Chicago Takes Charge

The Fathers Day Book Section

My annual look at books I’d recommend for dad/brother/uncle/grandfather/male friend/male whoever, with Fathers Day just six days away, is a bit abbreviated this year. It should include one I never got to but had recommended very highly to me: “Redeployment,” by Phil Klay, a series of stories about our troops trying to figure out their meaning and roles in chaotic Iraqi and Afghan theaters, which I’ll be reading on my vacation this summer. That does you no good now, but maybe you could get it for dad as a Labor Day gift once I report back. A few I’d recommend:

A Good Walkthrough Spoiled: The Best of Mike Tanier at Football Outsiders, edited by Aaron Schatz (Football Outsiders). Non-fiction.

So Mike Tanier, who works for Sports On Earth now, is one of the best football writers alive. Some of you might not know him. I urge you to change that. Read Mike, and you’ll learn a lot about football, and a lot about irreverence, and a lot about things you never thought of when you watch football. “Football Outsiders” is the longtime passion of Aaron Schatz, a football geek with a smart streak in him, and he saw some brilliance in Tanier, then a high school teacher (who once taught a high-level math course to Joe Flacco in New Jersey), and the marriage was a good one for the eight years they worked together. This volume is Tanier’s greatest hits. I picked out one chunk from a prescient story by Tanier about Jerry Rice’s rookie season, written in 2006, but with an eye on 1985, when the Niners started 6-5, and Rice had 10 drops in 11 games, and there was pressure on Bill Walsh to take some of the kid’s reps away and give them to vets Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark.

Wrote Tanier:

Rice spent so many years as the league’s distinguished veteran that it’s shocking to imagine him as a jittery rookie, one false move from the bench. It seems unfathomable that he was once Santonio Holmes or Chad Jackson … Walsh saw the future; its name was Jerry Rice. But he also had the present to worry about, and his team was struggling to stay in playoff contention. “Walsh has made a lot of critical decisions in his seven years as coach of the 49ers—some brilliant, some not so brilliant,” [beat man Charles] Bricker wrote. “If the 49ers fail to make the playoffs this season after winning the Super Bowl, he might be severely judged by sports historians for his use of Solomon and Rice.” … Just days after his head coach defended him, Rice had his worst game as a pro. In front of 57,000 fans in a Monday night game at Candlestick, Rice dropped three more passes. The Niners won, 19-6, thanks in part to a 27-yard touchdown catch by Solomon … [But the next week against the Rams] by the end of the game, Rice had 10 catches for 241 yards and a touchdown. The 241 yards broke a team record. Ironically, the Niners lost the game, but Rams defenders knew what Walsh knew: Rice was special. “I think the nickname that man’s got, ‘All-World’ or whatever, is deserved,” said Rams free safety Johnny Johnson after the game. “The man’s got unbelievable speed and a great burst.” Local writers who advocated for Rice’s benching suddenly changed their attitudes. “Somebody say ‘I told you so,’ and get it over with,” Kristin Huckshorn wrote in the Mercury News.

By Christmas, Rice the disappointment had become Rice the viable Rookie of the Year candidate. Fellow receiver Eddie Brown took the AP honors, but Rice was named the NFC Rookie of the Year by UPI.

The struggles of 1985 aren’t even a distant memory. They are a forgotten footnote for most fans. Only diehard fans, and perhaps Rice himself, truly remember that for a few months, his name was synonymous with dropped passes. We can’t judge Rice’s critics too harshly. Most of the things that were said about Rice at the time were true. There were times when he hurt the team. The 49ers might even have won one or two more midseason games if Solomon had a larger role in the offense. Now, Rice is retired, Walsh is battling leukemia, and the Niners are preparing to move to the suburbs. It’s a fitting time to remember the glory days. But we must always remember them as they really were. Rice didn’t start his career with one foot in Canton. He really had one foot on a banana peel for most of his rookie season. The next immortal, the player we’ll be writing about in 20 years, is probably battling for his job right now, dropping passes or fumbling and having personal crises on the bench. Jerry Rice remembers. And we remember.

Perspective, thy name is Tanier.

Sycamore Row, by John Grisham (Doubleday). Fiction.

280x319_NFL95_postcard_v2



The MMQB’s special 10-part series tracing pro football’s rise through the artifacts that shaped the game. Every Wednesday through the start of training camp. Coming Wednesday: Cleveland’s Forgotten Football Dynasty.

Week 4: The Day the NFL Died in L.A.


Week 3: Bill Walsh’s Enduring Genius


Week 2: Artifical Turf: Change From the Ground Up


Week 1: Steve Sabol’s Office: Where Legend Lives On


I never get tired of John Grisham. I believe this is the 28th Grisham book I have read, because it is the 28th book he has published (not including his teen-book series). And I do believe my least-favorite of them all was the one about the football player who went to play in Italy, “Playing for Pizza.” The rest of them, mostly taut courtroom thrillers, have this kind of hold on me: I start it one night, reading in bed, and then try as I might, one of the next three or four nights I read until 3 or 4 in the morning, ruining my night’s sleep. It’s always worth it.

This book I flew through—a four-nighter. It piggybacks Grisham’s first book, “A Time to Kill,” the book I’ve always thought was Grisham’s paean to Harper Lee, about a small-town southern lawyer defending a seemingly guilty black man and getting ostracized by the community for doing so. In “Sycamore Row,’’ the richest man in his Mississippi county, the same setting for Grisham’s first book, hangs himself because he doesn’t want to suffer through terminal cancer. He leaves a will that shocks his family and the entire county, and dredges up one of the worst hanging stories there ever was, and leads to a harrowing cleansing, and if I tell you much more, I’ll be spoiling a typically spellbinding Grisham tale.

Missing You, by Harlan Coben (Dutton). Fiction.

Coben is just as riveting a writer as Grisham. Unlike Grisham, he varies his tales, and often they’re more modern, dealing with 2014 stuff. This is a very good story with lots of tributaries, but the central one is about a third-generation New York City cop, a woman named Kat Donovan with lots of tragedy in the family. Her grandfather the cop committed suicide, and her father the cop was murdered, and that is part of the story. But the main part is finding her ex-fiance on a dating site she’s signed up for, and finding out he’s part of the disappearance of a women in a case she’s investigating, and then finding out it may all be a catfishing scheme. Sounds crazy and far too nutty to be coincidental. But as usual with a Coben book, he fits things together seamlessly.

By my count, there are eight separate stories happening in “Missing You.” Good writers tie them together so you look forward to the tying-up of loose ends on one story as you’re getting pulled into the second and the third and the fourth. I’m not a daily reader or what anyone would call an avid reader. But of the authors I read, Coben is the best at making six or eight tributaries flow into one body of water sensibly. And with a racing pulse at the same time.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt (Little Brown). Fiction.

If you have a voracious reader on your list this Fathers Day, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel clocking in at 771 pages is sure to satisfy the appetite. Tartt tells the story of Theo Decker, who, at 13, is taking refuge from a rainstorm in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art when a terrorist bombing takes place. Theo’s adored mother is killed and he is instructed by a dying man to save The Goldfinch, a small painting on display there by Dutch painter Carel Fabritius. For the next decade or more Theo is both thief and caretaker of the painting that his mother loved.

As many reviewers have pointed out, the book reads like a 21st Century Dickens novel with its collection of memorable characters, class struggles and winding plot. There is the kindly Hobie, a furniture restorer who takes Theo in and teaches him the business; the wealthy, eccentric Park Avenue family of a friend who also gave him a home for a time; and Theo’s gambling, alcoholic father and his drug-using girlfriend who take him to Las Vegas, where Theo and his new friend Boris spend their adolescent hours smoking pot, eating pizza and committing petty crimes. All this before Theo grows up a drug-addicted, swindling antique dealer who eventually finds himself entangled with Russian mobsters and international art thieves before finding redemption. It’s a compelling and beautifully written novel that covers tremendous ground while examining the complex inner life of an adolescent boy and the meaning of art and its ability to shelter us from loneliness and even grief.

There’s only one Pulitzer winner on this list. And it can’t be recommended more highly.

Tigers vs. Jayhawks: From the Civil War to the Battle for No. 1, by Mark Godich (Ascend). Non-fiction.

Godich, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated and a friend of mine, is a Mizzou alum, and I never understood his nutty affection for Tiger football ’til I read his excerpt from this book in our magazine last fall. Particularly the 2007 game between the teams, which has to be one of the craziest stories in recent college football history. Two teams that weren’t in the preseason Top 25 (47 teams got at least one vote in the poll; Kansas wasn’t one of them) were playing to be the number one team in the country in a late-November game, and playing to be one step closer to being in the race for the national championship. Also, this was the first time in 60 years that Kansas City had hosted the game; a longtime dream of the late Lamar Hunt was to play the game at Arrowhead Stadium every year.

The scenes from the day of the game are cool. Like this one, at the Missouri hotel: “At the Marriott, the Mizzou players were soaking in ESPN GameDay. For the first time, the magnitude of the game truly hit them. Defensive tackle Lorenzo Williams walked into safety William Moore’s room. The defensive players always played spades on game day, but there they all were, staring in disbelief at the TV set. The comment on ESPN that the winner at Arrowhead would ascend to No. 1 in the BCS was lost on exactly no one. “Dog, we’re not playing spades today,” Williams recalls one teammate saying. “I said, ‘No, we need to play spades. If we keep looking at this, we’re going to drive ourselves crazy. Let’s do our normal thing. Get the spades game going. Let’s not talk about it. Shut it up and move on.’ ”

It’s a good and quick read, particularly if you, like me, have zero education on one of the underrated rivalries in sports.

* * *

A few words about my schedule for the next month or so.

I’ll be taking two weeks vacation starting tomorrow, then returning to work for one week, for some unique coverage of Canadian football during the week of June 24. We’re going to cover the opening week of the Canadian Football League season, assuming the players and owners have their labor (or should I say, “labour”) situation straightened out, and they seemed close to a resolution on Sunday. Assuming the league is playing in week one, we’ll be covering it at The MMQB. When that coverage ends on July 1, I’ll be away until July 17.

I will be writing Monday Morning Quarterback, live from Regina, Saskatchewan, on Monday, June 30. The Saskatchewan Roughriders, defending Grey Cup champions, open their season on Sunday, June 29 (assuming they’re not on strike), and I’ll be there. Unless I screw it up, my MMQB on Monday the 30 ought to be a CFL spectacular. I’m looking forward to my time in Canada. And for you Winnipeg fans, you’ll have Jenny Vrentas at your opener on Thursday, so treat her well.

As is our usual custom, we’ll have replacement “Monday Morning Quarterback” columnists for four of the next five weeks. San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis will write one, and Chicago coach Marc Trestman will write another to kick off our Canada Week festivities; Trestman, as noted above, coached the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes for five years before taking over the Bears last year. Oakland first-round pick, Khalil Mack, is slated to write another one of the MMQBs, with Rich Eisen of NFL Network rounding out the fearsome foursome. Looking forward to reading what they’ve got to say.

* * *

And a few words of thanks.

It’s a major award! Peter King with The MMQB’s Luce Award. (Jenny Vrentas)
It’s a major award! Peter King with The MMQB’s Luce Award. (Jenny Vrentas)

I am privileged, and humbled, to accept the National Sportswriter of the Year award tonight here in Salisbury, home of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame. I’ll be here with fellow honorees from all 50 states—friends like Mike Klis from Denver, Bob Kravitz from Indianapolis, Mike Vaccaro from New York (if he’s not at game three of Kings-Rangers), Hal McCoy from Dayton, and Jim Wyatt from Nashville will be honored as state winners. Rick Reilly and Marv Albert will be inducted into the Hall of Fame tonight, while Doc Emrick is recognized as 2013 Sportscaster of the Year. (He’ll definitely be in New York for the hockey and be honored in absentia.) I’m grateful to so many people and institutions for the honor, to Sports Illustrated for giving me the platform I have, and for allowing The MMQB to take shape in the last year; to those in the NSSA membership who voted for me when so many great writers were nominated; and to you, the readers who make it possible for me to do this job. Thank you all.

Also, thanks to Time Inc. for recognizing the work we’re doing at The MMQB. We were honored at the annual company awards ceremony Thursday with The Henry Luce Award for best work by a blog in the Time Inc. empire—specifically for the 14,000-word series and video we ran last December on a week embedded with an NFL officiating crew. It’s one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever worked on, and it proved to me that you can still, in this age of overwhelming NFL coverage, find original projects to educate and entertain people about pro football. Thanks to John DePetro for traipsing around the country with me and producing such strong video work—to ref Gene Steratore’s home in southwestern Pennsylvania while he agonized over grades from a previous game, to back judge Dino Paganelli’s AP history classroom near Grand Rapids to show the real lives of the crew, to umpire Wayne Mackie’s housing job in New York City, to the day-before-the-game meeting at a Chicago airport hotel, and to crazy game 150, the storm-interrupted Ravens-Bears game at Soldier Field. Thanks to the editor, Mark Mravic, who worked long hours to put the piece together and made it look so good and read so well. And thanks to the staff at The MMQB for creating the kind of place that emphasizes new thoughts and new ideas in a business in which originality has become so challenging.

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216 comments
ShaneMac
ShaneMac

Peter:


Way to go with your self-congratulations.  At least you did it "humbly".

DerekSugimura
DerekSugimura

Christine Michael has Pro Bowl talent . . . if he can stay healthy, motivated, and focused.  He's never managed all three things at the same time.  He's had trouble managing two.  I hope he puts it together with Seattle, because if he does, he can be as good as anyone in the league.

Michael22
Michael22

Jurgen Klinsmann said to Sam Borden of the New York Times: “We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet."

Betting Odds for USA to win World Cup 250/1, or 0.4% chance. People willing to wager actual money agree with Klinsmann, not Peter King.


The Diamondbacks, 10 games under .500 and 15 games back in the division, are still a better bet at 200/1 to win the 2014 World Series. In the NFL, Jacksonville and Oakland are the longest shots at 100/1 each to win the next Super Bowl. Let the Jags know they are ready to win it all this year, since they are much better odds than the US team. 

dksherlock
dksherlock

So Bears will have a warm and fuzzy locker room.  Let's see Cutler get to the playoffs and we'll see how much it matters. 

opaque13
opaque13

Plenty of people have used motivational devices like Klimsmann has, but why quote him out of context?  In the interview I read, he ALSO said (to the effect) the U.S.A. would have to play "seven perfect games to win the World Cup." 


That's the kind of coach-speak you'd hear from an NFL coach in Klinsmann's position.  He'd codify his statement to let people know what they were already thinking: that his team has no realistic chance.  Or he'd make something up that made no sense whatsoever.

Klinsmann may speak English better than most NFL coaches, but he's still a German who spent his first 40 years in Europe.  Let's not go overboard dissecting cultural nuance.



kalmchaos1
kalmchaos1

Hi Peter, I know that you covered the games in South Africa four years ago and got a feel for the game but Klinsmann is right to say that the US cannot win this World Cup. I'm not sure if it's motivational but it is realistic. While it may not seem American to say that we have no chance to win, it will help keep us fans grounded and in support of the plan so that we can compete at a higher level in the future. I think of this stage of our development as the "breaking eggs" segment of the omelette making process. The comparison to Herb Brooks is simply ridiculous. The 80 US Hockey Team was a very good team maybe not as good as the Russian team but that team was expected to compete for a medal. That team won one very important game and eventually the championship against teams that we very close in talent. Klinsmann has a much larger challenge. The World Cup has several teams that are of equal stature as that Russian team from the 80 Olympics. For the US to win the final, they would need to have 4 monumental upsets in a row. The US squad has a statistical chance just as any other qualifier but more importantly, this World Cup must serve as preparation for 2018 and maybe even 2022.

JeffPozy
JeffPozy

Great comments about Sharapova! Also, looking forward to MMQB CFL coverage! Mr. King has still got it!

Marchoir
Marchoir

Can almost hear Trestman now. "OK guys, bring it in. Everybody bring it in closer. Everybody join hands, on three. Kum-ba-yah my lord, kum-ba-yah..... Yeah, baby that's it. Feel the power. This is how we do it in Canada. That's what I'm talking about. Hug it out now. Hug it out."

leoderosia1
leoderosia1

I am sure pete the lib will be preaching about what is acceptable and unacceptable in locker rooms. Pete is a huge mike sam fanboy...sam will be a career scrub

comments
comments

        Yes its June and I only read the 20% of the column that was football related but, as a longtime Chicago Bears fan, imagine my surprise when I clicked on SI tonight and saw that Peter had written something about my favorite team! Team I'm stuck following because my oldest friends back in Chicago do and its nice to be able to text with them as an at least moderately well informed individual is more accurate, but then I was born in '78 and fell in love at the tender age of seven with the cast of characters that was the '85 Bears. Its a love-hate thing. 


         Here's to the new regime, (Trestman/Emery) which seems to have a pretty good handle on how to build and keep up a roster in theory anyway, and here's to Jay finally growing up? Keeping my fingers crossed on that one, but he's thirty now and a father and he wouldn't be the first whiny, self important dude to grow up a little late. If he plays more than twelve games the results should be entertaining texts sent my way at the very least ( actually those are often better when they flat out stink). The NFC is awfully tough all of a sudden, but jump balls are difficult to defend without penalties, and we just might have a very dangerous third wideout ready to do some damage this year alongside Marshall and Jeffrey. Obviously the defense is a work in progress.


           I hope the forthcoming Trestman column indicates additional coverage of the team in much the same way that Peter's connections with the Rams have lent us some inside looks at that organization. I understand that Chicago pretty much has it's own media centers, and that it probably doesn't pay as much for national media to spend a lot of time covering the Bears, but that really should not translate to a site like this. 



Enjoy the vacation Peter.

Thanks for the entertainment and MMQB cast and crew.  

Jazzaloha
Jazzaloha

"I think teams are figuring out there’s a new way to win, and that includes caring for the player as a person, a father and a husband. Creating a locker room full of people who can be themselves can help you win.”


I'm sure this will annoy some, but this sounds like something Pete Carroll has gone far to establish in Seattle

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

Paul Zimmerman had something against Ken Stabler not sure if he was a Raider Hater like his mini me Peter King but when he could talk he never said anything good about Ken Stabler. 

Scramble
Scramble

How are the A's fun to watch Pete. They beat the O's because the umpires don't know what a balk is.

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

5 hard killers, roadside bomb makers, 911 planners back on the street for a deserter and PK don't have a think to say, scary times. 

KristinDiggins
KristinDiggins

I think every PK article should contain at least one reference to Mr. $am and every sporting event should be held in Jerry World.

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

Peter King "Your" president traded 5 cold blooded killer's which turned them lose to go back to the battle field. This morning your non football liberal comments are about some actor playing LBJ, wow the silence says it all hear no evil see no evil. The guy deserted its the biggest trade of my life time you have nothing to say? Well a guess you approve you moon bat.

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

You ask if following the rules is cowardly? I would argue following BAD rules is the *definition* of cowardly. Mr. Rolle brings up a good point about Will Hill, that the players KNOW when they're going to be tested for weed, so clear out that time to not smoke. But for how long? Is there an accepted consensus when players should stop smoking weed? Or is it more logical (& yes, ethical) to wonder why we're abolishing a natural, pain-killing plant.

Imagine, Peter, if we start outlawing gluttonous food (don't be surprised)---what do YOU do, sir? What if you had a huge plate of lasagna around the time period you knew your employer (or the government) would test for such things. Boom, you get popped for gluttony, & bam, now you're suspended from writing. Would it make you wonder why the hell you're not allowed to do what you will, since imbibing what you wish hurts no one? It could be argued the sort of food you eat *hinders* your work, since it will retard the amount of time you potentially have in a lifetime to write. What if they started testing for exercise to insure a healthier employee? On that note, it's pretty clear smoking (or vapourizing) something natural is healthier than taking addictive synthetics...& it's healthier than the personal methods you seem to practice, Peter.

The REAL story in this column however is the theme of "no bullying"---yet we're treated to another "haha, look how much the rookies have to pay at dinner" bon mot. Gross, Peter. Search your soul, you know these things to be true. Unless of course a rule tells you it's not true, then you'd just obey that.

luvfoozball
luvfoozball

@dksherlock Yes, a locker room should be like a cesspit where people are often out to get each other and hate everyone else. 


That will make not getting to the playoffs so much enjoyable, amiright?!!1!!111!!!111

Mike26
Mike26

@Raiderforlife That's so far outside the realm of current or relevant I don't know what to say.

SkeeterSkier
SkeeterSkier

@Raiderforlife...I'm guessing English is a second language for you, so keep it up! I admire someone for their bravery in attempting to communicate when their skills are so elemental.

As for your ignorant, single-faceted political views, I'd like for you to address the fact that President Bush (the dumb one) released over 500 detainees during his term (presumably due to the fact that legal recourse was running thin.)

By the way...the 5 detainees traded for the American POW were rumored (by multiple high-ranking military adjudicators) to be next in line for release in pretty short-order, and President Obama was highly advised to make the deal by his military advisers. The GOP was clamoring - at the time - to bring home POWS; now, some are calling the move treasonous. REALLY?

Another question for you...is a moon bat related to a imbecile? If so, you two share bloodlines!

My advise to you - stick to watching sports, and leave higher order thinking skills to the adults.

Mike26
Mike26

LEAVE NOW TROLL!

Go_Niners!
Go_Niners!

@Raiderforlife You're seriously angry because a football columnist's political views don't reflect yours?  There are plenty of places you can read somebody who says what you're already thinking.  A little conflicting opinion is a good thing.

Mike26
Mike26

@liquidmuse3 You are WAY too serious about these issues, liquidmuse3 - IF that's even your real name!

Wombat
Wombat

@liquidmuse3 Dude you have reeeaaallly over-thought this. Light up and chill!

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

@TerrapinStation87 @Raiderforlife Its no my strong point but you might  get what i am trying to say or maybe not. Are you happy what your President has done to return cold Taliban killers loose that sits ok with you. Please correct my sentences give me some help make your self useful

Raiderforlife
Raiderforlife

@Go_Niners! @Raiderforlife The moon bats are killing the country I want to inform the many dumb people that read his bull and try to turn this country around. I am not angry i don't know where you get that. I think we need to have an investigation into why colleage is so expensive but produces non thinking idiots. Do you think its a good thing that your President returned the coldest of killers back to the battlefield where we have men stationed your ok with that?

liquidmuse3
liquidmuse3

@Wombat @liquidmuse3 ? Personal freedom, bud. And I don't even smoke, but I'm irked at sanctimonious, haughty gents like Peter wagging their finger about other people's personal behaviour, when their behaviour doesn't affect anyone except teammates in this case---& it's asinine that that system is in place to punish players like that. People like Peter just keep the status quo, & there is really no good reason to do so sometimes, other than non-thinking cowardice (a thought Peter brought up himself).


Imagine if cannabis could treat stroke victims, or if it even *prevented* strokes. Would Peter be into that because of his friend Dr. Z? But we don't know, because we're really not allowed to do research on it. If just find Peter's moralizing off-putting, especially when it's something he's willfully ignorant about. 

Mike26
Mike26

@Raiderforlife  You realize the Raiders would be embarrassed to know you're a fan of the organization, don't you?

blynder
blynder

@liquidmuse3 @Wombat

P.King doesn't work for the Government, he works for SI & NBC.  The players in the NFL don't work for the government, they work for the NFL and the teams they are being paid by. Companies have been regulating their employee's behavior for a very long time.  Go read up on some the crazy ish that Kellog used to do. "Personal Freedom" doesn't mean you get to do whatever you want whenever you want.

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