Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: Parcells (2014)

By Bill Parcells and Nunyo Demasio

Bill Parcells is nothing if not prolific. He's written more books than most writers while still finding the time to put together a Hall of Fame career as a football coach.

The latest example of this is "Parcells," a sprawling autobiography of sorts that covers more than 500 pages. It's a football life that still has the ability to fascinate, despite a variety of odd twists and turns.

Parcells' time in football started with the usual bouncing around the country. He was a good enough player to be drafted into the National Football League, but not good enough to play. So he turned to coaching. There he worked his way up the ladder, which means a lot of stops in a lot of different places.

Eventually, coaches are supposed to gain a little stability in their lives in terms of location, and Parcells appeared to have that with the New York Giants after becoming their head coach. He won two Super Bowl titles there, and it seemed as if he could buy, and not rent, after several seasons there. But factors ranging from health to financial insecurity pushed him out the door.

From there it was on to a variety of other stops, coaching the New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys and running the operations of the Miami Dolphins over the years. There were plenty of other negotiations along the way as well, as he came close to joining a few other organizations as well. The effect was to make the coach something of a puzzle, as in "Why is he doing this now?" The stories of those switches are interesting, and Parcells admits now he could have handled some of those moves in a better way.

This publication follows a trend in sports books, the third-person autobiography. It's written in someone else's voice, although it clearly has plenty of input from Parcells himself. There is some other material from those who were part of Parcells' long ride over the years.

Does the format work? Reasonably well. However, it does create a little distance from the subject, Parcells, and the reader. Demasio certainly comes across as an admirer of Parcells here; Parcells might be tougher on himself than his collaborator. Plus there is a great deal of material here, as the number of pages suggests. Demasio probably could edited some sections of game descriptions over the years rather easily, losing a few dozen pages in the process. I also could have done without the constant references to "Big Blue" as a nickname for the Giants.

Still, there is plenty to enjoy here. Parcells-watchers say there isn't much bombshell material included, but that's fine. It's interesting when the anecdotes take the reader behind the scenes into the locker room or negotiation room. Parcells reached the status he did in football for a variety of reasons, and one of the biggest was that he was good at getting the most out of his players. They may not have liked him along the way, but they appreciated his efforts after the fact in most cases.

All of this came with a bit of a price, as Parcells says he was married to football. That led to divorce and a father who was never around for his children. He would have been much better off had he told his children that he loved them as often as he told Lawrence Taylor that he loved him. It's all part of the package.

Someone once said to a reporter who covered a Parcells-coached team that he was extremely lucky to spend a couple of hours a week with Parcells, just to see his intellect in action on a regular basis. Indeed, he's a fascinating individual. "Parcells" provides insight into why he was and is an interesting man, and why we're still drawn to him more than 25 years after his first championship.

(I received this book from "Blogging for Books" for free in return for this review.)

Four stars

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