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Bill Parcells is a Big Ol' Softie

A couple of months ago there was that New York Times story about Bill Parcells, in which the Cowboys' coach was depicted as a guy who was just kinda, well, pathetic -- a man who lives alone in what amounts to an Irving hotel room with little more than a playbook and a binder containing inspirational material as his sole company. Since that story appeared, and ever since Tony Romo became his QB, Parcells has looked like a different person -- less the confrontational sumbitch of his first years here and more the haggard, nostalgic old-timer who knows his days are numbered. He has the demeanor of a man who knows deep down, but refuses to admit, that the game's fast approaching the two-minute warning.

Parcells spoke with the Detroit media this week, in anticipation of the Cowboys' Sunday-afternoon game against the woeful Detroit Lions. And, once more, the guy's playing old-man softie again, contemplating his retirement (again) without admitting to anything besides getting ready for the next game. "A friend of mine used a word a few years ago that this football is a powerful mistress," Parcells said. "It's hard to let go. There's a lot of truth to that, and I say that in a respectful way. The games become more precious, and the seasons become more precious. I don't want to sound corny, but that's really the truth."

He's been more and more corny of late, though; they could sell the man at a movie-theater concession stand, slathered in butter.

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He used the word here last week, when talking about his relationship with Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid ("I'm not trying to be corny or anything here, but I made up my mind at that time that if I was ever in that position that I would always do that for any young coach"). And he used it here when talking about his Super Bowl days with the New York Giants.

"Corny" -- it's a word of which Parcells has always been fond, come to think of it. Go back nine years, when Parcells' New England Patriots snatched the AFC Championship from the Jacksonville Jaguars. Parcells was talking to the media about his team -- and all the teams he'd coached throughout his career. "I remember the faces of the players I had that went before," he said, breaking up just a little, according to Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly. "That's the priceless thing in this business. Those faces are the faces that you remember. You see those kids, and there is a bond that never leaves. It's always there because we did this together. It's special. It's a little corny, but it's special." It was, Reilly wrote, an old-fashioned "Tuna melt."

Of course he left the Patriots shortly after that, when he felt owner Robert Kraft had too much a heavy hand in running the team. It was a dispute that resulted in the famous Parcells line: "If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries." Especially if there's a sale on corn. --Robert Wilonsky

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