"Parcells: A Football Life"


Bill Parcells and Nunyo Demasio are grateful to everyone who helped us produce this book. Bill asked me to get more specific in acknowledging the cast of dozens.

At the earliest stage, 2008, the brilliant Kurt Andersen, who I’m fortunate to call my “pro bono consigliere,” gave input on the concept, read material and granted access to his massive rolodex. Five years later, after I wrote most of the book with Bill’s imprimatur, we hired the David Black Agency, whose namesake president teamed with literary agent David Larabell and their assistant, Sarah Smith, to adeptly fine-tune our proposal and secure a contract with an ideal publisher: Crown Archetype, an imprint of Random House.

My trusty and astute publishing lawyer, Eric Rayman, helped negotiate multiple contracts while scrutinizing the intertwined, moving parts. As I once told Eric, who also gave us valuable feedback on the manuscript, it’s good to have a member of the so-called Harvard mafia watching your back.

Rhahime Bell financed the bulk of this endeavor, waiting more than a half-decade for his payoff, and resisted the temptation to get life insurance on me. Essential aid also came from Dr. Kafui Demasio; Doug Lo, “the mayor of Seattle”; and Dr. Craig Moskowitz. Without this group, a book of this scope would have remained a pipe dream.

You’re in good company partnering with any group overseen by Crown’s publisher Tina Constable, who we nicknamed the Big Tina. Her empire contains several sharp, hard-working people like publicity director Tammy Blake, production-editorial director Amy Boorstein and Rachel Meier and assistants Jennifer Reyes and Jenni Zellner. Regardless, the Big Tina herself displayed extraordinary multitasking abilities, which included occasionally sending inspiring emails. Bill and I were delighted to have someone with Tina’s energy and leadership embrace our vision.

After acquiring the book, her lieutenant, Mauro DiPreta showed a combination of both street smarts and book smarts while steering the project. He navigated Parcells’s idiosyncrasies so skillfully that I warned him against leaving to run his own place until after the book’s release. Alas, months before Parcells hit the shelves, Mauro departed for the top job at a different publisher. Another one of Tina’s editors, Dominick Anfuso, picked a striking cover image, and positioned Crown’s folks for the home stretch.

Bill and I are grateful for editorial director Jacob Lewis’s orchestration, judgment and cool to help overcome a late manuscript despite the tremendous inconvenience to his crew, including Mark Birkey, a persnickety and versatile production editor. Jacob went beyond the call -- even taking one during his summer vacation. Copyeditor Aja Pollock’s eagle eye took the book to a higher level.

Thanks goes to Matthew Martin, the associate general counsel of Random House, for vetting the manuscript. Dan Zitt, the publisher’s audiobook guru, displayed passion and creativity, helping turn it into a quality recording.

The leader of my own editorial team, Peter Guzzardi, lived up to his reputation as a so-called book doctor with few peers. Peter remained enthusiastic and diligent while polishing the manuscript for more than a year. Considering Bills’s long, storied life, the word count threatened to reach War and Peace proportions, but Peter’s exquisite trims under deadline pressure made the cuts virtually unidentifiable.

Much of the football insight came from our NFL historian, researcher and fact-checker, Dan Daly, whose encyclopedic knowledge impressed even the great Bill Parcells. We were lucky to land someone like Dan Daly, an author himself, most recently of The National Forgotten League, which examines the NFL’s first 50 years.

Lisa Buch did yeoman’s work as our photo researcher, helping us sort through so many photos, digging up some gems, giving sharp input, and allowing Crown’s art department, including designer Barbara Sturman, to do its thing. Author Jamie Malanowski, an original member of my team, markedly helped organize and improve my copy and gave key editorial advice.

Eye doctor Craig Moskowitz offered the invaluable perspective of a well-rounded and well-read sports fan. We heeded many of his suggestions like identifying the left anterior descending artery as “the widow maker” for the chapter covering Bill’s heart surgery. I’m also grateful for the feedback of John Huey despite his busy schedule overseeing Time Inc.

Before Bill and I looked for the right publisher, a detailed, written critique by author Ira Berkow, made us feel as if we were on the right track. I have an inkling that until Bill saw Ira’s letter in early 2012 on multiple chapters, he wasn’t quite sure what he’d gotten himself into.

 Ann Tanenbaum, the publisher of her namesake international company, provided encouragement, candor and wisdom, especially during the late stages. Author Steve Coll, my ex-managing editor at the Washington Post and now the dean of Columbia Journalism School, offered guidance. And in an unforgettable gesture, Richard Stengel took time from his hectic schedule running Time to offer me an opportunity for freelance work until I landed a book deal.

During an important juncture, my cousin, Dr. Kafui Demasio, provided housing in Westchester County. Down the stretch, though, I all but lived in the New York Society Library, an author’s haven with its private rooms and numerous quiet spots. When the assistant head librarian, Carolyn Waters, first gave me a tour, I was hooked.

In one telephone conversation early on, author Michael Lewis candidly conveyed the project’s challenges based on his experience penning a cover story about Bill for the New York Times Magazine in 2006. But even before I wrote one word, ESPN’s publishing honcho Gary Hoenig expressed enthusiasm about Parcells, and envisioned James Gandolfini playing the lead role in a movie adaptation. Gary’s boss, John Walsh, sat down with me to convey ideas for the manuscript. And David Maraniss let me pick his brain about his methods producing the Vince Lombardi classic.

Among all the interviewees, special mention goes to Bill’s ex-wife, Judy; their daughters Dallas, Jill, Suzy; and his girlfriend, Kelly Mandart, for trusting me with sensitive information, providing insight into the man behind the icon.

George Swede gave me a tour of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey where he grew up with Bill. And Army Capt. Robert McGovern, a former NFL linebacker, took me around his hometown of Oradell, New Jersey, where Bill lived during his high school years.

At least four interviewees died before the book’s release: Dr. V. Paul Addonizio, former NFL coach Ron Erhardt, ex-Giants wideout Stacy Robinson and filmmaker Steve Sabol. Dr. Addonizio, a prolific heart surgeon, explained Parcells’s bypass in layman’s terms, and gave me an open invitation to watch him perform surgery. Sabol provided unfettered access to the treasure trove of video at NFL Films in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

Greg Aiello, the NFL’s P.R. chief answered numerous questions about the league, or connected me with the right folks.

Kathleen Smith, the owner of the Saratoga Arms hotel, gave me a tour of Saratoga Springs, New York, helping show why Bill settled down there. Thanks also goes to Kathleen’s staff, including daughters Amy and Sheila and Judy Kennedy, for its hospitality during my many trips to see Bill.

Random House’s Bette Graber and Regnery’s Katharine Mancuso helped us cut through red tape for copyrighted material: The two daughters of late author Bill Libby, Laurie Brazzle and Allyson Tayson, granted permission to excerpt from Libby’s The Coaches with no strings attached. A shoutout goes to Oklahoma-based Kelli Masters, the groundbreaking NFL agent and attorney for her last-minute services.

The one and only Alexa Roubachewsky tolerated my obsession with the book, although she did say that I should “marry Bill Parcells” instead of her, spurring animpromptu call from him.

For several years, Bobby Green, a member of Bill’s inner circle, acted like a de facto assistant. A range of support also came from Kwesi Arno, Jarrett Bell, Kenyatta Bell (no relation), Greg Bishop, Tor Bornholdt, Anthony Brown, Damien Brown (no relation), Bobby and Milano Buckley, Les Carpenter, Fame Cohen, Ronard Coombs, Heni Ozi Cukier, Charlotte Evans, Mike Florio, Peter Forbes, George Francois, John Gado, Leah George, Damon Hack, Tom Hamaric, Cathy Henkel, Gary Howard, Harry Jaffe, Joe Jeannot, Ken Langone, Greg Lee, Mark and Paul McCarthy, Bill Nedoroscik, Glenn Nelson, Steven O’Reilly, Tim Smith, Tanya Young, Zack Secilmis, Stephen A. Smith and Ned Vail.

Special gratitude goes to Richard Johnson, Rev. Dr. K Karpen, Lleanna McReynolds, Olga Obymako, Cynthia Round, Anne Scirmont, Rev. Dr. Esteen Tapp and Hubie Toth.

I would never have gotten anywhere in my career without Seattle’s incomparable Carole Carmichael, Neil Amdur, Leon Carter, Milton Coleman, Marie Davitt, Len Downie, John Huey, Terry McDonell, Norman Pearlstine, Pam Robinson, George Solomon, Barry Werner, the late Dr. Roger Wetherington and Kevin Whitmer. I’m grateful for writing pointers from Ira Berkow, Robert Lipsyte, Bob Roe and George Vecsey. Special thanks goes to ESPN executives Rob King and Leon Carter and Washington Post managing editor Kevin Merida for being role models; and to the great Donald Graham for his galvanizing notes over the years. Leon occasionally took my calls past midnight for updates on the project.

Not surprisingly, our family members played crucial roles in this type of endeavor. Doug, Bill’s youngest brother, hosted me in the Oradell home where the Big Tuna lived as a teenager. Thanks goes to my sister, Fafa, for her miscellaneous assistance; brother, Bubu; niece “little” Aseye; aunt Phoebe; my cousin, Ezekiel; and the matriarch, Dorcas Demasio a.k.a. Queen Dorcas.

It took almost an entire year to convince Bill to collaborate in this type of endeavor. The turning point came after I sent him a 20-page summary about her life: moving from Ghana to Harlem, USA then working day and night to put five kids, including three boys, through college. Bill contacted me the next day, said that I should be writing her story instead of his, and invited me to his home in Saratoga Springs.

We wish our siblings were still around to check out Parcells -- Bill’s brother, Don, and my sister, Aseye, and brother, Nana; but we know that they are watching and smiling -- maybe even reading.