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'Parcells' book short on big revelations for longtime fans of coach

BILL PARCELLS, Wichita State Head coach Bill Parcells

BILL PARCELLS, Wichita State
Head coach Bill Parcells has won 183 games in his career, along with two Super Bowls. Credit: NFL/Jerald Pinkus

Duane Charles "Bill" Parcells admittedly has been a pain in the neck to deal with for many of the people in his life -- news media members prominent among them.

But now that he's 73 and deservedly in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it finally is safe to view the man and his achievements as objective sports history, and on that front, let's be clear:

He is the most iconic, most accomplished coach in New York-area pro football history.

That, combined with the dreary current state of our local squads, made it impossible to resist when the ambitious new book about him, "Parcells: A Football Life," written with Nunyo Demasio, was released earlier this week.

So is it worth the 500-plus pages of time, effort and cost? No and yes.

Alas, it is difficult not to compare the Parcells book with a similar project featuring a similarly famous leader of men from 2009: "The Yankee Years," by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci.

Both used third-person narration in the voice of the co-author, as well as supplementary interviews, rather than a first-person, autobiographical style.

But the technique was more effective in the Yankees book, which was so full of barbed opinions and behind-the-scenes insights, it took New York's tabloids three days to sort through all the newsworthy nuggets.

Not so with "Parcells." While it does add depth and insight to events along Tuna's path, it is light on eye-opening revelations for fans who have followed him closely over the decades.

As with many authors of sports books, Demasio errs in sharing too many details of too many long-ago games, no matter how important they were at the time.

The writing is spare and straightforward -- not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that -- as the narrative grinds forward in neat chronological order, ending with his enshrinement in Canton in 2013.

The book in some ways is at its best when it reaches the late 2000s, a period during which Demasio had excellent access during Tuna's time with the Dolphins and can offer firsthand accounts of actions and interactions.

That makes a huge difference for an author dealing with a reticent subject such as Parcells.

The most poignant insights come not from his football life but rather his personal one, in which his ex-wife, three daughters and girlfriend speak candidly about the toll his career and personality took on his loved ones.

Among other things, he missed all three daughters' college graduations. Parcells notes that many coaches successfully balance job and family, but "I just didn't. That's my biggest regret."

Demasio does a fine job incorporating Parcells' famous football aphorisms and explaining where they came from, and also documenting the web of confidants he gradually accumulated during a long, varied career.

They include, among others, Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Knight, in whose basement Parcells watched the Jets defeat the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Another influence: The late Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, whose advice regarding media relations went like this: "It's a war you can't win, but you can win a few battles. So screw 'em when you can."

Parcells' battles extend far beyond those with journalists. The book hits on most, including disagreements with everyone from George Young -- who blocked his return to the Giants in 1997 -- to Robert Kraft to one complex non-family relationship that threads its way throughout: Bill Belichick.

By 2009 -- and page 466 -- the two Bills had repaired their frayed relationship to the point that Belichick purchased a condominium two floors above Parcells' in Jupiter, Florida.

Big Bill's summary of his relationship with Little Bill is a simple, pitch-perfect take for a Jersey Guy and football lifer who bonded decades ago with an old ball coach named Steve Belichick.

"I not only liked him," Parcells says of Bill Belichick, "I liked his father."

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