NEW YORK—Looking to cover every possible angle of NFL training camp, Sports Illustrated has once again unleashed its army of 350,000 Peter King clones on the preseason workout facilities of all 32 NFL teams.
Marching in lockstep, dressed in identical turquoise polo shirts and khaki pants while carrying reporter's notebooks in their left hands, the legion of indistinguishable sports journalists all reportedly maintain the same smile 24 hours a day, blink at the exact same time, and ask football-related questions in unison.
According to Sports Illustrated officials, there are currently 10,000 Peter King clones at each NFL training camp, with the remaining 30,000 assigned to Terrell Owens.
"The King simulacra are a very effective journalism tool," Sports Illustrated's assistant managing editor B.J. Schecter told reporters Friday, adding that no single human being could file six extensive training-camp reports in a one-week span. "At any given moment we might receive 84,000 different news items from 20 different training camps. These files are then uploaded directly from the on-the-ground clones to the Mother King, which hosts Peter King Prime's original brain."
Located in Sports Illustrated's spring-training laboratory, the Mother King is suspended 200 feet above the stainless-steel floor, floating in a glass container of cerebral fluid. By using an intricate network of thermionic tubes, King's technician-attendants interface the brain with the publication's mainframe computer to upload training camp reports directly to SI.com in perfect Monday Morning Quarterback form.
"Observe," said Schecter, gesturing to a series of visible electric pulses transmitted by the brain through conductive tubing to the computer, which in turn immediately generated a 340-page printout. "Right now we are getting the fallout from the Dez Bryant situation in Dallas, a report on how Ben Roethlisberger's teammates are responding to him in Pittsburgh, and a personal anecdote about how the Peter Kings are back to drinking triple-grande hazelnut lattes on their current road trip."
According to NFL teams, multiple Kings can be seen on the field, off the field, talking to fans, talking to coaches, and typing on their computers all at the same time. While this creates optimal training-camp coverage, players and fans have complained that looking around and seeing a swarm of identical human beings occupying every spare inch of their facility can be disturbing.
In addition, players have told reporters they do not enjoy being woken up every morning at 4:30 a.m. by the sound of 20,000 simultaneous footsteps marching into their respective camps.
"They all write in their notebooks at the exact same time," said Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, adding that he was put off when an array of Peter Kings approached him in the locker room, extended their arms, and said "Hello, Mark. I'm Peter. Care to answer some questions?" in half-human, half-robotic voices. "I was relieved when the interview was over. But when I got onto the field there were 250 more Kings waiting for me who said, 'Hello, Mark. I'm Peter. How would you assess the offense this year?'"
"Peter King is everywhere," Sanchez added.
"It's definitely creepy," Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton said. "The sight of 400 Peter King heads following my every cut and juke in perfect unison is just bizarre. Especially because his eyes don't move. Just his head, like a lizard. But the fact that the Texans are getting any media attention whatsoever, even from a hive-mind-controlled group of identical robotic sports reporters programmed to cover us, is actually kind of nice."
Built in 2003 by aging sportswriter and genius cybergeneticist Dr. Frank Deford, the King duplicates originated from reproduced skin grafts and body parts of the late Peter King, a Sports Illustrated football journalist who died of a heart attack in 2002 while taping a segment for Inside The NFL.
Deford, also referred to as "Father" by all Peter King clones, was unavailable to comment for this article. However, in a 2007 interview with HBO's Real Sports, a gaunt, sallow-looking Deford can be seen gazing almost rapturously at 200,000 hibernating clones and calling them "a perfect sports-journalist superorganism capable of carrying out its design function flawlessly and effortlessly."
He later orders the cameras to stop rolling when it appears as if one of the Peter King clones has lifted his head and is unexpectedly becoming operational.
Deford has not been seen since.