At 56 and fully willing to admit that luck has been a helpful companion, Peter King probably doesn’t fit the standard perception of an Internet sports-media trailblazer. And the longtime Sports Illustrated NFL writer effortlessly self-effaces when discussing the origins of his long-running and overwhelmingly successful “Monday Morning Quarterback” column on SI.com.
“It was 1997, and my football editor asked me if I wanted to contribute some outtakes and leftover notes from my magazine stories,’’ said King, whose column nowadays has evolved into thousands of words about football, several hundred more words opining on ancillary topics coffee, beer, and travel, and draws nearly 10 million page views per month during football season.
“I don’t even know that he called it a website at the time,’’ King said. “Heck, I had just gotten an e-mail address at the time. So no, I can’t say I saw the Internet becoming what it is today. I was clueless. And I don’t know what it will be in three years.’’
But King, who like ESPN’s Bill Simmons and few others has found that rare and lucrative territory as sportswriter-as-a-brand, is about to get a headstart on where he hopes to be in three years and beyond. His stand-alone site, TheMMQB.com, launches Monday at 9 a.m.
It’s an idea that germinated in part from having options. His contract was up, and he was coveted as a free agent, particularly by NBC, for whom he already contributes on “Sunday Night Football.’’
“I was asking myself for about the past year, what do I want to do next, and this just emerged as a possibility,’’ said King, who signed a new contract with Sports Illustrated in March. “The more I thought about it, the more fun I thought I could have. So I asked Sports Illustrated about the possibility of something like this while my status was a little bit up in the air. I was fortunate they said yes.’’
Unlike Simmons’s wildly successful and wide-ranging Grantland franchise, King’s territory will be all NFL, all the time, featuring a staff that includes former Globe NFL writer Greg Bedard (“He could be a Paul Zimmerman-level star,’’ King said), former Jets and Giants beat writer Jenny Vrentas, and former USA Today reporter Robert Klemko. Yahoo! Sports’ Doug Farrar is expected to sign on soon, and there will be contributions from SI’s superb media writer, Richard Deitsch, and sports business expert, Andrew Brandt, among others.
There’s a tremendous amount of talent on board, enough to fulfill King’s stated quest of telling “compelling stories in new and interesting ways.” But he acknowledges there’s a lot of work to be done.
“We’re still trying to figure out a way to do fantasy football in an imaginative way. Are game stories smart? Is game coverage smart?’’ he said. “What we do know is that we’re going to do a lot of different things. We’re going to do video, we’re going to be social-media conscious, but at the end of the day, if we don’t tell the story in the right way, then you shouldn’t read us. We shouldn’t exist. I’ll have failed. So, that’s one of the things we’re trying to make sure we do above all else.”
Eyes on Hawk
To the current generation of baseball fans, Ken “Hawk” Harrelson is probably best known as the White Sox’ unapologetic homer of an announcer, not to mention one who is quick to dismiss any statistical innovation more complex than batting average.
Around here and among an older generation, he’s remembered differently, first as a charismatic outfielder for the late-’60s Red Sox, and then as a superb color analyst on the team’s television broadcasts from 1975-81. Working alongside Dick Stockton and later Ned Martin, Harrelson was so opinionated and blunt that he was fired by Red Sox owner Haywood Sullivan in 1981 for being too critical.
Harrelson’s time with the Red Sox proves fertile ground in the MLB Network’s engaging new hourlong documentary “Hawk: The Colorful Life of Ken Harrelson,’’ which debuted Thursday night and will air several more times over the next few weeks.
Among the revelations: He was approached twice by the Red Sox’ front office to manage the team, first when Darrell Johnson was fired in 1976, and again when Johnson’s successor, Don Zimmer, was dismissed in ’81. Harrelson said when he turned down the job the first time, he suggested they hire Zimmer, but not before he threw out another name: Yogi Berra.
Change for the better
Kudos to ESPN.com for officially changing its reader commenting policy Wednesday. The new policy is that anyone who wishes to weigh in must have an attached Facebook account. In an attempt at restoring some semblance of accountability and respectful discourse to the comment sections, ESPN has eliminated anonymity even if it means traffic takes a small hit. Now, if it had just set its sights on eliminating company-sanctioned trolls such as Skip Bayless from their airwaves, we’d have real progress . . . Celtics television voice Mike Gorman on Brian Scalabrine’s decision to forgo a promising broadcasting career to become an assistant coach on Mark Jackson’s staff with the Warriors: “Scal was terrific on-air but just wasn’t ready to give up the gym. I’m happy he landed where he did.’’ . . . The Herald’s online radio station, which will feature a weekday three-hour sports program hosted by Jon Meterparel and Jen Royle, is scheduled to launch Aug. 5 . . . 98.5 The Sports Hub is a nominee for Sports Station of the Year in the prestigious Marconi Radio Awards, while WEEI 93.7 is a candidate in the Legendary category. The winners will be announced Sept. 19.