Friday, May 29, 2015

Norton Without Mr. Watson Just Not The Same

My latest Sun Chronicle column discusses Mr. Watson and how his retirement as Graves Officer in Norton is just unimaginable.  This first appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, May 29, 2015. 



Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015 12:00 am | Updated: 9:38 am, Fri May 29, 2015.
When I picked up my copy of The Sun Chronicle this past Monday, a front page picture of Mr. Watson jumped out at me. You may have seen his name listed as Al Watson, but if you grew up in and have lived in Norton as long as I have, you call him Mr. Watson.
The story said Mr. Watson is retiring from his official job as Norton’s grave officer. I read that several times, and frankly — I don’t understand. It just doesn’t compute. Obviously, there has been some mistake
Because, frankly, it is easier to picture those unlikely events than to imagine Mr. Watson no longer engraving plaques and making sure every single deceased Norton veteran has a properly marked grave.
I don’t believe Mr. Watson was ever really appointed to this job. I think he was just born into it. And from talking to him over the years (or more accurately, listening to him, because when you talk with Mr. Watson, you do an awful lot of listening) I know he never considered it a “job.”
For him, it has always been a duty. It is an obligation that he sought out, treasured and loved. And he has fulfilled it nobly.
If you saw his photo and came away with an impression of Mr. Watson as a gentle senior citizen — think again. He is one of the toughest and strongest individuals I have ever known. He is quick with a smile, has an eye and a memory for detail and doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the phrase “back off.” His is a style and personality that is 100 percent Norton.
If you live in town and don’t know Mr. Watson, it’s not surprising. He does not seek attention, nor does he want it. He hasn’t done this often thankless and tedious job for publicity for the past 60 years. He’s done it because he personally believed it to be of the utmost importance, and because he has tremendous respect for all those who have donned a uniform and defended this country.
The stories of Mr. Watson’s dedication to Norton veterans over the decades are legendary. There are few town officials who have not at some point been introduced to his zeal, his sharp wit, his often pointed comments and his steadfast loyalty to his cause.
I remember one fairly recent story in which I had a personal involvement. I was running for office a few years back, and standing outside the polls on Election Day. Mr. Watson lives nearby, and came over to say hello.
During our chat, he took the opportunity to point out that the flag flying in front of the Yelle School next door was slightly tattered. He explained to me in great detail why this was neither proper nor acceptable. I did a lot of nodding, thanked him for telling me and assured him that when I saw the school superintendent I would let her know about it.
After he walked away, my wife smiled and suggested I call the superintendent right away. I saw the wisdom in her suggestion, and did just that.
Later that same day, I saw the flag being lowered and replaced with a different one. Then, I observed the superintendent having a conversation with Mr. Watson on the edge of the school grounds. Like me, she was doing a lot of listening.
Mr. Watson has long been an advocate for veterans, living and dead. He often speaks for those who no longer have a voice. He doesn’t really care if you like him, or if you approve of his performance. He has always known exactly what his job is, and just how to do it.
I thank him for his service, although I know he doesn’t believe that is necessary. After all, he was just doing his duty.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime Norton official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Foxboro Chairmanship Yet Another Fiasco

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Monday, May 18, 2015.

GOUVEIA: 'As the Chairman Turns' is Foxboro's latest soap opera

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Posted: Sunday, May 17, 2015 11:30 pm | Updated: 11:31 pm, Sun May 17, 2015.

In one short meeting last week, the Foxboro Board of Selectmen showed us all the good, the bad, and the ugly part of serving in local government.
The simple act of reorganizing and electing a chairman proved to be too much for this group of selectmen. They wound up choosing a member who seemed uncertain how to win, and then handed it to a member who seemed uncertain how to lose.

John Gray was vice chairman this past year, and was nominated to the top spot by Virginia Coppola. Selectman David Feldman nominated Jim DeVellis for his second term as chairman. A vote was held, and by a 3-2 tally, DeVellis was chosen.
But after DeVellis spoke, Gray questioned the result. He said the whole thing seemed "pre-planned", accusing DeVellis, Feldman and newly-elected Chris Mitchell of conspiring to predetermine the chairmanship.
"I was really looking forward to being chairman" he said, sounding like a disappointed youngster on Christmas morning.
Coppola also complained about Gray's loss, claiming it was "his turn." Feldman responded by saying he nominated DeVellis because he thought he would be the best person for the job, and that "turns" should have nothing to do with that.
DeVellis offered to have another vote, and things got worse (if you can imagine). Gray asked DeVellis to support him for chairman and DeVellis rather gallantly agreed, but not until stating he could do a better job than Gray. Another quick (and procedurally flawed) vote was taken, DeVellis voted for Gray, and Gray became the apparent new chairman by a 3-2 tally.
And with that, town government in Foxboro reached new heights of silliness and pettiness.
It was ironic that Gray accused some of his fellow selectmen of "pre-planning" the chairmanship. He and Coppola wanted to hand the mantle of leadership to the incoming vice chairman, which would mean it was pre-planned.
Apparently "pre-planning" is only a bad thing if it doesn't go your way.
Leadership is something you earn, not inherit. Ask George Dentino in Mansfield, who ironically got elected to his second straight year as chairman of that board of selectmen last week. He waited years to be chosen and missed many "turns, "yet never once sought to reverse a proper vote that made his wait longer.
DeVellis tried to avoid creating a bitter board with his abdication, but it was too little, too late. The damage had been done. Everyone now knows the apparent chairman of the Foxboro board was not the real choice of the majority of his own committee. That is bad for the chairman, bad for the board, and bad for the community.
Immediately following the chairmanship debacle, selectmen were forced to address their latest Open Meeting Law violation. Four members (including three current ones) attended a meeting of the town's building committee recently and engaged in discussion on a topic that will eventually come before them for action.
After the fact, it apparently occurred to them that this might be an OML violation. Following discussion with counsel, they "cured" it by reading the minutes of that meeting aloud and repeating the comments they made during it.
This might not be so bad except for the fact selectmen are fresh off having to undergo training on the OML because of repeated violations.
Coppola sought to deflect blame from her board by suggesting the chairman of the building committee might have been responsible. When DeVellis (who was not one of the violators) angrily disputed that, Coppola made further excuses. She noted the offending board members had realized the error of their ways eventually.
"The fact that we realized something (after) is a big step," she explained.
No, Selectwoman Coppola. A "big step" would be not committing the violation in the first place. You don't get credit for admitting the obvious after the fact. Foxboro citizens don't want you to "cure" violations, they want you not to commit them. Higher standards would be appropriate here.
Kudos to DeVellis for trying to avoid ugly conflict, but in the end it was the wrong move. Now Foxboro citizens are waiting to see who steps up to be the real leader of their dysfunctional board.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wells Report Ignores NFL's Problems

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, May 15, 2015.
By Bill Gouveia


            If you were looking for someone to fill the position of “New England Patriot Yahoo”, I have all the qualifications.


            I have been a season ticketholder for more than four decades and travel to one or two away games every year.  I own multiple Patriot jerseys, t-shirts, hats and other over-priced merchandise.  My first-ever Pats game was at Fenway Park.  I raised my children to be diehard Pats fans, and my three-year-old granddaughter in Delaware knows who Rob Ninkovich is.


            So when it comes to DeflateGate, it is difficult for me to be objective and impartial – and even harder for others to view me that way.  I have a vested interest in this franchise.  A considerable portion of my life has been spent rooting for them.


            But that does not render my opinion unworthy of expression, or make me a shill for my team.  I have been a Red Sox fan for even longer.  Criticizing my hometown organization comes naturally.


            So as I have sifted through this stupid situation, I understand the Patriots as an organization have some culpability here.  And yes, I believe most other teams in the NFL often do similar types of things.  But that doesn’t make it right, and even if it was just one equipment person breaking a rule – if you get caught, you get punished.


            But suspending Tom Brady for four games based on this pile of less-than-circumstantial evidence?  Unless Brady suddenly confesses that he ordered the Code Red (my favorite Jack Nicholson moment), the NFL just continues to demonstrate it doesn’t know how to do much of anything besides make money.


            I actually read the Wells Report.  I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, and wouldn’t want to be tested on it.  After re-reading the parts that contained the allegedly incriminating information, I have to confess I am thoroughly embarrassed.


            For the NFL, that is.  Their position on this matter is so hopelessly compromised that even a great attorney like Ted Wells can’t create a report making it look like they handled things fairly and competently. 


            For the record, I believe some Patriot personnel deflated the footballs.  I believe the two Mensa members who sent the offending texts tried to get the balls to Tom Brady’s liking, and in doing so took out too much air.  I think they broke the rules, and I believe they and the Patriots organization deserve punishment.


            But the largest fine in the history of the league and a number one draft pick?  Plus you lose your quarterback for 25% of the regular season?  That’s insane.  Did they kick Roger Goodell’s dog along the way?


            And spare me this “integrity of the game” crap.  The NFL allows quarterbacks to beat the balls half to death, cook them in Easy Bake Ovens (do they still make those?), and scour them like dirty dishes.  But going a fraction below the air pressure limit is somehow damaging the integrity of a league that won’t even pay to care for players with brain damage as a result of participation in this sport over the years?  Integrity?   Right.


            I know this is not a court of law.  I know the burden of proof is lower, the standard different.  But read this entire report and show me where it even mostly proves Tom Brady knew balls were being deflated illegally.  I dare you.  And don’t give me supposition, opinion, or fantasy.  Give me facts.


            The NFL referees lost possession of these footballs in a championship game after being advised of a potential problem.  They can’t remember how they checked the air pressure.  Those are facts.  Now to cover up how badly they performed, Tom Brady is being made the scapegoat.  There should be an investigation of the NFL.


            Ted Wells acknowledged his report cost millions of dollars.  Hint to the NFL – a $7.50 padlock for the room holding the balls could have saved a whole lot of money.


            So label me a Patriot Yahoo if you like.  I’ve been called worse.  There’s no doubt I am not totally objective.  But I know bull-you-know-what when I smell it.


            And the stench emanating from the league offices and the Wells Report makes that commodity much easier to find than the NFL’s alleged “integrity”.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and a 44-year Patriots season ticketholder.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.