When last we left one-blob horse race, Peter King, he mourned the passing of the 2005 Patriots, the most spectacular 10-6 team in the all-time annals of letdownology. PK also wondered whether Tiki Barber’s catty quotes of Giants betrayal to the media were actually refreshing candor, while at the same time castigating Pey-Pey for throwing his offensive line under the bus. Petey then imagined the sense of outrage that would result from Al Saunders being a black guy.
As for this week, the MMQB proxy duty is handled by Redskins GM Bruce Allen, who in addition to listing the 10 best museums in D.C. for executing pessimists, praises the “the active, non-stop, brilliantly quick and witty mind of Dan Snyder” and thinks we should take players names off of jerseys (NFL Shop loves that idea). In short, he’s exactly as stupid and toadying as anyone you’d expect to be running the Redskins.
That’s all well and good, but we’ll stick with Klassic King, specifically the MMQB column that followed the Tuck Rule game. What might have been an opportunity to provide instant cogent commentary on one of the more notable NFL games of the last generation, or even say anything at all, was instead a column largely about Peter King’s dog. Almost for the best, actually. READ ON.
ST. LOUIS — Time out.
Four words in and Peter’s already winded. The coffee and beer diet takes its toll.
I know this is the biggest football weekend of what has been a very strange season, and I have plenty to say about the two games I witnessed in person (Donovan McNabb became an NFL man in Chicago) and the two I didn’t (New England sports lore added a Snow Bowl classic) and the dumbest rule we’ve all ever seen (sorry, Raiders). I hope you don’t mind if I put those thoughts off for a few paragraphs.
It just wouldn’t be a PK column if you didn’t waste our time.
I’m going to write about our family’s golden retriever.
Of course you are.
We had to put Woody to sleep last Wednesday. He was a month shy of 12. Four tumors, including one puffing out of his neck like an oval goiter, and a bad case of arthritis in his legs had left him a sick old man of a dog. I had to carry him into the house after he used the outdoor facilities for most of the last couple of weeks, and when I wasn’t home because of my job, my wife, Ann, and daughters, Laura and Mary Beth, were left to do the same. I’d toss him his beloved tennis ball at Mount Hebron School up our street in Upper Montclair, N.J., and he’d catch it, feebly, and fall awkwardly to the cold ground. His legs just couldn’t hold him anymore. And that is no way to live, even for this low-maintenance dog.
Isn’t that heartbreaking? Doesn’t it put everything into perspective? Like, sure, one of the most controversial games in NFL history just occurred, but we as a people are lost if we believe that to be a more pressing subject for a football writer than his dog dying.
Everyone has great pet stories. Ours are no better, no worse, except to us.
This would be a fitting place to close out the doggy eulogy by saying it’s a private family matter and you’re no longer going to inflict your mourning on people who’d rather read about football. Just kidding, here are another 1,000 words about it.
But they are everlasting.
OUR MUNDANE BULLSHIT WILL ECHO THROUGH THE AGES
In 1990, Laura was 7 and Mary Beth 4, and we told them we would investigate the idea of getting a dog. Laura immediately researched everything dog.
Dogology 101, Laura King mastered it.
One July afternoon in 1990, we found a poor golden at a going-out-of-business sale at a pet store in nearby Cedar Grove. He had outgrown his cage, and when we took him out of it, he stumbled around like a POW who’d been in solitary for six months. We got him for half-off. Ann thought of the name Woody, and the kids loved it.
Precious nuggets, all of them. This is so much better than talking about that really compelling playoff game that just happened.
Right away he fit in perfectly.
Landing with a family that was looking for a dog, a dog should be able to do that.
One bathroom accident before he understood. One!
We beat the shit out him. Really gave it to him. And he got the message. Boy howdy, did he ever!
Loved to wander, but always came home from his forays; only once did we have to send out a search party.
Led the league in foray return yards, except when he didn’t.
Loyal. Ridiculously loyal.
Loftily loyal. Quasi off-puttingly loyal.
Woody liked me. He loved the girls. But he worshiped Ann. She was the one who fed him usually and she always had a stray piece of fish for him at dinner. She used to tell him she liked him better than most humans.
I’ve overcome with shock. This is too much to process.
DOG LIKES PERSON WHO FEEDS IT
WOMAN PREFERS ANIMAL TO FAMILY WHEN HER FAMILY IS PETER KING
One Sunday last winter, with Woody two surgeries into his demise, we had a good snowstorm.
Snowstorm? Ah, like the one in Foxboro during the Tuck Rule game. Nice segue. We’re finally getting to that, now, right? What’s that? No? Still 600 words to go about this goddamn dead dog?
I decided to take both our dogs for a five-mile walk. Much tail-wagging over that one. A mile into it, we passed a house that had its front door left open for some inexplicable reason. And a black lab, a young one, sprinted out of the house 30 yards down to the sidewalk and began doggie-playing with Bailey. “Go home!” I told the dog, but he wouldn’t leave, and we were powerless to keep walking because the dog was magnetized to Bailey. I tried pulling the collarless dog by the scruff of the neck and prodding him home. No use. Bailey sensed my frustration and began barking at the dog. The dog pounced on Bailey angrily, barking rapid-fire and baring his teeth. Something triggered in Woody, a bored spectator to this point. Woody leaped up, grabbed the bizarro dog’s neck with his mouth, shook it a few times menacingly and let go. “Yelpyelpyelpyelp!” the dog whimpered, running back to the house. “Good dog, Woody!” I said, petting his head. “Good dog!” Unimpressed, Woody looked straight ahead into the snowfall at dusk, as if to say: “Can we continue the walk now? I’ve got some snow to eat.”
And then Woody explained how Charles Woodson’s hit on Brady did not actually result in a fumble by virtue of a then-little enforced two-year-old rule. At which point, PK put his dog down in the street for being football-relevant.
We began to say our goodbyes. But how do you say goodbye to one of the best friends, and one of the most loyal, you’ve ever had?
Who recommended “waste 1,600 words on it in a national football column” was hopefully chomped in the dick by a neighborhood dog.
How do you tell him how incredibly sorry you are for doing this? How do you tell him, with moments to spare before he dies, what he has meant to you for the past 11 years? How do you tell him you’ve learned so much from him about things like dignity and love and friendship? How do you tell him about the spot in your heart that no living thing will replace when he dies?
Words failed us. That’s because there were no words.
Because it’s a fucking dog.
The powerful sadness will only go away with time. It’s hard to believe how powerful it is, in fact. The death of a dog cannot equate to the death of a loved human being, can it? It shouldn’t. But it does. With Woody, it does. Because Woody, those who knew him would tell you, was the best dog in the world.
FACT: Woody was not the best dog in the world.
There is one thing I do know. The only way not to feel such intense sadness is to never feel intense love. And that is certainly no way to live.
It also helps if no one ever forces you to do your job. That can get quite depressing. Good thing PK has this situation where no one expects anything from him.
Well, I guess I’ve now broken the gridiron journalistic record for Column Most Far Afield From Football.
The prize: your dead dog, stuffed and mounted on the hood of your car for all eternity.
Woody wasn’t much of a football fan.
Oh wait. He did.
He liked the orange ball in field hockey, but football … well, I never took him to a game. He wasn’t much for TV either, so there’s a good chance he wouldn’t know John Madden if he smelled him. But I like football.
No you don’t.
And I’m going to take a deep breath and start writing about football now because I love to do that, and it’s what I do.
1,600 words later…
Look, Peter King has every right to be sad about putting his old, sick dog to sleep. It’s depressing and never easy to do. He could have given it a quick mention and been done with it. Or, had this been a column written in the doldrums of the off-season, perhaps droning on about it would have been excusable. But this shit heap immediately following the divisional round of the playoffs, already one of the most important weekends of the year for the NFL. It just so happened that this particular playoff weekend featured ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AND CONTROVERSIAL FINISHES IN FUCKING NFL HISTORY. And, yes, the Tuck Rule Game took on some added importance through the years because it was the springboard for the Patriots early-aughts dynasty. But it’s not as though it wasn’t readily apparent RIGHT FUCKING AWAY that this was a highly contentious and much-talked about ending, featuring an application of a rule that few were even aware of. If you’re a football writer, that’s what you’re writing about, whether or not you’re going through something emotional.
The Really Inside Note of the Week
Fifth-grader Gunnar Esiason won the Geography Bee at his Long Island Middle School last week. The two questions that won him the bee:
What major Texas city flooded in 1999?
What state had rolling blackouts last summer?
“I guess I did well because I travel a lot,” Gunnar told CNNSI.com in an exclusive interview.
He still isn’t talking about the games.
My MMQB Top 12
1. St. Louis (15-2). On a great day, no one beats them. On a good day, no one beats them. On a mediocre day, someone might have a chance.
LITTLE DID THEY KNOW-AH, KURT WAHNAH WAS IN FO-AH A GRITTY DAY IN NEW AHHHHLINS!
2. Pittsburgh (14-3). Bill Cowher ran off the field after the rout of the Ravens yelling the words, “Two more! Two more!” He looked pretty confident.
Cowher obviously referring to the number of AFC Championship Games he’d have to lose before winning another one.
4. (tie) New England (12-5). I don’t know whether to call them lucky stiffs or heroes of our time.
They aren’t the only ones who are stiff, apparently.
/boner joke, not dead dog joke
//actually whatever, they both work
4. Oakland (11-7). How about this: The Raiders’ plane was three hours late leaving Logan Airport in Boston because of weather and mechanical concerns. Didn’t get off the ground till around 5 a.m. Imagine being on that plane for nine hours. What a party.
Too cold even for the Kit-Kats to melt.
7. Baltimore (11-7). Raves went down pretty darn ingloriously, didn’t they?
A Ravens playoff loss is never inglorious.
By the way, a leftover from my chat with Brett Favre last week: When Breleigh Favre’s father walked in the door after the Pack’s big win over the Ravens in October, Favre asked her: “Who’d we beat today?” And she said: “We beat the Raisins, Daddy.”
“We shore did, punkin, yabigol hushpuppy.”
8. Chicago (13-4). Interesting stat, and a telling one for the Bears offense: Jim Miller went out with the bum shoulder Saturday trailing 6-0. By the time Chicago had a 14-13 lead in the third quarter, Shane Matthews had completed zero passes.
Most Bears stat ever.
9. San Francisco (12-5). The expansion list comes out Tuesday. Terrell Owens probably won’t be on it. Probably.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb, whose 299 total yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing TD dominated Chicago and spurred the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game. More compelling, perhaps, is how a pretty good football player became The Man under intense pressure in the biggest game of his career. Did you see how every decision he made was the right one? I mean, every one — except the dumb throw into double-coverage that was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Jerry Azumah. And he did it in his hometown. If I’m the Rams, I’m not scared of anyone. I am, however, quite concerned about McNabb.
The Rams don’t think McNabb can beat them, but they worry that he may not lose by as much as he could lose by.
GOAT OF THE WEEK: Baltimore QB Elvis Grbac. Fit him with the goat horns for the entire year. He was awful. Two picks in the first quarter of the divisional playoff game brought a fitting end to a disappointing Baltimore season. Someone has to tell me. I must know. How can a guy throw for 4,100 yards one year and turn into such a limp dish rag the next? Mind-boggling.
The alchemy powers of offensive guru Brian Billick, of course.
Factoid of the Week That May Only Interest Me
In the lobby of the Philadelphia Eagles’ new practice facility are poster-sized photos of Jonas Salk, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr., with interesting bios about their contributions to the human race. Seems that owner Jeff Lurie wanted to show his players and coaches that there’s more to life than football. Sources very close to the human race say Lurie’s right. I asked him about it. “It’s making a statement without making a statement,” Lurie said.
The Eagles may not win Super Bowls, but they’re ready to own the shit out of some humanitarian awards.
The 10 Things I Think I Think
1a. I think the rule that ended the Raiders season stinks.
Welp. There it is. 2,200 words into a 3,400-word column. The first direct mention of the Tuck Rule. And not a brainfart too soon.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind after watching the video of Charles Woodson jarring the ball loose from Tom Brady that Brady had stopped his throwing motion. It positively, absolutely was a fumble, even though the two-year-old rule clarification about quarterbacks having to have the ball tucked makes the call technically correct.
Sure, the ruling was technically correct, but it felt wrong, which is something the officials should always take into account. Was it positively, absolutely a fumble, unless it wasn’t? If you can answer that with more or less than four maybes, it might be a fumble.
1c. I think the Raiders got jobbed. But is it too much to ask them to make one play, offensively or defensively, in the second half? They could have made this very easy.
Is it too much to ask them to make one play, other than the one they made that I think they got jobbed out of?
1d. As much as Bucky Dent is reviled in New England sports history, that’s how much Adam Vinatieri and Tom Brady will be treasured.
Until Brady starts losing Super Bowls, then it’s FACK YOU, HOLLYWOOD! YOU THINK YO-AH BETTAH THAN US JUST BECAWSE YO-AH LIFE ISN’T ABJECT MISERY AND YOU DON’T SLAP YO-AH WIFE AROUND ‘CAWSE SHE LOOKED TOO LAWNG AT A DAHHHKIE WHEN SHE WAS OWT SHAWPPING AT THE BAWB’S FURNITCH-AH.
1e. Walt Coleman, too.
Well, he is white.
2. I think the worst thing about the Bill Parcells fiasco is that the Parcells camp had told the Bucs that he’d take the job, thus taking the team out of the Steve Spurrier sweepstakes. So they missed out on the first TWO coaches on their list, which is an awful double-whammy. Maybe that’s why Parcells sounded so dispirited, so beaten down, when I talked with him Friday night. Man, was he down. He took the Bucs down the primrose path and then screwed them for the long term.
Yeah, the Bucs were totally done after that. They weren’t gonna win a Super Bowl for, like, a whole ‘nother year.
Moral of the story: No NFL team should be tempted by Parcells again, even though he says he’d never coach again. If he ever puts out feelers, teams should run the other way.
Good to know people are heeding PK’s advice.
d. Tony Siragusa will be a TV star. A big one. In many ways.
e. I love Chris Berman’s nickname for Heinz Field. The Big Ketchup Bottle.
I take it back. Just go back to moping over your dead dog.
6. I think these are my personal thoughts of the week:
Thank God. Not enough of those yet.
a. A fan outside Soldier Field Saturday saw me, recognized me, evidently read my story about Brett Favre in Sports Illustrated this week, looked at me and said: “Hey King! Can’t you ever write about Brett Favre without telling everybody what you guys had for dinner?” Guilty as charged.
Brett had flank steak. Peter had Brett’s engorged member, served over snow peas.
c. Coffeenerdness: I needed it bad Saturday night before writing my Eagles-Bears piece, ordering up a Triple Venti White Mocha and a Grande Latte.
d. Is this an indictment of TV, or an indictment of me? Other than The West Wing, the best entertainment on TV is Seinfeld in reruns.
/anticipates overlong PK treatise on “The Newsroom” when he returns from vacation
10. I think Jon Gruden’s not going anywhere, and I think the Bucs wouldn’t trade their first-round pick for him if he was. Though I think they should.
I like that even when Peter King is right, he’s still wrong, like, a million times.
I want more like this!
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