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Loss of a legend

Page 6 of 6 -- ''It wasn't a secret that whatever Will McDonough printed in his Sunday column was the most insight on the NFL people were going to get all week,'' says Shaker. ''The bottom line was that we wanted to improve the information on our program.''

Putting straight print reportage on the air ''was unheard of,'' says Shaker. ''But viewers were more sophisticated. There no longer was the idea that TV personalities had to be virtual models.''

Which McDonough decidedly was not. ''At the time,'' says Shaker, ''there were great reservations about bringing in a guy with a face for radio and a voice for newspapers.''

There were equal misgivings in the Globe's editorial offices.

Doria was confronted with an unprecedented dilemma. ''For one day's work a week,'' recalls Doria, ''CBS wanted to pay him roughly three times as much as he was making at the Globe. Willie understandably wanted to maximize his income.''

And Doria wanted to minimize the tremors. He and his superiors agonized over the alternatives before finally making what Doria calls ''a deal with the devil. Anything he got on Sunday morning would go on CBS first. Anything he got Monday through Saturday would go to the Globe. I wasn't comfortable with it, but I finally decided that six days of Will McDonough was better than no days of Will McDonough.''

And so a phenomenon was born. McDonough - just a regular guy talking about stuff nobody else happened to know - became an instant hit, so much so that NBC eventually lured him to its pregame show for even more money.

Doria and the Globe realized some unexpected rewards.

''Willie's exposure increased,'' says Doria. ''Where he might have eight GMs whispering in his ear before, there were 30 doing it'' thanks to the network cachet. ''And from Monday through Saturday, the Globe got the benefits of that exposure and those contacts.''

And a cottage industry took root. Nowadays, it's hard to find a print reporter who doesn't have a TV or radio gig going. Had McDonough failed, who knows what might have happened.

''The mentality in TV,'' says Sean McDonough, ''is to say, `OK, that didn't work. We won't do that again.'''

Thanks to Mr. Big, that discussion never took place.

One of a kind

It was a crystalline evening on the Mediterranean. With Barcelona hotel space at a premium during the 1992 Summer Olympics, Sports Illustrated had provided a cruise liner on which to cultivate its corporate advertisers and court the elite.

The ship was nearly submerged in success. On the periphery of the maelstrom of sparkling champagne and roving hors d'oeuvre trays and intoxicating conversation stood former Globe sports columnist supreme Leigh Montville, on board as an SI senior writer, and McDonough, a celebrity invitee.

''This is the life,'' said Montville.

''That's the thing about sportswriting,'' said McDonough. ''You may not make a whole lot of money, but every once in a while, you get a chance to see how these people live. You get a chance to sample how the rich and famous and powerful spend their time.''

''Yeah,'' said Montville, ''we sure have it good.''

''We?'' said McDonough, eyeing his companion incredulously. ''I meant you. I am one of these people.''

Montville wasn't about to argue, and nobody really could. Southie's Everyman had come a long way. 

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