Heart attack does not dull Maguire’s sense of humor

Published 7:53 pm Thursday, September 6, 2007

The following column from the Best of West collection was originally published in the Port Arthur News on Oct. 23, 1991.

Chances are Paul Maguire won’t be selected as poster boy for the American Heart Association any time soon.  Maguire, who was back on the job at NBC sports six weeks after undergoing a five-way bypass, still likes his beer too much to be sent out into the field as a spokesman.

“The doctor told me I could have two units a day,” said the fun-loving Maguire from his home in Buffalo.  “He didn’t specify whether the two units were glasses, quarts or cases.  I took it to mean cases.  Hell, I’m not giving up beer.”

Maguire, 53, may or may not be kidding.  What he does say with all seriousness is that rehabilitation and diet have dropped his cholesterol level to 144, his blood pressure to 110/70 and his heart rate to 62.  His weight has dropped from 250 to 225.

“I’ve never felt better in my life,” he said.  “If I’d known open heart surgery would make me feel so good, I’d have volunteered for it a long time ago.  Hey.  I’ve even rediscovered walking.  It used to be that I’d drive the 450 feet to my mailbox.  Now I walk.”

  Those who attended the Port Arthur News Homecoming Roast of Bum Phillips two years ago, or watched it on cable, are well aware Maguire is a little bit crazy.  If you don’t believe it, ask Stephen F. Austin coach Richard Marler, who was assigned to “watch out” for Maguire while he was in town for the roast.

Marler tells a hilarious story of how he and Maguire went into the Jetty to eat lunch.  Maguire, rather loudly, announced that he knew how to put a lobster to sleep.  When the remark was greeted with skepticism, he more or less demanded the manager get one out of the tank for him 

“The next thing I know,” Marler said, “Maguire has taken the lobster, stood it on its head and started rubbing its belly.  Sure enough, in a couple of minutes, the lobster was asleep.  Maguire just laid it down on the bar and grinned.  There was a big crowd in there that day, and they gave him a standing ovation.”

That night at the roast, Maguire greeted Rev. Benny Patillo, who was on his way to give the invocation, by saying “Keep it short, padre.”  When Patillo did exactly that, Maguire told him, “You take coaching real well.”      

Later of course, he brought the house down by presenting a live pig to Phillips.    

“You wouldn’t believe how bad that pig smelled,” Maguire chuckled.  “It sure made a mess in the restroom where we were keeping it.  Some lady went in there.  You should have heard her scream.  That scared the pig and it started oinking.  It was a disaster.  Make sure everybody knows it was Carl Mauck’s idea.”

Maguire, who will be in Houston Sunday to do the Oilers-Bengals game for NBC, may be one of the few people who can make a heart attack sound matter-of-fact.  He says now that things happened so fast he really didn’t have time to be scared.

Actually, there were two attacks. The first came as he was preparing to play a round of golf.  He beganexperiencing chest pain on the drive to the course.  He tried Rolaids, then alka-seltzer and soda upon reaching the club.  When the pain persisted, he went to see a retired doctor who lived across the street from the golf course.

The doctor told him it sounded like he might be having a heart attack and he should get to the hospital.  Doctors at the hospital checked him, gave him nitro pills and scheduled him for an angiogram four days hence.

“The pain stopped, so I didn’t have an idea how serious my condition was,” Maguire said.  “I went in for the angiogram and the doctor said I needed open heart surgery.  I said, ‘OK, tell me when it needs to be done.’  He said ‘right now.’  I didn’t have much time to worry.”  

It’s the aftermath of the surgery that’s typical Maguire. 

“I wake up in intensive care, but I really don’t know where I am,” he said.  “I look around and there’s this huge, huge woman in the next bed.  She’s got pimples all over her face and she’s wearing a purple nightgown.  

“My first thought, honest to God, was that I died during the operation and gone to hell.   I just knew I was stuck with that ugly broad in that hideous purple nightgown for eternity.  That was going to be my punishment for all the things I shouldn’t have done.” 

Maguire realized he wasn’t in hell when he tried to move and felt the pain from where his chest had been cut open.  By the next day, however, he was sitting in a chair.  Within 48 hours he was walking.  He soon went on a weekly schedule that called for three days of rehab at the hospital and three days of walking several miles. 

“Three weeks ago, I went for a stress test and they said they didn’t want to see me anymore,” Maguire says.  “Other than having scars that make me look like a zebra, I’m none the worse for the wear.  The key for me now is being selective about food and eating in moderation.”

One discovery Maguire made, while on television’s version of injured reserve, was how much he missed doing football.  He watched impatiently from afar until doctors gave him the green light.  The game Sunday will be his third since returning.  Ironically, two have involved the Oilers.  He did the Oilers-Jets game two weeks ago.

“I like the Oilers. They’re one of the top four teams in the league,” he says.  “Improved defense makes them a legitimate Super Bowl threat.  Everybody in the AFC absolutely fears the possibility of a playoff game in the Astrodome.  If they get home field, they will be tough to beat.”

Maguire’s trip to Houston will be a reunion of sorts, what with Bum Phillips in the next booth doing color on the Oiler radio network. 

Perhaps Bum will return the pig.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net. His Sportsrap radio show airs Wednesdays at 8:05 p.m. on KLVI (560-AM).

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