Oct 18

Big Tuna Revealed: An SJ-Exclusive Interview with Parcells Biographer, Carlo DeVito

A couple weeks ago the wonderful people here at Sports Jabber asked me if I would be interested in conducting another interview for the website and then writing another story from what I learned. I imagine it took me about 2 seconds before I replied that of course I was willing to take on another special project for the people that have been so good to me. So I did my research and tried to think of a handful of questions that I thought would both give all of us an idea of just who Carlo DeVito is and also let us know just a little bit about his upcoming book, “Parcells: A Biography“.

What I’ve found though in trying to figure out how exactly I should go about writing this story to help promote the book is that while I could do the story the same way that I did with the movie “Chasing 3000″, that would be a great disservice to Carlo DeVito. In answering my questions, he took the time to give long, detailed answers and in doing so, I got the exact information that I was hoping to learn.

DeVito is an accomplished writer, but rather than sticking with just one broad topic (whether it be sports, politics, or science fiction), he writes about the things that really grab his attention. When someone really cares about what they are writing about, it always shows through in the details and as you’ll read below, DeVito definitely took the time to get all the details that were out there. This biography about Parcells is going to be the most in-depth one ever done on the Big Tuna and it’s going to be an excellent read. But rather than take my word for it, read the entire interview yourself word for word. And when you do, you’ll agree that DeVito is an excellent writer with a lot of drive to make sure this is a top notch biography about a legendary football icon.

Trey/SJ: While it seems from what I’ve found you like to write about sports figures, you also seem to have quite a few books that are far from being classified as that. What motivates you to write those books and which style would you say you’re more comfortable with?

Devito: I like writing about different things. Lately, I am writing more about wine and sports than anything else. Being a trade book editor, there are a lot of things which draw my eye, but my favorite things to write are historical sports and biography. I find writing about Wayne Lukas, the Maras, Yogi, Scooter, or Parcells inspiring. They are all human beings – they have their foibles, their failures, their inadequacies – but they also have drive, determination, and dedication. I find in the end that those qualities are in fact not just fun to write about, but also personal intriguing. And I love the slightly more historical aspects. I really love delving into old newspaper archives, or getting on chat boards and asking about the old neighborhood, and getting into who the people are and where they come from. History isn’t just statistics, one needs to find the era from which someone comes from to even begin to understand them. So many things go into seeing what makes a person, and I love finding those small things.

Trey/SJ: What made you decide you wanted to write a biography about Bill Parcells and what would you say makes this one unique to the other books about him out there?

Devito: Firstly I am a Giants fan. Always have been. And he had such an incredible aura about him – his whole “Jersey guy” thing. he felt like he would have been in the stands with us, if he wasn’t the coach. But seeing how successful he was, in so many places, made him a very intriguing target. Once you start to look further, there’s a lot more there, there. One of the things about my book that I think is different from all the others, is that, firstly, it’s a more complete and definitive book than any other out there.

Secondly, I have a lot more about his personal life in there. His father, Chubby, was a standout football player at Georgetown (still holds records there for football – held some NCAA records for a while as well), he worked for the FBI and Uniroyal (where he was a top executive). he fathered three boys – al of whom are incredibly accomplished – Bill, Donald (highly noted football player at WestPoint; decorated Vietnam vet; President First Fidelity) and the youngest, Doug Parcells (there’s a whole sports complex named for him in north Jersey). These four men all grew up in the same 20-25 mile radius, and really never left (even though they traveled far and wide).

When Parcells called himself a Jersey Guy, it was a bit of posturing, but the truth is he was shaped by where he was brought up – he was a local, and so was his family. I spend the first few pages talking about north jersey and Hackensack – why? because it tells you about the place these four men come from. All four of them drew their personas from the region. All were smart. All played collegiate football. All were very successful. All were driven. But no one has really covered the family in the same way I think as I have, and the family dynamics.

Trey/SJ: What’s your story? Or more specifically, how did you come about writing books for a living?

Devito: I knew I wanted to be a writer in 8th grade. I didn’t care if I wrote poetry, fiction or non-fiction. The reasons I like non-fiction is that I love the research angle – finding an old high school football coach, or old college player. I like searching through old newspapers, sports programs, finding a shopkeeper who owned an old store or restaurant where the person I am covering went. I like friends less than I like strangers or acquaintances. They’re more honest, they’re not burnishing their friend’s reputation. I love making sense of someone else’s life, and finding the themes. It’s so hard to do in our own lives, but it’s easier to piece together someone else’s.

And I think knowing the history of something is always important. You have to know where we came from, whether its politics or sports – where we came from helps you understand where you’re going. No one, whether it’s science, politics, history, or sports, ever gets there by him or herself. You always stand on the shoulders of those who came before you.

Trey/SJ: Who would you call your inspirations as a writer, if any?

Devito: Wow. Tough question. Like most men my age, I was a Hemingway and Fitzgerald fan early on. I also love John Irving, Richard Ford, Fred Exley, and Richard Yates. But I really got into history. I love David McCoullough, Ron Chernow, Walter Issacson, Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Douglas Brinkly, Michael Kammen, and David Bechloss. And I like some of the old timers, Dee Brown (Bury My Heart), Douglas Southall Freeman, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and Thomas Flexner.

Trey/SJ: Do you have your next project already in mind, started, or are you still focused on getting this book out and into the hands of football fans?

Devito: I’m still casting about for my next book. I’ve done a lot of biographies, I’m thinking I’d like to look for an event, a game changer, a specific moment in sports. I have a few in mind, but nothing solid yet. I’ll do more biographies before I’m done, but I could use a change of pace – an “as told to” or something more event driven.

Trey/SJ: If you could tell a potential buyer one thing about this book, what would it be?

Devito: This is the most complete and definitive bio of Parcells ever written. I think he’s a hard guy to get to know if you know him, but I think this is the most complete picture of him that exists anywhere.

Trey/SJ: Has Parcells seen a draft of the book? If so, what does he think? If not, are there plans to directly share the book with him?

Devito: This is an unauthorized book. I contacted his agent several times and asked for cooperation, but was met with silence. I even had several people that preferred not to cooperate without his involvement. But that’s par for the course with a living legend in many cases. I’m not sure how different the book would be if he had participated – he doesn’t like to talk about his professional life, and he is a hard person to get to know by all accents – so I am not sure how different it might have turned out to be. When a copy comes off the line, I’ll send it to them. I’ve written unauthorized bios before this one.

And there you have it. I know it seemed to be a little heavy on content about Carlo DeVito rather than about Parcells himself, but when I was thinking of questions, I found myself wondering more about DeVito and how he writes more than thinking about what I wanted to ask about Bill Parcells. That’s probably because if you are going to be interested in reading this book, you already know the major details about Parcells and his career, but what you don’t know is who DeVito is and why this book is different. And if you ask me, DeVito looks to be an exceptional writer with a great story to tell.

By Trey Hill
SJ Contributing Author, Blogger, Jabberhead

Editor’s Note…

In this new biography acclaimed sports historian Carlo DeVito (Wellington; Yogi; Scooter) digs deep into Bill Parcell’s past to unlock the secrets of what made him who he is today, following him from his childhood, through 15 years of college coaching, to his first big chance in the pros and the year that almost broke him.

Parcells: A Biography” can be purchased both online…ie, Triumph Books catalogue, Amazon…or at bookstores.

Need pre-purchase information? Contact…

Bill Ames
Senior Publicist | Triumph/IPG Books | 814 N. Franklin St. | Chicago, IL 60610 | (312) 337-0747 | bames@ipgbook.com | www.triumphbooks.com

Follow Trey Hill aka finalfinally both at Sports Jabber and at his blog, “The Learning Curve“: An uneducated man’s ramblings on the sports world.