Between pitches, he talks about coaching football in the '90s. "Players have the same hopes and dreams they've always had," he says. "I really like football. It can be something very special when it's at its best, with an integrity that comes from setting goals, then working to accomplish them. The thing that gets tough today is the integration of so many people who have no respect for the game—the agents, the marketers, the opportunists—with my players. These other people look at football not as a sport but as an economic venture. I hear all the time, 'Let the players do what they want.' If self-promotion is the Number 1 objective of a player, then we'll have problems."
Asked to point out the most formidable obstacle standing between Bledsoe and long-term success, Parcells says, "One word: attention. There are so many pulls on his life now, and how he handles those pulls will determine what kind of career he has."
An old friend of Parcells's, Sammy Ellis, walks into the box to say hello. A former pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, the California Angels and the Chicago White Sox, Ellis is a roving minor league pitching instructor for the Boston Red Sox. Ellis asks Parcells how much longer he plans to coach. "You never know," replies Parcells.
"Aww, they'll have to carry you out," Ellis says.
"No way," says Parcells, who had bypass surgery in June 1992. "Just watch me."
Parcells will probably coach for two more years before buying a minor league baseball club. He will not coach forever. The future, for the Parcells-and-Bledsoe-led Patriots, is right now.
When the Patriots were thinking of drafting Bledsoe, they invited him to Foxboro for a visit. Former New England executive Patrick Forte kept telling Bledsoe's agent, Leigh Steinberg, that Parcells loved Bledsoe. So Bledsoe and Steinberg flew east. "Bill was arrogant, challenging, insulting," says Steinberg. "I wish I could convey to you the tone of his voice, the tone of disinterest. It was almost like: Why are you here?"
"It wasn't my job to impress him," Parcells says curtly. "It was his job to impress me."
On that same trip Parcells told Bledsoe, "You know, most people in the league think that Rick Mirer is better than you."
If Parcells, like Mac Bledsoe, had words to live by on the wall next to his dining room table, they might read: Never make the player feel too comfortable. Keep the player on edge. Make the player conform to the personality of the coach.