Now that Matt Walsh has finally told his story, I feel that the right thing to do is to come clean about something.
I was once a suspected NFL spy. At least, I figure that's why New York Giants coach Bill Parcells threw me out of practice at the Meadowlands nearly 18 years ago and sent word through a team emissary that I was never to darken the doorstep of Giants Stadium again.
But I have an excuse. I misinterpreted the rules.
I was working for a Philadelphia newspaper, and the Eagles and Giants were preparing for a game in November 1990. I was dispatched to North Jersey to cover the Giants. Earlier in the day, I had already annoyed Parcells with a question involving Dave Meggett's blitz pickups, fumbling or some similar minutiae.
Sometime during the afternoon, most of the writers in the stadium press room started heading out to practice. So I did the same.
It was mentioned that visiting writers weren't supposed to watch practice, but I figured if I got out there and they sent me away, so be it. I was wearing a baseball cap with my paper's name on it so I wasn't being surreptitious.
Practice was at an enclosed field built in the parking lot, if I recall correctly, and the security guard waved me through. I was standing next to Giants general manager George Young, who was sitting in a lawn chair.
I was barely paying attention to the field because Young and I were discussing a mutual favorite book, William Manchester's American Caesar, about Gen. Douglas MacArthur. I did notice that a player on the Giants' scout team was wearing a red jersey cover with No. 41, so I figured a New York defensive read was the movements of the Eagles' No. 41, Keith Byars. Big deal.
Right about then, Parcells' whistle went off like a firehouse siren and he yelled in my direction: "YOU! What are YOU doing here!"
Parcells disengaged himself from practice and walked toward me.
"Just watching practice, Coach - like the other guys," I said.
Young was chuckling slyly like Sydney Greenstreet.
"Those other guys are from here," Parcells yelled, continuing his march to the sideline.
I got the point. The New York writers could be trusted, but I might carry back secrets to Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.
I was insulted. Scared witless by the advancing Big Tuna. But insulted.
Perhaps thinking everyone would be punished with banishment for my sin, one of the New York-area writers (I won't name names) piped up, "We told him he wasn't supposed to be here."
Even more infuriated, Parcells ordered me out.
Chastened, I hurried back to the press room. Later, when I went to the Giants' locker room for post-practice interviews, I discovered security had been alerted.
Someone from the front office also told me Parcells had decreed I could never come back to Giants Stadium, even for games.
So, I waited for Parcells. Finally, he emerged from the locker room. I gave him a song-and-dance about just doing my job, that like any other writer I honored the implied secrecy of practices, and hey, I was wearing that ball cap identifying my paper so I wasn't being a sneak.
Parcells rolled his eyes, gave me a short lecture and lifted the lifetime ban.