It's a time of joyous goodbyes. Next week, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; last week, Carl Peterson and Phill Kline.
Kline's official last day in the Johnson County District Attorney's office was Monday, January 12 — by that time, according to news reports, he was already teaching a law class at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the college founded by Jerry Falwell (RIP). Kline spent some of his waning Kansas moments in Wichita, though, attending juicy legal proceedings involving his nemesis, abortion doctor George Tiller. (Tiller was enduring a pretrial hearing on misdemeanor charges that he didn't use an independent doctor for a second opinion on late-term abortions, as required by Kansas law.) Other star attractions in that drama: Linda "Wonder Woman" Carter, the woman behind the downfall of former JoCo District Attorney Paul Morrison. Pitch staff writer Justin Kendall had explored Carter's various charms and wiles in the cover story "Morrison's Mistress" last August, but other duties kept him from hitting Interstate 35 and heading south to Wichita last week. Fortunately for all of us, he kept pitch.com's Plog readers updated on the trial via Twitter messages from Wichita Eagle reporter Ron Sylvester ("The Twitter Trial of Phill Kline," January 6) and videos posted on the Eagle's Web site ("See Morrison's Mistress Testify," January 8).
The news came in bits like this:
Carter: Morrison offered to "make peace with Phill Kline" if she would resume the affair. about 2 hours ago from txt
Dan Monnat: Paul Morrison's attraction to you caused him to do things out of character for the state's chief law enforcement officer? about 2 hours ago from txt
Carter: Yes. about 2 hours ago from txt
Carter: Morrison made mistakes in his personal life but didn't change the way he handed his professional life as a prosecutor. about 2 hours ago from txt
While many of us here at The Pitch will obviously miss Dr. Phill, we doubt that we've seen the end of him.
Much more final was the departure of Carl Peterson.
In a January 7 Plog entry slugged "Happy Trails, Carl Peterson," staff writer David Martin filed the following dispatch from that overdue occasion:
Peterson approached the podium for his 40-minute farewell address wearing his customary double-breasted suit coat, a red handkerchief peeking out from the pocket.
Peterson delivered his remarks in the Chiefs practice facility, which smells like a tire factory on account of the rubber in the synthetic turf. The setting — a building large enough to accommodate a football field and even goal posts — felt appropriate, given the length and breadth of Peterson's reign.
Before Peterson arrived at the podium, Kansas City sports dignitaries (Bobby Bell, Len Dawson, George Brett, former umpire Steve Palermo) mingled with the reporters, Chiefs employees and Red Coaters who had come to watch the team's general manager and chief executive say goodbye. Passing The Kansas City Star's contingent on the way to his seat, original color analyst Bill Grigsby asked if his obituary had been updated recently.
Clark Hunt introduced the man whom his father had hired 20 years earlier. Hunt said Peterson was leaving a great legacy. He cited the excitement at Arrowhead, the community-outreach efforts and, of course, the occasional 13-3 campaign. Hunt said Peterson had served as an "outstanding ambassador" for the family, a true statement in the 1990s, when 10-win seasons were the norm. But, ultimately, the organization came to be defined by the team's failure to reach the conference championship and Peterson's imperiousness.
Not known for his thick skin, Peterson used the early portion of his remarks to gripe about the media. He expressed disgust with the "misinformation" that made its way into print and onto the air. He intimated that columnists and talk-show hosts were dilettantes. "They get paid to speculate," he said. "In the National Football League, this business is not about speculation." He even quoted Winston Churchill.
The GM/president/CEO tried to dismiss any idea that he had been sacked. He said he began discussing his departure with Hunt a year ago. Peterson said he was comfortable dropping all his titles with a year left on his contract. "Very simply, it was time."
Hunt has said he doesn't want the next general manager to run the business side of the operation. Peterson suggested that splitting the responsibilities was his idea. Running a football team and a multimillion-dollar business required much decision making, Peterson said, without conceding that he had not been up to the challenge. But the team's performance after Marty Schottenheimer left (four winning records in 11 seasons) indicates that Peterson was overwhelmed.
Peterson was eager to revel in the glories of packed stadiums and memorable Monday Night Football games. He was less willing to take responsibility for the defeats. "Bad luck," he said team founder Lamar Hunt had told him after one of the 13-3 teams pulled a one-and-done in the playoffs. Still, one felt a bit of sympathy for Peterson when he noted his inability to present Hunt with the trophy that bears his name.
With no orchestra to play him offstage, Peterson went through a long list of people he wanted to recognize ("To our outside counsel ... "). He closed by thanking the Hunt family, calling Norma Hunt, Lamar's second wife, the most gracious and wonderful lady in all of professional sports. Speaking to reporters after the address, Peterson said he and his second wife, Lori, looked forward to spending time together in Hawaii, annual site of the Pro Bowl.
The press gaggle tried to get to Peterson to comment on speculation that he was going to work for the Miami Dolphins in some capacity. "I'm not even thinking about it at this point," he said. "I'm thinking about going away for a couple weeks and relaxing."
Peterson did say he would like to remain in football. "Maybe I can be a consultant," he said, trying on a new title.
Here's what Plog didn't report, a bonus outtake for our print readers — and an excuse to remember the gag-inducing photo above, which ran in The Star. (We think it dates to Cheney's April 23, 2004, campaign stop in Kansas City, though we didn't save the date when we tore it out of the paper and posted it on the editorial department's wall of local embarrassments.) As we were sitting around the office drinking beers on Friday afternoon, Martin remembered this gem and found it on his tape recorder from Peterson's post-speech remarks to reporters:
"If I'm the owner, I don't want the president/general manager/CEO to get into his quote lame-duck year, OK? It felt a little bit like my good friend President George Bush. You're somewhat limited when you know that you're out."
And not a moment too soon.