Doug Flutie Loses Both Parents Within an Hour of Each Other
“The furniture gets broken,” Joan said.
“It’s a good way to improve hand speed,” Dick said.
“I don’t know. It sure broke a lot of furniture,” Joan repeated.
On this night we pass the barbershop, the library, the town square. On a winter’s day in 1985 Doug rode down these streets in an open Thunderbird convertible, Dick and Joan in a convertible up ahead, waving to 50,000 people who ignored the cold to celebrate Doug Flutie Day. “The greatest parade this town’s ever seen,” said the police chief. As they rode, loudspeakers on the sidewalk blared again the football announcer’s frenzied shouts from November 23, 1984. “He did it! He did it! Flutie did it! He got Phelan in the end zone! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown Boston College! No time on the clock! It is over! It is over!”
Soon in Natick there was a road called Flutie Pass. The youth football championship game was called the Flutie Bowl. People came to Dick and said, “You must be so proud of Doug.”
“I’m proud of all my children,” he replied. “Doug is proud to be a member of our family. The good times come and go,” he said, “but the family is forever.”
In February 1985 Doug signed to play for Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (USFL). He became wealthy. Said Doug: “It almost seems like I have had too many good things happen to me.”
A rival quarterback simply said, “Sooner or later, the miracles will pass him by.”
Dick drives a few minutes out of town and stops in front of an expanded Cape, their former house in a neighborhood of modest, attractive homes where Wilogreen and Murdock roads converge. ” You’re sitting on Doug Flutie’s playground,” he says. “That was our dining room,” Joan says, “that bay window. We’d sit there and watch them play.”
They found the house in the spring of 1976 when they moved from Florida. Dick thought the schools would be better in New England. And, Joan explained, “the father of the high school quarterback in Florida gave lots of money to the school. Dick didn’t think money should decide who played.” A Boston friend suggested Framingham. On their drive north — four kids and a dog packed into the backseat — they turned off the Mass Pike and stopped at a McDonald’s in Natick. Dick asked some patrons which town had the best sports teams. “Natick,” they replied. He hustled the family to the local newspaper. A realtor saw him scanning the real estate pages and took them to Wilogreen Road, their suitcases still in the trunk; only hours after arriving in town, they bought the house. The Natick Babe Ruth league told Dick the teams had already been selected. Dick told them if he could have Bill and Doug he’d form his own team from the boys who’d been rejected. That team nearly won the championship.
The family struggled financially, getting by week to week. Dick moonlighted as a wedding photographer. Joan worked part-time in a deli. “Sometimes car payments didn’t go out,” Dick said, “so we could send the boys to football camp. But football camp gave them the edge.” Some people said that the Flutie kids were spoiled, that all they did was play. The phone was disconnected once, and Doug took his only high school job, frying clams at Nick’s Drive-In. When he earned the money to turn on the phone, he quit.
Dick shifts in his seat. The lights are on in their old house. “We could go in,” Dick says. “They told us to come by anytime.”
“That’s Doug’s bedroom up there,” Joan says. “He had the biggest room.”
“When Doug played,” Dick remembers, “we’d hear about the game until he fell asleep at night. We’d hear about every play. Everything that was right. Everything that was wrong. If I was busy, he’d tug until I paid attention.”
At the end of Doug’s junior year in high school Dick accepted a promotion to return to Florida. The house went up for sale. His coaches in Natick still remember how distraught Doug was at the prospect of moving again. Doug flew down to meet with the coaches at the new school. He worked out with the baseball team. Dick talked to Doug, alone, afterwards. “It’s your choice,” he said. Doug chose Natick. Soon Dick came home.