Peter King Wants To Know If Sarah Thomas Can Handle The Weight of History

When last we left entitled espresso dumpster, Peter King, he was trying to get a veteran to tell him how many people he had killed in combat. You might argue such a question is deeply inconsiderate and even disrespectful, but you have to remember that confirmed kills is a very important statistic for a prospective NFL long snapper.

But what about this week? A lot of it is about the Hall of Fame, which might be the worst thing for Peter to ever talk about. But don’t worry, get through that and there’s some really fascinating sexism in the next section. READ ON.

This is for all of you, in the wake of Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu retiring the other day after 12 seasons, wondering if he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, or whether it’ll be he or Ed Reed who gets into Canton first, or whether they might go in together:

[Peter pulls out acoustic guitar]

This column goes out to all the wonderers, who wonder about wonderments. It’s a wonder that after so many years you still think you think you wonder things with me.

Over the past 26 years, covering 147 enshrinees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of the 147 has been a safety. I’m talking a player who played safety his entire career, not one (such as Ronnie Lott or Rod Woodson, both of whom played significant portions of their careers at cornerback) who split time between corner and safety.

Okay, I’m fine with counting Rod Woodson as more of a cornerback than a safety, but fucking Ronnie Lott played more than two-thirds of his career and saw his greatest success in the position. If you need to ramp up the drama for a player most assume is going into the Hall, you don’t need to arbitrarily define who is a “pure safety” to make it seem more improbable.

Put another damning way: No safety who has played in an NFL game in the past 35 seasons is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Put another damning way: none of this mattered when you were discussing safety Darren Sharper, which makes your insistence of being able to evaluate a serial rapist on his football skills alone all the more baffling. He’s a lesser candidate at a position that’s been overlooked but you mustn’t be denied your chance to seriously consider him? Fuck off forever.

I feel we might be in the midst of a golden age for safeties, with the recently retired Brian Dawkins, Ed Reed and Polamalu leading the way, and so many top-notch ones in their prime now. Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle, Kam Chancellor, Devin McCourty to start with … then the group of new guys who spend part-time doubling as inside linebackers, the way Arizona did last year with much success. Is that a trend that will continue? We’ll see. But sure tacklers, regardless of size, are playing down in the box with frequency now, and the versatility of so many safeties says to me that more and more coordinators are trying to find their own Polamalus.

So a player so influential he essentially helped model the position in the modern era? Sounds like a Hall of Famer!

I bring this up because so many of you, and so many around the league, nodded when Polamalu called it quits Thursday and said or thought, “Hall of Famer. Easy call.” He might be. But it won’t be an easy call, not if history is the barometer. I would judge the three excellent safeties in this order—Polamalu, Reed, Dawkins—and I think all have good Canton cases. As I say, I think Polamalu was a unique player — so smart, almost predatory at the line of scrimmage, good at matching wits with quarterbacks on pass routes and judging snap-count timing.

You can say he and Reed, and maybe Dawkins, will make it, but now that you know the history, you have to feel a little shaky.

“Oh, you silly peasants and your assumptions. You think your beloved long-haired cave safety is going to stroll into MYYYYY Hall? You seem to forget that WE VOTERS simply don’t induct safeties. It’s a bit gauche, I’m afraid. Anyway, good talking.”

Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin’s idea about solving the Canton logjam is an interesting one: When the NFL has its 100th season in 2019, Gosselin suggests the Hall should have an amnesty year, in effect. Elect 10 players from the pool of Senior candidates, the old timers whose cases have been drydocked for years. And elect 10 players from the modern pool. The one-time 20-man class would clear up a growing logjam.

This is workable solution to a problem that doesn’t really matter because the Hall of Fame is mostly pointless, but it does make sense and would clear up a lot of tedious argument.

So of course Peter has some objections because it would break from his solemn HOF tradition and we mustn’t have that.

It certainly would. I’m not sure it’s the best idea, but I am in favor of getting a slew of Mick Tingelhoffs considered rather than have them needlessly wait to hear their names called for years, or decades. Twenty sounds like too many to me, but the concept Gossellin suggests has merit.

“It’s a good idea, except for the part that takes away some of the power I hoard like an old miser with his coins.”

Peter then talked with Joe Flacco about Polamalu, because you can only judge a safety by the ELITES he played against. It’s mostly a bunch of quiet respect between two quiet respectful guys who played the game the good quiet way.

I closed by asking Flacco if he’d have some good memories of playing Polamalu, of the plays he made on Polamalu


— and not just the nightmare in the title game.

Flacco laughed. “The only recollections I have of Troy are bad,” he said. “All bad. So no, I don’t have many good memories of making plays on him.”

“He tortured me endlessly and even the mention of his name is the stuff of my worst nightmares. Great guy.”

The impact of Sarah Thomas.

Hoo boy. Peter already has me worked up and all he’s been talking about so far has been the Hall of Fame, something no one should take that seriously. All right, let’s do this.

I can see it now: a dedicated camera on Thomas for her first game of the regular season, by whichever network has the game. It’s history.

Is it a good history?

A good history


— assuming Thomas can handle it.

UGH FUCK YOU. You just had to toss in that undermining qualifier. You could just give her a chance without the presumption of failure hanging over her head even before she starts.

Also, you know she isn’t the first woman to ref an NFL game, right? Her being the first fully signed female referee is historic. That said, if anything, the NFL might not want to make that big a deal about her first regular season game, since it means a lot of viewers will find out that the NFL’s first actual game with a female official only happened because the league locked out the referee union.

I’m told one of the things that drew the NFL to consider Thomas was her poise and her ability to take the heat on the field. That’s one thing the NFL officiating scouts look for in college officials aiming to make the jump to the big time. And Thomas showed that poise working for the past few seasons in Conference USA and three bowl games and scattered other college games.

That’s good. That’s something any prospective referee should be evaluated on. But how can we be sure!? Ol’ Petey has a way to find out.

But this is not North Texas at Middle Tennessee she’ll be reffing. I want to see Thomas’ reaction the first time Bill Belichick or Bruce Arians or John Fox screams, “What the %&*# was THAT call?” I used Belichick’s name the other day in just such a scenario.


“I really have not thought of it,” Thomas said.

“But have you thought of the people Nate Boyer killed in combat?”

That’s by far the best answer she could have given. Think about it: If she says, Well, I have tremendous respect for Coach Belichick, and it would be tough, but I have worked long and hard to be sure I’m ready for this chance, then she’s messed up. Why? Because Bill Belichick, to her, now has to be the same as the coach at North Texas or Middle Tennessee. He’s a coach. Coaches scream sometimes. You explain, and if they don’t shut up, you turn away and the game goes on.

I kind of love how clever Peter thought that set-up was.

“Hey there missy, I know you think you can handle football coach invective, but what if that coach was…


For now, Thomas must get used to being a symbol as well as an official. Like it or not, she’s going to be a beacon for women and girls, and not just in women and girls interested in football or interested in following her to the NFL. School kids are going to write reports on her. In fact, they already are. And she is into it.

Oh no, she’ll be the subject of 5th grader social studies papers. I hope she can overcome that and throw a flag when a quarterback throws a pass beyond the line of scrimmage.

No word yet which referee and crew Thomas will be paired with — my money is on the terminally patient Peter Morelli’s crew

“They gotta be patient, ’cause you know this broad is gonna keep the whole stadium waiting for an hour doing her hair, am I right?”

— but in whatever crew, the ref won’t be the focus, at least in 2015. Sarah Thomas will be.

Not really. If a back judge or a lead official messes up a call in a game she works, I’m not thinking about Sarah Thomas. I’m sure she’ll get more attention this season than your average line judge, but lead officials are still considerably more influential.

Basically, I see this as a setup for Peter’s hot take in September excusing Pete Morelli for a bad ruling because he was distracted by having a lady on his crew.

Stat of the Week

The 20-year anniversary of the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) drafting Steve McNair is next week, April 22. Since McNair left the team, the Titans have been searching for that next McNair, the standard-bearer for the franchise. Four quarterbacks have been drafted by the team and started games for them: Vince Young, Rusty Smith, Jake Locker and Zach Mettenberger. The numbers:

• Combined record of the four quarterbacks: 40-39.
• Combined touchdown-to-interception ratio of the four quarterbacks: 81-to-84.
• Combined passer rating of the four as Titans: 76.6.

My point: Not saying the Titans will take one of the two quarterbacks with the second pick April 30. But if they do not, you know the reason is they do not trust the quarterback left to them after Tampa Bay picks a quarterback number one.

Oh, for real? I figured quarterback-needy NFL teams only passed on QBs out of a sense of whimsy. Look what we can do! How fanciful it is to be limited at the sport’s most important position!

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

In the matter of great safeties not playing anymore:

Washington strong safety Sean Taylor played his last football game at 24.

Yup, Sean Taylor dying young is definitely an only-Peter King thing. A nugget of his own.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

On Saturday morning north of San Francisco, I ran a 10K trail run, the Wild Boar 10K on Mount Tamalpais, in 75 minutes and 1 second. At one point maybe four miles into the run, a little wisp of girl, maybe 10 years old, passed me on a narrow trail on the edge of a steep hill.

“So I stepped on her heel and vowed to take any foul ball she might ever possess.”

Not my finest competitive sporting moment.

If only barista ranting were a sport. Peter’s still petitioning the IOC to get it into the Games.

But it was my finest day ever running out in the world.

Imagine starting a run on a road in a lovely state park 40 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, cresting .85 miles into it with a clear view of the Pacific Ocean on a pristine morning, gawking at the Pacific for seven or eight minutes while the undulating pavement takes you up and down, then veering off to the left on a thin ribbon of a rocky trail on the side of Mount Tamalpais, at times so steep with such a sheer drop that you say to yourself, DO NOT LOOK DOWN! WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT LOOK DOWN! And after you do that, up and down and never flat, for 15 minutes, you duck into a forest so dusky that it feels like 9 p.m. and not 9 a.m., and the temperature drops 15 degrees in a minute, and you’re not running on a rocky path anymore. Now it’s on pine needles and cones on a path underneath and through 300-year-old trees, such a soft trail that it feels like you’re running on a padded tartan track. Then, for the last mile, the grade is so steep that you have to walk most of it (my daughter Laura, a San Franciscan, didn’t; she’s incredibly fit and used to running on trails) and even thinking of making any good time seems just preposterous.

Yes. I think I’d like to do it again. Soon.

If you ever wanted to see a 200-word verbal fart inhaled by the writer, there you go.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think, with the Masters fresh on your minds, there’s this anecdote from Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, which he unearthed researching his book on the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry (“Brady Vs. Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry That Transformed the NFL,” by Crown Archetype, due out Sept. 22): Tom Brady and Tom Brady Sr. and Rory McIlroy and McIlroy’s father have a mutual friend. Through the mutual friend, they set up to play golf together at Augusta National Golf Club the second week in March. The Bradys and McIlroys, the mutual friend and his father and another friend and his father played their own father-son tournament on the Masters course. The night before they played, the Brady/McIlroy group walked into the restaurant at Augusta National to have dinner. Seated at another table were Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cooper Manning, Jacob Tamme and John Lynch. Brady and Manning, who have played many rounds of golf together, chatted for a few minutes before Brady rejoined his group for dinner. Brady did not know Manning was going to be there. Brady and Manning were on the course the next day, but didn’t play together. Brady’s group played three rounds in two days. Tom went off the first tee with Rory. Not a bad scene.

YOU GUYS, wealthy white people who play sports ran into other wealthy white people who play sports at Augusta National. What a world. What a life. I’m in love.

7. I think I love when guys say dumb things on social media and immediately claim their account was hacked. That’s what Darrelle Revis said Sunday after he or the hacker got into some ugly back-and-forths with fans unhappy with his decision to leave the Patriots for the Jets. Must be a lot of people out there who know Revis’ social media passwords. Or not.

SIKE!!!!!!!!!! What a burn, Pete. Revis might as well delete his account now.

9. I think the Pro Football Hall of Fame hosted a cool event over the weekend in Canton — a reunion for more than 100 retired NFL public relations officials. Good idea for the Hall to acknowledge the former PR guys as part of the history of the game.

Did you really describe a reunion of PR professionals as cool? You must be psyched as shit to get LinkedIn requests.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Thanks for the invitation, Sports Business Journal, to be a part of Thursday’s future-of-the-media panel in Los Angeles, with ESPN heavyweight John Walsh, Jason Whitlock of the new site The Undefeated, Pam Oliver of FOX Sports, and SBJ’s John Ourand. Learned a lot. I’ll be interested to see how Whitlock does with his new site. I like the idea of a site dedicated to shine the light on racial issues, inside and outside of sports, because of how much societal issues affect the people we write about and you watch.

Because surely that exists nowhere else on the Internet.

d. Maybe I should get into “Game of Thrones.”

What do you think finally brought Peter around on GoT? Willing to bet $100 it was this:

e. I am very into “Veep,” however. And I was lucky enough to be invited to see the first two episodes of the new season last week in Manhattan. (Hint: It’s going to be a very good season.

How do you know? You’ve seen 20 percent of it.

i. It’s hard to believe a modern athlete, such as Mets closer Jennry Mejia, would use a steroid (Stanazolol, the same one Ben Johnson used to prep for the Seoul Olympics nearly two decades ago) to get better, knowing baseball tests for it. It’s an intelligence test, to some degree, because Mejia knows he’ll be tested. And he obviously flunked the test.

That’s right – players who get caught cheating aren’t just guilty of a moral failing; they’re actually fucking stupid too. If you do anything bad when there’s the chance you might get caught, however remote, Peter thinks you should be stripped of the right to vote.

m. Coffeenerdness: Java Question of the Week, from the Peet’s barista in the JFK Airport Terminal 4 coffee shop, after I’d ordered a medium latte with an extra shot of espresso, paid, and was waiting near the espresso machine for my drink to come out. “You know this already comes with two shots, so you’re sure you want a third?” Yes. Quite sure.


n. Beernerdness: Hangar 24 Orange Wheat (Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, Redlands, Calif.) is stupidly expensive at Dodger Stadium (I had it there Wednesday night) but it is well worth it.

Good to know a millionaire doesn’t feel too bad for dishing out a few extra dollars for a beer at a ballgame. Makes me feel like all the hustling is worth it.

I went to see the Dodgers on Wednesday night with the editor of this column, Long Beach-based Dom Bonvissuto

Who is actually a spirit or a figment of PK’s imagination because no one edits this shitpile.

and he told me I had to try this Hangar 24 Orange Wheat. Great call. Has a bit of the Allagash White taste, which is a very good thing.

Hey, if a ghost recommended a beer to me, I’d probably try it too.

o. Apropos of nothing: I was waiting for a plane at LAX the other night, and heard “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. One of the worst songs even created. Why did it become popular?

Asks the doof who’s into U2 and Coldplay.

The Adieu Haiku

Troy Polamalu.
His name’s not good for haiku.
I doubt he cares, though.

Troy Polamalu.
His name’s not good for haiku.
Sorry, no Hall then