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Read Barron

Today on Slate, critic Tom Scocca took Peter King, Sports Illustrated football big cheese, to task for bullying Andrew Barron for his late holding penalty that cost Dallas a division game. King called Barron a “disgrace” on Twitter, and further in his column where he noted the athlete did not even make “a semblance” at a kosher hold during that fourth quarter. For those who didn’t watch, Barron committed something close to a horse collar on Andrew Orapko, the Pro Bowl linebacker he was charged to block, which nullified Tony Romo’s would-be touchdown pass. Washington held on to win. It was Barron’s third (!) holding penalty that game — and, King noted, his league-leading 78th in the past five-plus seasons.

Scocca did well to frame King’s rebuke in context. The Babe Ruth to King’s Richard Creamer, quarterback Brett Favre, is defined on the field by his awful tendency to make mistakes late in important games. His last-minute interceptions prevented two different teams in three years from reaching the Super Bowl — not exactly Game 1, Week 1 stuff here. King ‘s Favre criticism was muted compared to his excoriation of Barron, and pitied, if anything.

Scocca frames King as an overpaid bully and Barron as a “plugger,” a working stiff, but he might be reaching, especially on the latter. Barron is a first-round pick in his 20s who  has earned well over $7 million guaranteed in his career — and is making $2.73 million this year. Barron is in the offal stage of his career, but is talented, and for a last-ditch replacement, he earns a pretty good living, prolly more than King.

King is the most cultured of writers on the most ignorant of sports and has been pounding out weekly “how I see it” columns since 1995, and that kind of production eventually turns off some readers, to say nothing of the most contrarian guy on Slate’s payroll. It’s hard to be consistent as long as King’s been around, and, in was jaundiced, at best, vs. Barron.

That said, this is all a bit sillier than usual. Only NBA players and Barry Bonds (read: cool athletes I’d be honored to have insult me) can be expected to get legitimately upset over press clippings. I wager that King is widely-read in football front offices, and might be up there with Maury Brown/SBJ in terms of influence, but only mismanaged clubs act on articles. Even a GM (or coach — I’m not sure) who had no other reliable option than the most unreliable tackle in the NFL should know better than to fire a twenty-something over a bad, outlier game, even if King brought out the big guns. If there’s any blame outside the lines, it’s on Dallas’ front office.  Which they rightly have assumed.

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