Sean, this is a sad week. It is the one-year anniversary of Robin Williams tragically taking his own life, which resulted in an outpouring of emotion on Twitter, Facebook, and any other way in which humans haphazardly share their thoughts.
But do not despair, my good buddy. For this is also a happy week. Out of that deep darkness came a shining beacon of light, a chuckle amongst the tears. I speak, of course, of the Peter King tweet:
MILWAUKEE-Asked restaurant host: "God, did you hear about Robin Williams?"Host: "No."Me: "Died. He killed himself."Thought he would cry.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) August 12, 2014
This tweet sent a very small but defined subsection of Twitter, affectionately known as Weird Sports Twitter, into fits. Many people, including both of us, mocked the image of a middle-aged man bursting into a restaurant and berating the host with news of a death until he cried.
My first question to you: is this the greatest tweet of all time?
BRONX, NEW YORK-- This is a tough question. There are a lot of great tweets out there. A random search reveals just as much. But "Greatest tweet of all time," that's serious. And this is unquestionably the greatest tweet of all time. What kind of psychopath tweets something like that? Actually, let's back up. What kind of psychopath has this interaction with a complete stranger regarding the untimely passing of another human being and then tweets that exact interaction like he was writing a screenplay? Who does this??
The answer of course is Peter King. Peter King does this because he is an anthropomorphic rolodex/voice recorder/word processor. There is no humanity to Peter King, because he is merely a conduit for information. This serves PeteBot2K15 well when he is working as the NFL's water mule, but it crosses him up when he ventures too far into the real world. The gears and springs whirring inside him begin to overheat and all of sudden there's a little implosion and he recklessly breaks news of the passing of a beloved actor to some poor waiter. "Thought he would cry." Peter might as well have said "I am human because I recognize the human emotions of others."
That's a lot to get through to get to the overall point, which is that this single tweet is the greatest tweet. But that is also exactly why this tweet is the greatest. In another man's death, Peter King showed he is immortal—or at least incapable of dying because he is not technically living.
I think you touch on why this is, indeed, the greatest tweet of all time. The density of information one can glean from this is so layered and thick it could restore the coral reefs. You have the dateline — PK loves to use on tweets for some reason — which added exactly nothing to the story being told.
Then, there's the invocation of religion. "God, did you hear about Robin Williams?" With only 140 characters at his disposal, King wastes 15 between the dateline and and "God, ". Yet, these are vital, because they inform the reader we're dealing with a complete weirdo.
But this only precedes the tweet's climax. "Died. He killed himself." Perhaps PK could have tweeted this in a more nuanced way had he not wasted 15 characters. Or maybe he really did tell a restaurant host in Milwaukee that Robin Williams "Died. He killed himself." The very thought of a grown man doing this is enough to plummet me into a fit of laughter, each and every time.
Then, the final touch: "thought he would cry." Who is this man, other than a nondescript restaurant host? How is it possible that an awkward football reporter telling him that Robin Williams killed himself was enough to make him approach the precipice of tears? Or was he not moved to tears at all? After all, this is PK's observation, he thought he would cry. But did he? Was he even close? Or was PK's robot-like assessment of human emotion not quite calibrated that day?
I'm glad you broke down the actual substance of the tweet because I think it's important. His diction is just so weird. "Died. He killed himself." You can almost hear it in that Speak n' Spell voice. I like to imagine the scene played out exactly as he described, though, so that he wasn't wasting characters, he was accurately relating his own weirdness.
And an unintended but welcome consequence of this tweet is that PK created a template for jokes, either at his own expense, or just stand-alone jokes. Everyone — especially us — knows the pacing of this tweet now, and that is a nice little signpost that says Jokes Be Here.
MILWAUKEE -Called my neighbor: "Is your refrigerator running?"him: "Yes."Me: "Well you better catch it....BEFORE IT DIES."
— Sean Newell (@dontforgetmac) August 12, 2014
INT. ELEVATORPeter King presses all the buttons. Doors close, elevator moves, doors open. Peter: (Shouts) ROBIN WILLIAMS IS DEAD! — Aaron W. Gordon (@A_W_Gordon) August 12, 2014
Host: How many in your party?Peter King: Have you seen this Youtube of a kitten on fire?Host: *pukes*King: I thought you were metal, man.
— Big Sexy Jeb! Lund (@Mobute) August 12, 2014
Peter King: [throws a grenade into a schoolbus]Everyone: [screams]Grenade: [pops, revealing a banner reading ROBIN WILLIAMS DEAD U GUYS]
— Albert Burneko (@AlbertBurneko) August 12, 2014
This wasn't really a debate. It seems we're in complete agreement that this is the greatest tweet of all time. Should we argue about something?
Hmm, we could argue about whether off-field conduct should matter when voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.