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What It Takes

Beyond the quaintly plausible notion of a level playing field, sports are not always fair. Someone has to lose, no matter how he or she sacrifices or plays the game. It is SI senior writer Peter King's understanding of this reality that underlies his being honored as 2010's Sportswriter of the Year last week by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. In fact I have always thought he hates to see anyone lose, which makes him all the more popular with readers—that, and his nutritional asides.

Peter can be both hard-eyed and sentimental, but he is always reporting deeper, listening closer and pondering more philosophically than any of his subjects expect. Thus does he gather details and insights for a weekly storm of magazine pieces, reports on NBC's Football Night in America, tweets, videos, Tuesday Mailbag, Thursday Weekend Pickoff and Friday Game Plan columns, and to deliver 7,500 words overnight every Sunday for the Monday Morning Quarterback column, which he began in 1997 as a kind of sportswriting Marco Polo on the Web. (MMQB now pulls more than two million weekly page views, and Peter has close to half a million followers on Twitter.) This past June, when "What is Monday Morning Quarterback?" was an answer on Jeopardy!, I e-mailed Peter to alert him to this telling milestone. He was in Johannesburg, covering the World Cup and responded by thanking me for the soccer assignment (he played in high school) and explaining that the night before he had enjoyed his first raw springbok, at a joint in Nelson Mandela Square in nearby Sandton City ("tasted like tuna tartare"). This will not surprise close readers of MMQB.

Three other SI writers—Joe Posnanski, Gary Smith and Tom Verducci—were finalists for Sportswriter of the Year. While the four nominations for SI out of seven total was extraordinary, for Peter, typically, it was also humbling. "That I won and those guys lost," he said, "wasn't fair."