An overpowering absence
Page 5 of 6 -- He had a favorite expression if he was at odds with you. As the heat would rise, as it sometimes does among colleagues in this business who have sources they rely on that might see things differently from someone else's sources, he'd say, "The difference between us is you think and I know."
One of our most uncomfortable moments together came in just such a circumstance in 1996, the year the Patriots drafted Terry Glenn. McDonough had been assured by his sources, which included Parcells and, he thought, owner Bob Kraft, that the team would take one of three defensive linemen on the first round: Duane Clemons, Tony Brackens, or Cedric Jones, depending on who was available. I had information from other sources that it would be Glenn, the talented but mercurial wide receiver from Ohio State.
When the morning paper came out, the Globe had its two football writers saying opposite things. When I got to the stadium in Foxborough, Will was there with a smile on his face.
"So who lied to you?" he said, the needle firmly in place.
We could talk to each other that way, sometimes loudly, sometimes not, because we respected each other and he was Irish and I was Portuguese and we understood an occasional nuclear attack between us was neither personal nor fatal to our friendship.
"Maybe somebody lied to you," I shot back.
That was the end of it, but there was a tension between us that morning as we waited. It wasn't personal, but it wasn't the best cup of tea we ever shared, either. We both knew what we wrote was what we'd been told, not something we'd just conjured up. So we waited, drinking tea next to each other until the announcement came. When it did, Will looked stunned for a moment and then he turned and disarmed the situation as only he could.
"You finally got one right," he said and we shook hands.
Then he went off to yell at Kraft, who had decided the night before that it was necessary to back his personnel chief, Bobby Grier, over his coach but he was fearful of telling McDonough because of the close relationship between him and Parcells.
We laughed about that day a few times, which was part of the beauty of being his friend. If there was disagreement, you might hear, "You think and I know," but if it came down on your side rather than his (which happened about as often as the dawning of a new millennium), he respected that because he understood he wasn't the only guy working. He was just the guy who knew the most at the end of the day most of the time. Continued...