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WILL MCDONOUGH | 1935-2003

At reporting, no one better

Will McDonough would have had no wish to be remembered as a sportswriter. I'm not even sure he liked to write.

Forget the writing part. Will McDonough was the greatest sports reporter of them all.

Will's writing style was an insider's friendly joke. Will never had any trouble making deadline because he wasn't out to impress some English professor. He was the fastest deadline writer I've ever seen because to him, it was all about putting down the facts, not playing with words.

What mattered to Will McDonough was getting the story, and no sportswriter/reporter in the history of New England sports journalism - or, perhaps, American sports journalism - ever got more or juicier stories than Will McDonough.

His great thrill was getting a story first, putting it in the paper, and then laughing as everyone else in town had to clean up the journalistic poop he had left behind.

It continually baffled and infuriated rivals that he very often got both his story and your story, too. T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times tells of an incident that happened years ago, when Simers was working in San Diego and the two were chatting at an NFL meeting.

''He said, `By the way, T.J., they're inside that room over there selling your team,''' recalls the LA scribe. ''It turns out they were, and nobody knew anything about it, me included. Except Will.''

People told Will stuff. They just did. The bigger they were, the more they felt compelled to spill their guts to Will McDonough. The rest of us have never figured out the formula.

His cubicle was two over from mine, and one of my great pleasures was eavesdropping on his phone conversations, particularly at this time of the year, when he was in his absolute glory. As the unchallenged Dean of Grid Scribes, he reveled in being able to pull rank on everyone else by previewing the playoff games through the first-person analyses of non-participating coaches and GMs. He could get anybody to the phone. The conversations usually began with a reminiscence about the last time the two had played golf together. There would be some chitchat about wives, children, and some unpublicized team gossip. And then he'd say, ''What about the Niners and Giants?'' The guy would tell him, and you, the Globe reader, would be the happy beneficiary of Will's unparalleled entree into the NFL.

Isn't that supposed to be what being a newspaperman is all about?

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