This Week in Nuggetry is many things. A trip around the NFL Sunday that was. A peak into the Allagash White and Frappuccino-addled brain of Peter King, long-time NFL ‘journalist’ and author of the NBC Sports column/steaming pile of shit ‘Football Morning in America. Mostly though, it’s a tribute to Mike Tunison aka Christmas Ape, who penned a superb column mocking King each week on the now defunct blog Kissing Suzy Kolber.
Sunday of week two in the books and what a week. Upsets, near-upsets, stars being born, another tie, and Peter King wants to talk about…baseball. It’s going to be a long season.
We open with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has started his career as a starter on fire with 10 touchdowns in two games, shredding the Steelers and Chargers with a high-octane attack. But of course ol’ fuddy duddy Peter focuses on his father’s long since finished Major League Baseball career.
Before the Chiefs and Steelers met Sunday at Heinz Field, Pat Mahomes the dad met Patrick Mahomes the son for their traditional pre-game hug. Pat Mahomes the retired baseball pitcher and Patrick Mahomes (yes, “Patrick;” his mom has decreed the son will be called a different name than the father) the young Chiefs quarterback have been doing this since seventh grade.
I’m convinced Peter King actually wrote Green Day’s ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’, or at least came up with the hook, as he shoehorns baseball into his football writing so fucking often you just know he’s waiting with bated breath and a raging hard-on for the World Series.
I spoke to Patrick Mahomes while he and his dad walked to the team bus after the game. Patrick Mahomes was polite. He dished out credit like John Stockton dished the basketball. He sounded absolutely unsurprised by what’s happened in the first two games.
Stockton has a hard-working, no nonsense and fundamentally-sound (read: white) basketball player who retired 15 years ago. So it makes absolute sense that he’s the best analogy an ageing sportswriter like Peter can come up with.
“What’s happened speaks to Coach Reid and everything he’s taught me in the last year,” Mahomes said.
Andy Reid: “Now repeat after me Patrick, ribs before wings your ass will leak, wings before ribs your gut ain’t gon’ freak.”
When Patrick was 6, in 2001, his father played for the Texas Rangers. Alex Rodriguez was a first-year Ranger, having signed a $252-million deal to move from Seattle. “Alex would take Patrick down to the cage, and he’d take batting practice, and then he’d break down the tape with Patrick and teach him about his swing. Patrick loves A-Rod,” Pat Mahomes said. “Being around those clubhouses was great for him. It taught him the value of hard work in sports, and how professional athletes should act.”
Hopefully he didn’t take all of A-Rod’s advice, as if so Alex Smith probably spent a fortune getting his carpets dry-cleaned in his last season in Kansas City.
Leaving Pat Mahomes and his non-baseball playing son behind, we sweep around the rest of the league.
Buffalo cornerback Vontae Davis, who made the Pro Bowl three years ago, walked into the locker room at halftime Sunday in western New York and quit football. He didn’t tell his teammates. He just took off his uniform and walked away from the game.
Even though it’s only my second week reading through this column multiple times, I know how Davis must have felt.
When Tampa Bay players came back to the locker room after conquering the Super Bowl champion Eagles at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the receiver group found a group text on their phones. “Awesome game!” was the message … from Jameis Winston. Of course, Winston is missing the first three games of the season because of league discipline stemming from his alleged groping of an Uber driver in 2016, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has Tampa Bay off to a 2-0 start with the kind of quarterbacking that’s put Winston’s starting job in jeopardy. “That was great to hear from him,” said wideout Mike Evans from the Bucs’ locker room. “Jameis did an awesome job in camp, and he supported Fitz all the way. But he’s a team guy.”
Well this is awkward. Jameis is the partner sat at home with a cold while their significant other is posting selfies all over Instagram of their wild night out at the club. This is the equivalent of the ‘thinking of u xxxxxx’ text. Of course, Jameis is back in as soon as Fitzy pukes up all over himself with a six interception game, so there’s no need for him to start posting selfies captioned with shitty song lyrics that explain the depths of his pain.
Next to the second tie in as many weeks, this time in hell on earth aka Wisconsin.
Quite a weekend for Cousins. The Vikings stayed at the Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley in Appleton, a half hour drive from Lambeau. Lots of teams stay there. “I came to Lambeau in 2003 for a game in 2003 as a high-school freshman, and I stayed at the same hotel I stayed at last night,” Cousins told me. “It hasn’t changed much.” (I can attest to that. My first time at the Paper Valley was in 1990, and when I returned a couple of years ago, a quarter-century hadn’t brought a significant facelift.)
I’m from a place that would love to be a one-track town, and even I find that depressing. Pass the cheese curds.
Now time for a book review, and it’s Mark Leibovich’s ‘Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times’ that comes into Peter’s crosshairs. Kidding. He has almost nothing bad to say, as usual, because ass tastes so damn good in the autumn.
On why the owners stand behind their embattled commissioner: “Goodell is clearly gifted at working the members. He makes them feel important and heard. And he is especially good at gratifying the older members, whom he cultivates as mentors, even quasi-father figures … When you hear Goodell speak around his owner-bosses, he can evince a similar tone of an approval-seeking son.” This is as spot-on as anything he writes in the book.
Can’t get the image of Rodger Goodell “gratifying” Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson out of my head. He probably wears the tightest jeans known to man every time he visits North Carolina.
On how Goodell handled Leibovich’s question about whether he had regrets on the handling of Deflategate: “‘Fans want to know that we’re going to make sure that the rules are enforced across all 32 teams,’ Goodell lectured me. He is, after all, the last line of integrity against all enemies of the shield, foreign and domestic. ‘Thank you for looking after the game,’ people tell him. ‘I hear that a lot,’ Goodell said. ‘I hear that all around the country, all the time.’ This explains why Goodell is so beloved in fan surveys.”
Would like to meet someone who actually thanks this man for “looking after” a game so I can see what species of being the rest of us humans evolved from.
He also slapped around the business of covering the NFL—“the nugget business,” he called it—finding, and I am taking this farther than Leibovich did in the book, the business of “off the record” between journalists and sources in the NFL to be out of control. I will admit there’s something to that.
That’s big of you Peter, making that small admission. Doesn’t quite make up for helping the league try and pretend it didn’t know about Ray Rice battering his fiancé. Close, but no cigar.
It’s 354 pages. We needed 654.
You win no prizes in the upcoming award section for guessing Peter wanted the book to be so long it’s unreadable.
Offensive Players of the Week
Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City. “Looks like Kansas City hit a home run with Mahomes,” Tony Romo said during Jags-Pats. You think? Mahomes, with his dad the former big-league pitcher in the stands at Heinz Field watching, threw for 326 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Andy Reid is putting a load on Mahomes’ plate early on, and all the kid’s doing is responding big-time.
Should the Chiefs’ front office be tested for PEDs? Just asking the question. At any rate, Andy Reid must be on some sort of mind-altering substance to be putting things on someone else’s plate.
Blake Bortles, quarterback, Jacksonville. He outplayed Tom Brady. Seriously. Now Bortles had help from his pressure defense. But Bortles had the game in hand by halftime (17 of 25, 200 yards, three touchdowns, no picks) and did everything he could to avenge the toughest loss in Jags’ history—the 24-20 AFC Championship Game in Foxboro eight months ago. For the game, Bortles threw for 377 yards, four touchdowns and one pick. Revenge is sweet.
Maybe a week two win avenges an AFC Championship loss in Jacksonville, but it sure as shit wouldn’t come close in Foxboro. But hey, what do the Patriots know about sustained success?
Goat of the Week
Zane Gonzalez, kicker, Cleveland (not for much longer). Last week, he had the potential game-winning field goal blocked in overtime. Yesterday, in New Orleans, he missed, in order, in the last 23 minutes: an extra point, wide left; a 44-yard field goal, wide left; an extra point, wide left, that would have given the Browns a lead with 1:24 left; and a 52-yard field goal, wide right, that would have forced overtime at the gun. I cannot imagine what Zane Gonzalez—or 23 million Browns fans around the planet—must feel like this morning.
Daniel Carlson, kicker, Minnesota. The fifth-round kicker from Auburn might not be the Vikings’ kicker much longer. He missed three field goals in the 29-29 tie at Green Bay, including 49- and 35-yard kicks in overtime. Both were wide right. And the second one hurt badly. The Vikings got the ball right in the center of the field for Carlson, and let the clock run down to four seconds. On a beautiful day with light-to-no wind, Carlson shanked it.
Go to 35:20 in this video for Todd Haley’s reaction.
Skipping over a bunch of sections partly as it’s 1am and I can’t face diving face first into Factoidness, partly because there’s nothing too interesting in them.
King of the Road
No big trips this week, so I’ll give you one New York-life snippet: I usually go to SoulCycle, the chain of stationary-bike studios, where you pay $37 for a 45-minute session with an instructor/abuser and very loud music, once a week when I’m home. Most of the people who ride are half my age (61) or less, from the looks of it. I rode the other day in a SoulCycle on the West Side, and the pleasant woman leading the session said to us: “Talk to your bike. Have a conversation with your bike.”
I didn’t quite know how to do that, having never talked to a bike before, but I tried.
“Hey bike! How’s life?” I said.
“Shut up and ride, old man,’’ the bike said. “I only talk to riders under 50.”
We rode in silence the rest of the way. Probably better that way.
Why he bothered to include this I’ll never know. His poor editor works until four in the goddam morning on this garbage. Just don’t do King of the Road for a week! Also, can’t even begin to imagine how much Peter must sweat during 45 minutes of cycling. New York should have been put on flood alert.
A reader has a gripe with Peter in the letters section, and while it’s a pretty pathetic thing to complain about, it does elicit a guffaw-worthy response.
Stop promoting hotels and such. From Ricky T.: “Why do you randomly promote businesses in your column? Do they pay you for these shoutouts you give them? That would be a serious breach of ethics, would it not?”
I am not getting paid, and have never gotten paid, for anything I have written in the 22-year history of this column (including the previous iteration when it was Monday Morning Quarterback). I write about the hotel in Green Bay or the beer in Spartanburg, S.C., because they are things I come across and like and want to share. I try in this space to inform about football for 85 to 90 percent of the time, and also try in a much smaller way to bring you along with me as a I travel across the country covering the NFL.
Not running the numbers on this, but no way is this column 90 percent football. Maybe 90 percent ball sports, or images of Peter’s sweaty balls bouncing up and down on a stationary bike, I’ll grant him that.
Peter then pegs Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (no, not that kind of pegging) at fifth on a somewhat early MVP watchlist.
- Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati. Frame this, Bengal fans. Not sure Cincy will have an MVP rep on this list the rest of the year.
Bengals fans have actually had so little to cheer about, I wouldn’t be surprised if some did frame this 20 word note on how their QB is about to fall out of the MVP race after week two.
Things I think I think next, starting off with a dooby, sorry, doozy, of a thought about Josh Gordon’s release/trade from the Browns.
I’m not suggesting Gordon be banned from football for life. I am suggesting that there is evidence—circumstantial evidence, but there’s some heavy smoke here—that there’s something amiss with Gordon. And this is moving way too fast for any team to satisfactorily examine Gordon.
Did Peter King really just make a sly reference to Gordon’s penchant for puffing on the Devil’s lettuce? If so, smoking weed truly is no longer cool and is safe to be legalised, as no one wants to get high with guys like Peter King, lest they trap you in a conversation as long and convoluted and baseball-filled as this column.
Cleveland’s defense means business. The Browns will win a few games this year, and soon. Unless they’re incredibly, ridiculously, stupidly cursed.
So that’s no wins then.
If Philip Rivers’ weapons stay healthy, the Chargers will make the playoffs. Book it.
If Philip Rivers’ dick stays healthy, he’ll make more babies. Book it.
I had to play Connect Four with Saquon Barkley on Wednesday. I first had to find out what Connect Four was.
How many of you just spat out your coffee?
Before Tuesday—when I learned I would be challenging the self-proclaimed GOAT of Connect Four—I did not know what the game was.
I heard from several on my NBC crew that this is entirely pathetic.
It is genuinely wild that a 61-year-old American man didn’t know what Connect Four was.
I don’t think Boston is the best team in baseball as of this morning—I’ll take Houston—but the Red Sox will certainly have a good shot as the team with home-field edge in the American League. I do enjoy following the Red Sox this year, a lot. And not just because of the first 100-win season for the franchise since 1946. It’s because of players like utility man Brock Holt. I had a conversation with Sean McVay in training camp about Holt. I told him Cooper Kupp reminded me of Holt—a versatile guy who’ll play any role for the team his coach asks.
McVay then asked who the fuck is Brock Holt, as no one below the age of 50 watches regular season baseball. And certainly no one below the age of 50 in California.
The Adieu Haiku
Roughing the passer
is really out of control.
QBs: china dolls.
Baseball gives me wood
The crack of the bat on ball
I love Starbucks too