The beauty of a notes column is that you can get so much information into such a concentrated form," says senior writer Peter Gammons, who writes SI's INSIDE BASEBALL column. That's a lesson staff writer Peter King, whose INSIDE THE NFL column makes its debut in this issue (page 124), learned from Gammons before either man joined this magazine.
King, 32, who grew up in Enfield, Conn., just north of Hartford, remembers that his father, Kenneth, an ironworker, would bring home five different newspapers on Sunday. Peter would dive first for The Boston Globe sports section and, after a glance at the box scores, would settle in with the baseball notes column, then written by Gammons. "I always found the notes column the most interesting," says King. "It didn't just tell you what happened on different teams, it told you why it happened." When King set out for Ohio University in the fall of 1975 to study journalism, his father continued to clip and send him Gammons's columns.
It was at Ohio University that King settled his first big career question. "All I ever wanted to be," he says, "was either the leftfielder who replaced Yaz on the Red Sox or a writer. I went out for the baseball team in college, and I was cut the first day." King did better on the school's newspaper. He was managing editor of The Post his senior year, and one of his writers was Ann Ranalli, whom King married in 1980. They now have two daughters, Laura, 6, and Mary Beth, 3.
While King has spent his career—first at The Cincinnati Enquirer and most recently at Newsday in New York—honing his skills on stories of 1,000 words or less, he is quite capable of tackling the big picture. His first book, The Season After: Are Sports Dynasties Dead?, was published last month by Warner Books.
Just what does King hope to include in INSIDE THE NFL? A glance around his office provides a clue. "I have what I call a stat wall," he says and points to the rows of papers taped above his desk. "I'm a stat freak, but they have to be meaningful. If anyone reads my column this fall and finds ridiculous stats, I want to be shot at dawn. My goal is to do a column that provides the real fan with a better understanding of football."
It's a goal that his longtime model, Gammons, would no doubt approve. Though they are now both on SI's masthead, the Boston-based Gammons and the New York-based King have yet to meet. Who knows, maybe they can exchange notes.
Note well: King's column is for real fans.