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Trying to put Willis' words into context

Welcome to the pilot episode of What Willis McGahee Really Meant Was . . .

Today we will be excerpting a quote from McGahee's recent interview in Penthouse, an interview during which, not all that loosely translated, he told the football fans of Buffalo to jump in Lake Erie with concrete blocks tied around their necks. Or at least that's the way it came across when the magazine's February installment of "Locker Room" was published, before McGahee set the record straight in a release subsequently issued through the office of his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, that claimed the Buffalo Bills running back had been quoted out of context.

Being quoted out of context is an entirely different matter than being misquoted, as both Charles Barkley and Terrell Owens once claimed to be, in their autobiographies no less. Had McGahee insisted he was misquoted there would be no telling what he said without hearing the tape recording or reviewing the interview transcript.

But McGahee's assertion that his words were taken out of context is tacit acknowledgment that he said what was printed, but that it wasn't printed quite the way he said it, devious editing and capricious reconfiguration having conspired to portray him as arrogant and ungrateful.

It's easy, even desirable, to take McGahee's side in the matter, he having proven himself an upstanding citizen and a teammate of the highest regard while attending the select minicamp and dutifully protecting the human race against extinction.

The crux of Buffalo's beef with McGahee would seem to be his response to the question, "There's talk of an NFL team for nearby Toronto. What do you think?" To which the running back replied, "That would be a good situation. Toronto is a beautiful place. But if they're going to put a team there, they should just bring the Buffalo Bills to Toronto. Case closed."

Since McGahee hasn't said he was misquoted it's imperative we allow our imaginations to wander in the search for accuracy. It could be that his response was attached to an entirely different question, which would most definitely change the context of his answer. It is conceivable, is it not, that he was asked, "Toronto wants to win the Grey Cup as bad as Buffalo wants to win the Super Bowl. How should they go about it?" Put his answer with that question and McGahee comes across as both noble and sensitive, the implication being that Buffalo, its fans and the Bills themselves would do whatever is in their power to help their neighbors to the north.

But maybe that's not the way it went down. Maybe McGahee expanded on his answer only to have the explanation clipped in the name of sensationalism. It could be that the unabridged transcript would show McGahee said, "But if they're going to put a team there, they should just bring the Buffalo Bills to Toronto. That might be a solution amenable to all so long as Bills fans are given free tickets and complimentary million-dollar waterfront condos, which is the very least those great fans deserve. Case closed."

If none of these explanations is aiding McGahee's cause, if you remain skeptical of his damage control, the man still has options. Terrell Owens last week fired Kim Etheredge, the publicist, who some would say represented him quite accurately when a reaction to painkillers put him in the hospital and generated rumors of a suicide attempt.

There would be no misunderstandings with Etheredge. She'd get right to the point, declaring "Willis can think of 40 million ways he could be made to like Buffalo."


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