Senior writer Peter King is beginning his fifth year of covering Pro Football for SI, and recently we received a letter that lauded him and told us how King spent part of his off-season. Last spring, long before he thought of addressing such topics as the future of the NFL (page 94) for this pro football issue, King spent a few months with a very special group of rookies. Here's one fan's report:
Dear Mr. Mulvoy,
Across the country parents celebrate the rites of spring by standing around baseball diamonds and watching their sons and daughters play ball. I am one such parent.
In the spring of 1992, my eight-year-old daughter wanted to play on our local junior girls' softball team. She was assigned to the Reds along with 14 other girls ranging in age from eight to 11. These girls, with the exception of two or three, could not catch, could not throw and could not hit. They hadn't a clue as to how the game was played.
The coach assigned to this rookie team had a daunting job ahead of him. He taught the girls the fundamentals of the game and the value of good sportsmanship, and through constant praise for the smallest success, he built up their self-esteem. The team ended the season close to the basement in the Montclair Junior Girls Softball League, but the girls learned to play and the coach was proud.
In the spring of '93 the team and the coach were back. There were more practices and more drills. The girls could catch the ball, field the ball, bat the ball, and they even won games. There is no Hollywood ending to this story. The girls did not become league champs, but they did finish closer to the top.
This story, I'm sure, is played out in many towns across the country. However, the true reason for writing to you is because of the coach. The coach who believed in our children and taught them invaluable lessons is Peter King, a writer on your staff. Peter is a giant of a man with a heart of gold. His professional words describe the powerful and the swift, but for three months out of the year, he coaches true champions...our daughters.
Upper Montclair, N.J.
"I'm really going to miss the girls on my team," says King. "After the season ended, I went through heavy withdrawal." Luckily, members of the King household—daughters Laura, 10, a standout third baseman, and Mary Beth, 7, a future second baseman, and assistant coach-wife, Ann—have helped Peter ease the transition between the seasons. Of coaching, King says, "I drew on things that I see in my job. But unlike in the NFL, where winning and losing are everything, these girls won't look back 20 years from now and remember that they went 8-7 this year and 4-11 the year before." Most likely they'll remember the giant of a man with a heart of gold.