Doug Flutie Loses Both Parents Within an Hour of Each Other
Michael Mucci, nearly 15, stands about 5′ 11″ with time to grow. He is a sophomore from Revere. His number on his high school jersey is 22. In the late sixties his father had played for Boston College; Michael dreams of one day wearing the maroon and gold. When the quarterbacks form groups for passing drills, Michael is without a partner. “I’ve got him,” Doug calls. They kneel, facing each other. The throws from that position must be firm, right at the chest. Doug’s are darts. Michael’s are not. Doug walks over. Soon his lessons — put your finger here, your shoulder there — help Michael’s passes spiral in a way they never had before. That night Michael’s excitement will all but burn the phone wires to Revere. Guess who had coached him one on one?
There is a moment when Doug, his work over, stands alone in the center of the field, flipping the ball in the air, catching it, flipping it up again. The next day he will leave for Long Island and another camp for high school kids, then it will be time for the Patriots. He walks to the sidelines, and before disappearing down the tunnel beneath the stands, looks back at the field at Mucci and all the kids whose games stretch ahead of them forever. A short time before, we’d been talking about football and fun and how seldom you hear the word fun spoken by N.F.L. professionals.
“Last year,” he said, “I went into camp a week early with the rookies and free agents. And we scrimmaged the Washington Redskins. By the end of that week, they believed in me so much. See, all of a sudden I had a group of young guys who rallied behind me. It was just different in the huddle. I’d go out on the field anytime with them. I mean, it would be great.”
Once Doug Flutie made everyone remember the dancing days of childhood when miracles happened every day on every playground. I told Jack Bicknell this and that Doug seemed the counterpoint to the technocrats and computers, a free spirit thumbing his nose at everyone who said, “No, you can’t.”
“They’re winning now,” Bicknell said. “The computers are winning.”
Maybe. Maybe when you read this Doug will have been traded or suffered an injury. Or perhaps he will merely be the man in waiting. “Any story on Doug has got to be open-ended,” Dick Flutie said. “The saga continues.” Better than anyone, he knows what a computer cannot calculate, that once there was a 13-year-old boy who, on the eve of moving from Florida to Massachusetts, took care of a nagging piece of unfinished business. “I was second trumpet in the school band,” said Doug. “I challenged the first trumpet for his chair. We were leaving the next day. It didn’t mean anything. But I beat him.”