures. The Ice Bowl? Never happened.

Gotta love these temperate Super Bowl sites.

Right, because it snows all the time in Texas, it's not like it's usually warm during the winter. They're also playing in a dome so weather... not so much of an impact.

the way Portman did by disappearing, relatively speaking, and being a fairly normal student at Harvard.

Disappeared = appearing in the prequels to Star Wars...

take your first sip of the quad venti whole milk latte, and discovering it's a quad venti soy latte instead. I know whole milk. I know soy. Yo no soy. Now that puts a damper on the typing, let me tell you.

I had this happen once, I spent the night in the corner of my rooming crying and cutting my wrists. Also, "Yo no soy" is absolute gibberish that translates to "I am not" unless he meant to add "sane" or "normal," then I'd agree, but "yo no soy"? What?

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, what Ice Bowl? The same one we celebrate every year for how awesome it is and are all nostalgic about? I don't see the huge issue with one cold weather bowl. It is not like it happens every year.

I think Jerry Jones should truck in some snow, just to piss everyone off.

Portman didn't do much but be in those Star Wars movies, but your point still stands. My wife likes Portman. I can't figure it out. I think she is a fema-douche.

The soy latte thing is so typical of Peter. It's almost a parody of himself. I don't see how he could go on after that happened. What a traumatic event.