Infamous Moments – McDonough Punches Clayborn

We’re back with another installment of infamous moments in Boston sports media history.

The relationship between the media and professional athletes has always been an adversarial one. Rarely however, has it gotten physical.

On September 9th, 1979, the Patriots had just routed the New York Jets 56-3.

These days morning talk show hosts and ESPN analysts would be eviscerating the Patriots for running up the score and showing poor sportsmanship- the Patriots scored 14 points in the fourth quarter when they were already up 42-3.

The atmosphere in the Patriots locker room following the game should’ve been light hearted, but cornerback Raymond Clayborn was miserable. He had a bad week, twice scuffling with teammates in practice.  

After the game, Clayborn was snapping at writers and bumping into them on purpose. Legendary writer Will McDonough of The Boston Globe took exception, saying “”Hey, Ray, there’s no need to do that.”

Clayborn reacted by jabbing his finger in McDonough’s face, poking him in the eye. McDonough then punched him twice, knocking him into a laundry cart and taking down a number of people with him.

The story immediately went into legend, with some accounts stating that McDonough had knocked Clayborn “out cold” with a single punch, and others describing more of a scuffle between the two.

McDonough was lionized among his colleages in the media for the incident, which was lauded as an example of “southie justice.”

From a Globe story after McDonough’s death:

”After that, he became a folk hero.” says Vince Doria, the former Globe sports editor who is now vice president/ director of news at ESPN.

”You know how when you’re a kid, you go around saying, `My dad can beat up your dad’?” says Sean McDonough. ”Well, after that, I went to school saying, `Never mind beating up your dad. My dad can beat up an NFL player.”’

What do you think would happen if a member of the media and an athlete got into a fight in the locker room these days?

  • Doza

    I think it would be hilarious. The size difference was nearly a pronounced back then as it is now. Just imagine Tomase got into it with Rodney Harrison. Tomase would be pounded into something that resembled pea soup.

  • LJ Sandwich

    “What do you think would happen if a member of the media and an athlete got into a fight in the locker room these days?”

    Well, it would certainly depend on the combatants. If you were to pit Curt Schilling against Dan Shaugnessy, I think there were certainly be a lot of animosity, but I would envision a whole lot of curly hair pulling and open handed missed slap attempts on both sides.

    I’d like to see John Tomase step into the squared circle with Bill Belichick. I believe it would be reminiscent of when Andre the Giant would have matches with epic stiffs like S.D. Jones, or Frankie Williams…over in little more than a three count.

    I suspect Amalie Benjamin might be able to apply some fairly deep submission choke holds with her beefy arms, so I doubt many players would want to risk the potentially loss of oxygen flow to the brain.

    Steve Burton undoubtedly posses the mythical “retard strength” that might make men tire, or break their fist over his head before he would submit, so he too may be one to stay away from.

    I’d personally like to see Butch Stearns tea-bagged by Vince Wilfork….Your Thoughts?

  • DV

    This is an awesome feature Bruce. Keep’em coming. I personally didn’t follow sports media as intently back then and it’s great to hear all these stories.

  • KF

    God I miss Will McDonough! Easily my favorite all time writer.

  • J.R.

    This story is the perfect example of how far we’ve come (or fallen, depending on one’s viewpoint) in the wacky world of sports media.

    Today’s always on, 24×7, “personality” and agenda-driven formats NEED things like the Clayborn-McDonough dust-up, or the (alleged) running up of scores, etc. just in order to survive. It’s oxygen to the likes of Fraudway, Fatty and the Forehead, Felger, Stearns, and the rest of the “I’m just throwing it out there” crowd.

    Back then (I know; I’m old enough to remember when it happened), those things were covered in a fairly straight-forward fashion and not beaten to death for eight weeks in a row as part of some contrived “storyline.”

  • nsw

    JR is dead-on about it…the fact that I didn’t really know about it when it happened shows it didn’t move past the locker room…and McDonough covered the team after that, and Clayborn was still there, so there wasn’t any seriously lingering animosity.

    But, obviously, if this happened today…and it came pretty close with Ryan Leaf…it would be neverending…of course, radio and TV hosts would pick ‘sides’ just so they could create the ‘storyline’ that JR mentioned, specifically so they could drag it out.

    But…I don’t think there are many reporters like McDonough left anyway.

  • Scott

    The post dust-up crowing, which went on for years through surrogates typified here by Doria and the Unemployed Shirtless Man, is every bit as unseemly as today’s storylines.

    • J.R.

      Not really.

      True, the dust-up was (rightfully) resurrected when McDonough passed away as it was a central part of his working life and deserved to be mentioned in his obit, but it wasn’t brought up on any kind of regular basis prior to that. There was no “we’re gonna get into this athlete-reporter animosity thing in this town today from 6:00 am ’till midnight.”

      • Scott

        I agree with your last sentiment, but disagree with an earlier one. I have probably heard that story fifty different times in my life, heavy emphasis on the Southie justice angle, always from some surrogate who somehow found some larger ‘truth’ in the retelling.

  • Nopointe

    Well I hope if it happened today, the player would remember that Zombie-McDonough can only be stopped with a head shot.

    Honestly, I was a little afraid this could happen Hall of Fame weekend, a lot of those former players are in their golden years, and Ron Borges is still involved with the voting. Thats a bad combination.

  • Scott

    The head shot is how Will kept the zombies out of Southie.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    ….I'm not picky…..I'd like to see ANYONE kick Shaugnessy's ass

    • Earl

      I'm in on that for sure!!! And as Carl Everett once said, "….and your curly haired boyfriend too….

  • Tony

    It’s too bad that Willie deteriorated into nothing but a shameless shill for his best’est buddies in his later years (Parcells, John Harrington, etc.).

    In his heyday, he was pretty damn good.

  • Wilson Tisdale

    Willie was the greatest. And Tony, what was Willie wrong about in his final days? Losing Parcells for Carroll was a disaster and these days I don’t think many would dispute that Clemens was indeed a Texas Con Man.

    • Tony

      I’m not saying that he was right or wrong regarding Parcells, but he did seem to write EVERY article during that time completely from Parcells’ perspective. He never even once mentioned the fact that Parcells had violated his Pats’ contract repeatedly during his final year with New England by discussing contract terms with the Jets.

      Of course losing Parcells was bad, but there was a Kraft side to the story too, and we never really got that from McDonough (ironically, Borges, if I recall correctly, was the Boston writer who tried to bring the Kraft’s position in the whole mess to light).

      And really, McDonough defended John Harrington, and by extension, Dan Duquette, well beyond the point where either of them deserved the benefit of the doubt. I’ll never forget when Willie wrote a column claiming that the Sox would have been in much better shape during a particular season had Jimy Williams just listened to Dan Duquette and played Izzy Alcantra more often. Izzy Alcantra!!!!!

      That, my friends, is being a shameless shill for your pals.

    • Rocket22

      Will never had the Balls to say those things to Roger in person. Slapping a 180 DB is different than tangling with Rocket who would have slapped the taste out of his mouth. And like Rog said ” He always makes fun of my appearance yet he looks like someone put out a fire on his face with an icepick” Brilliant Rocket see you in Cooperstown.

  • nsw

    He was never a great writer, but he had the best information…

    It’s true he was right about Parcells and Clemens…but, he was right for the wrong reasons…he was taking management’s side against the players, because that’s where his info and best sources were coming from…but I have no problem with that, that’s how the business is done.

    • HardyW

      I always thought of Will as primarily motivated by annoyance that the players who used to make the same $$ as him and rode the same train cars had moved past him in salary and accomodations. I never sensed anything but bitterness from him (and schmoozing with the bosses). I guess I missed his heyday in the 60s and maybe 70s.

  • CISW

    Before many of the current members of the Boston sports media began their Manny witch-hunt and ensuing character assassination I would have loved to see Manny unload on the likes of Callahan, Buckley and McAdam.

  • Chris

    Today’s sports media cabal is filled with limp-wristed do-gooders who talk the talk a whole lot more visibly than they walk the walk. I would pay money to see someone like Butch Stearns or any of the bottom-feeders from the ‘Media Approval Ratings List’ get absolutely flattened by an athlete.

  • Chuck

    Let’s not forget player-on-owner crime…

    http://www.firemillen.com/Images/Millenswing.jpg

    A moment almost forgotten in our Youtube/ESPN age but still worth another look…

    • nsw

      Haha…I’d forgotten all about that!

      Sullivan did deserve it, going down on their field to talk trash to them, but on the other hand, there are punches worth taking – and finally getting to trash talk the Raiders on their home field was probably worth it.

      And…we might have had Duquette, Harrington, Gaston, Kiam, etc…but nobody as lame as Millen…

  • Andrew

    This is was great idea for a running feature.

    I was looking forward to this particular story being re-told. Even without the embellishment it is an all-time classic.

  • Jerry

    Yeah, Will had buddies all right. He was Pals with Whitey and Billy back in the day. He even helped Whitey a hack job when he came back from prison. Nothing like helping a mass murderer get his start! Soutie Pride! Yay!

  • Classless Concepts

    Southie justice? I thought that was robbing someone in the projects for their Heroin stash because they touched little Denise O’Connell.