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Posnanski: It's not that easy trying to roast Chiefs' Peterson
Some assignments sound simple. For instance, I was asked to roast Chiefs president, CEO, general manager, fire marshal, club pro and dance instructor Carl Peterson for charity on Thursday night.
Could you imagine anything easier? In Kansas City, especially these days, life is a Carl Peterson roast. You can't go anywhere without hearing people blast away at the man who has been running his team longer than any other GM in sports, the man who has not taken the Chiefs to the Super Bowl, the man who is botching up free-agency, the man whom Kansas Citians love to scream about. This would be easier than the first question on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."
Funny thing, though: It wasn't easy. Roasts, especially for charity, are supposed to be funny. (This one was for the Third and Long Foundation and Rockhurst High School.) I guess when you think about it, though, most of the insults that people hurl at Carl Peterson really aren't very funny. I went through my e-mail and letters to look for good lines, and I found that most of what people wrote about Peterson were actually the kind of letters you might turn in to the FBI.
Anyway, here's a version of the roast I gave Thursday night:
I needed some help with this roast, so I called some of Carl Peterson's friends. And I have to admit I learned some surprising things, one of those being that Carl has friends. One of them is a man named Steve Sabol, who runs NFL Films. Good man, Steve. He and Carl go on vacation together every year, and Steve says the big thing about Carl is that he is always a half-hour late. He said: "It's incredible, the man is always late."
I said, "We already know that, Steve. We watch him in free-agency."
You know, I did hear a joke about Carl Peterson praying to win the lottery. He said: "Please, God, help me win the lottery. I just want to win the lottery. I'll spend the money on charity, on good deeds, on a cornerback - please, God, help me." Well, he doesn't win the lottery. Next week, he prays even harder. He still doesn't win. The third week, he still doesn't win. Finally, he says, "God, why won't you help me?"
God says, "Carl, I'm doing what I can, but it would help if you bought a lottery ticket."
I'll tell you the first time I really talked to Carl; it was 1997. That was the year the Chiefs had a defense that gave up the fewest points in the NFL. People who say that Carl Peterson can't build a great defense forget that. First, he couldn't build a great offense.
Anyway, we had a little contest for readers to come up with a nickname for the Chiefs' defense. We got hundreds of responses: Red Storm; Red Tide; Red Bull; Red Rover. Lots of names with Red in them. I called Carl to ask him which nickname he liked best.
He said: "Quite frankly, I think it should be `Chiefs Defense.'"
I said, "Uh, Carl, that's not really a nickname. That's what they are." And Carl said: "I like `Chiefs Defense.'"
No, you won't find Carl dancing around with a lampshade on his head. I will tell you this - this is absolutely true - a friend of mine went to an Elton John concert a couple of years ago, and right in the middle of a song, he saw Carl and Dick Vermeil high-five. I must admit I just never pictured Carl Peterson as the kind of guy who would high-five at an Elton John concert or anywhere else. But it just goes to show that Carl is a man of many layers. He's not just the guy who curses out agents. He is a much more complex and multifaceted man who curses out agents and also likes Elton John.
Actually, there are some other things you probably don't know about Carl Peterson. For instance, he has a doctorate in kinesiology. He is, technically, Dr. Carl Peterson. In fact, if anyone is feeling a little sick, having high blood pressure, ulcers, stress, any other side effects from watching the Chiefs work in free-agency this year, I'm sure Dr. Peterson will be seeing patients after the show.
There's something else. Steve Sabol asked me if I had heard of Petersnits. I'm sorry about this, Carl. I asked Steve, "What are Petersnits?" and he said, and I'm quoting here: "That's when Carl throws these little tantrums. We'll be on vacation at a hotel in London or Paris and he will throw these Petersnits because he doesn't have a big enough room, he wanted the penthouse suite, he doesn't like his bedspread, the carpet is too shaggy, not shaggy enough, there isn't a fruit basket waiting for him, whatever. When we get to the hotel, I don't want to unpack because I know there's a chance that Carl will have a Petersnit and we'll have to go to another hotel."
There's really nothing I can add to that.
Steve Sabol did tell another story, though, one that bears repeating. He said that NFL Films used to have to send a special cameraman just for Kansas City football. See, NFL cameramen are famous for following the football - you've all seen that famous shot of that perfect spiral, the ball seems to be in the air forever. Well, they couldn't shoot that in Kansas City. You know why? There were no fans in the upper deck. There were just empty seats. It was embarrassing. So they would send a special photographer who was good at shooting action down low, where there were enough fans to make it look OK.
That's the situation Carl Peterson came into in 1989. The last home game, there were 30,000 people at Arrowhead Stadium. Carl Peterson came in here, and sure, we'll give him a hard time for a million reasons, the biggest being that the Chiefs have never reached the Super Bowl. This town would give anything for a Super Bowl.
But every Sunday, all fall, Arrowhead Stadium is filled. Football in Kansas City is utterly unique - different and better than New York and Philly and Chicago and Miami. It is college and pro mixed together. It is barbecue and stealth bombers and blood red jerseys everywhere. It's ours. There has been heartbreak, sure, but there have also been great players_Priest Holmes, Joe Montana, Will Shields, Derrick Thomas, Tony Gonzalez, Marcus Allen. There have been some great seasons.
Carl Peterson made that happen.
And these days, Steve Sabol sends his best cameramen to Kansas City. Maybe this year_if Carl can get off his rump and sign another linebacker, defensive back and pass rusher - those cameramen can film the Chiefs going to the Super Bowl.
And I'll bet we could get Carl Peterson to offer everyone in this place a high five if that happened.
Wow, Dick and Carl high fiving each other at an Elton John concert? That explains a lot...actually, too much.