I got to know Bill McConkey in the ’78 Hammond campaign, and we became friends. He taught me a lot, like KISS, Keep it Simple, Stupid. He was from Illinois, a political pro sent to Alaska by the RNC to try to save the doomed Senatorial Candidacy of State Senator C. R. Lewis in 1974. That was a mountain that was way too high, but he liked Alaska, wanted to stay, and was hired by the Hammond administration in some capacity. I forget what his job supposedly was, but his real responsibility was to get Hammond reelected.
In politics, Bill liked to play rough. He was a big guy, a guy most people wouldn’t want to mess with. He was also a bit of a nut. There was this big Irish heavyweight from New York named Gerry Cooney who was in Anchorage for some some tune up bout. This guy was a contender, tall and strong, with a left hook that some think was one of the most powerful punches in boxing history. He went on to fight heavyweight champ Larry Holmes, but he was never able to get a clean shot at him, and lost in the 13th round.
Bill, a professional Irishman, loved this guy, and decided he wanted to go a few rounds with him. They arranged an exhibition match in some local bar, and Bill spent weeks trying to get in shape. I was there when they went at it, and it wasn’t pretty. Cooney didn’t bother knocking him out. Bill was all hunched up in a defensive crouch, so Cooney just started pounding on his arms, and, as I recall, actually broke one. I think Bill made it into the second round.
But he was game, and can say to this day that he got in the ring with the mighty New York Irishman, Gerry Cooney. Bill read my post from yesterday and wasn’t impressed. He says he thinks I’m going soft. But you don’t tell all in a public blog. Wouldn’t be prudent. When the time comes, and the hit is made, Bill won’t accuse me of being soft any more.
Like me, Bill was a Hammond man. He’s strayed, politically, but at heart that’s who he’ll always be, so we’ll always be friends.