Sports Illustrated’s Peter King Shows You Can Teach Old Dogs New Tweets
Peter King didn't particularly want to write a weekly online column and he certainly wasn't interested in Twitter. He had a full-time job covering the NFL for Sports Illustrated, thank you, and that was quite enough.
About 433,000 people follow King on Twitter. That volume is staggering. By contrast, Mike Wise, the Washington Post sports reporter who was recently suspended for a month after posting a fake "scoop" on his Twitter account, has about 3,800 followers. On the other end of the spectrum, Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy for ESPN.com, has more than 1.2 million Twitter followers.
A window into his workday
There's still plenty of NFL reporting and analysis in what King does on SI.com and Twitter, just as there is in the stories he does for the weekly print magazine as a senior writer.
But King's online work is liberally sprinkled with tidbits about the life of Peter King -- what sort of coffee he likes, his latest travel hassle, a movie he enjoyed: "Loved Despicable Me, and yes, I'm an old softie. Even better: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. You've got to see that." He recently wrote about his encounter with the Catwoman, a passenger seated next to him on a plane who showed him the tattoo of her cat that covered most of her left calf.
King writes about charities that he supports, and gives his readers the information they need if they want to chip in. He writes about seeing fireworks one night in his hometown of Boston, and his gripe that they didn't start until 10:37 p.m. ("Geezers like me tend to be nodding off during the crescendo.") And he wrote a tribute to his brother, Bob, who died of a heart attack earlier this year while bike-riding in Connecticut.
And the column is packed with information about the NFL. One recent installment included reports from five different NFL training camps, a detailed analysis of the 10 quarterbacks drafted in 2007 and a lengthy list of "Ten Things I Think I Think" that included King's opinion on subjects including the best running back on the Miami Dolphins, the latest on Albert Haynesworth's showdown with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, and the contract holdout by cornerback Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets.
"People are mostly reading me to read about the NFL," he said.
Growing up in northern Connecticut, King was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and outfielder Carl Yastrzemski. He was also a fan of the journalists who covered them, but said they were as distant to him as any of the Red Sox players.
King said he spent 20 minutes one day responding to questions from some of the people who follow him on Twitter. That's not unusual. It enables him to connect, one-on-one, with a reader while providing information to thousands of others. "Peter King replied to me on twitter," wrote shawn_woods15. "I feel pretty important right now."
King's tweeting rhythm varies. Some days he only posts a handful. Some days he posts dozens, starting as early as 5 a.m. and tweeting into the evening hours. Using TweetDeck, he often retweets commentary by others, offering his own theories and opinions on the sports speculation of the day.
King appreciates the immediacy afforded by working online. To demonstrate the dramatic shift in his approach to storytelling, he described the time in 1996 when Brett Favre, then the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, told him on a Wednesday night that he was checking into rehab for abusing Vicodin.
The story didn't appear anywhere until Sports Illustrated published eight days later. If that happened now, King said, he would have the basic news up on his Twitter account within five minutes and tell people to check out SI.com, where he would provide a fuller story within an hour.
King said the job can be something of a grind during football season, but that he knows a more leisurely off-season awaits.