Year in Review: 1997


Re-rank the list of top sports stories of 1997


Find out more about:

Tiger Woods takes
golf world by storm

Pedro Martinez signs
record deal with Sox

Latrell Sprewell
assaults coach, gets ax

Rick Pitino becomes
Celtics coach, president

Bill Parcells quits after Patriots' banner year

Martina Hingis
rules women's tennis

Florida Marlins win World Series

Women's pro hoop
meets with success

A Patriots surprise:
Super Bowl XXXI berth

Wil Cordero charged
with assaulting wife

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Check out the top news stories of 1997

It's no one-man show to Kraft

By Michael Madden, Globe Staff, 02/01/97

FOXBOROUGH - The body language said all. Bill Parcells and Bob Kraft had been on opposite edges of the bed for months, but now was the moment when the divorce became final.

For 40 minutes, Parcells had given his version of the breakup, saying all kinds of nice words but deflecting all hard questions, and now he was done. For the final few moments, Kraft had been to the side of the podium as Parcells wound down, joking for the final time, "Do you want me to pay some money as I leave?" There was laughter, then sadness, as Parcells wished Kraft well with his next partner.

"The greatest coach in the history of modern times," as Kraft had put it just 20 days ago, stepped off the podium. The path of the man who had just resigned after four years as Patriots coach had to cross the owner's path one final time. No avoiding it.

As Parcells neared, Kraft's body seemed to tense and back up a half-step or so. Something had to happen. An awkward moment had to be smoothed. Now Parcells was upon Kraft, and the two reached out their right hands to each other and mouthed a few empty mumbles. Then it was done. Divorce granted.

As Parcells had done, so did Kraft when he took the podium. No harsh words. The neighbors did not have to know all the grimy details of the breakup. Just that the kids were back from their Super Bowl trip and Daddy was going, going, and now was gone for good. But maybe the new Daddy can bring the kids back to the Super Bowl next year.

He and Parcells got along but did not get along, was Kraft's message. No angry words, no shouts between the two, no punching fists through blackboards; just the old, familiar "irreconcilable differences."

Kraft's first words on stepping to the podium were to thank Parcells profusely for what the coach had done for the Patriots. "When you think where we were," said the owner, "I want everyone in the room to know that in my mind, without Bill Parcells as the leader of this organization, we would not have had a chance to be in that game last Sunday, and we're all cognizant of that."

Then Kraft began to delve into the breakup that removed much of the luster from the Patriots' Super Bowl season, which ended with the 35-21 loss to the Packers in New Orleans Sunday. "The issue of the relationship between Bill and I has some interesting reports and terms," the owner went on. But Kraft absolutely insisted that on a personal level, "the relationship was cordial."

Even more, according to Kraft, Parcells was a fun guy, the life of the party, a guy who made every date interesting, his conversation always sparkling. This breakup did not stem from boredom.

"He's just a fun guy to be around," said Kraft, "and as you folks know from what you call his Tuna Talk, his turn of phrase is unique. I can't think of any time on a personal level where we did not have a good time."

Good date, but hard to live with. That was Kraft's next message. Parcells wanted to be the show, but "like any other business we're involved in," said Kraft, "you can't have the business dependent on one person. Because what happens when that person isn't there?"

Good, general talk. Good, general words that might placate the nosy neighbors who wanted to know too much about the breakup. But the neighbors already knew a few of the details, Parcells saying moments earlier how it all had started in the kitchen, that Kraft expected him to cook up a Super meal but wouldn't let him even shop for the groceries.

Hah! countered Kraft, saying in so many words that he had given Parcells all the money in the world to shop for groceries for the Patriots but all Parcells brought home were bruised apples, rotten pears and leftover meatloaf.

Even worse, Kraft was suspicious there was another suitor. He was not dumb, he intimated; he knew that down in New York, the Jets had thrown coach Rich Kotite out of the house Dec. 20 -- or had Kotite left just before being thrown out? -- and the club had made no move to find a replacement. Kraft was putting two and two together. He was no rube.

"It was very surprising to me over the last six weeks or couple of months that Rich Kotite, who is a fine gentleman and somehow departed from the Jets -- I don't know what the right word is -- but the Jets interviewed no candidates," said Kraft. "But the Jets never interviewed anyone, and I think they thought that our head coach was a free agent."

So the Jets were already cheating with your partner behind your back?

"No, I don't think that they deliberately would ever do anything like that," Kraft replied. "I don't think they would knowingly do that. But I think we have the best head coach, the best locker-room coach in the business, and I'm representing the fans of New England. Now how should I look at that?"

Left virtually unspoken was Kraft's anger at Parcells for possibly flirting with the suitor even while the kids were graduating to the highest level and everybody should have been happy. "We should be basking in the glow of the team making the Super Bowl," said Kraft.

But no . . . the divorce was in the works, plotted by the two of them.

And neighbors ask why, why a split, when everyone knows Bill Parcells can cook a Super meal as well as anybody and Bob Kraft always spared no expense.

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