Like any artist, Bob McPhee believed that his 2004 autobiography, “It Could Be Worse,” could have been better.

“I was not satisfied,” McPhee said, “because I realized there were so many omitted details and grammatical errors. I just felt I could have done better and that the readers deserved more.”

Two years later, McPhee’s longtime friend, coach and colleague, Ted Reese of Topsham, sensed the writer’s lack of closure and offered his assistance as an editor and sounding board.

The result of that collaboration is about to go nationwide.

USA Wrestling of Colorado Springs has agreed to publish  McPhee’s revised memoir — now titled “It Could Be Worse: The Rest of the Story.”

It will be re-released and available by mail later this summer.

“I am proud of this,” said McPhee, “but this is the last time.”

McPhee estimated that he and Reese, founder of the wrestling program at the University of Southern Maine, exchanged more than 900 emails and spent hundreds of hours together on the redux.

The book documents McPhee’s life and career, most notably his astonishing personal and professional triumphs since suffering a brain injury in a football scrimmage as a senior at Rumford High School in 1976.

Reese, now 74, was touched closely by the tragedy. He coached McPhee in an international wrestling competition that summer.

“He pinned the European champ,” Reese said. “Because of his dramatic throw and pin, he was selected as the meet’s outstanding wrestler. Three weeks later he had a brain stem injury, and an energetic teenager’s young life was changed forever.”

McPhee has been confined to a wheelchair since the incident. He was left without a voice or the use of his legs and only limited mobility of his fingers and upper body.

That wasn’t enough to destroy his personal and professional dreams. Three years of intense rehabilitation gave McPhee the strength to pursue his college education at the University of Maine, where he earned a journalism degree.

At the time, technology allowed McPhee to communicate through a small ticker-tape device.

“Despite all the odds, being told by the ‘experts’ that he couldn’t do certain things, unable to do the things we take for granted, Bob never complains about his lot in life,” Reese said. “He put himself through (college) without even a talking machine. Think about his daily struggles. They are not struggles to him. He just moves forward.”

McPhee returned to the River Valley in 1987 and joined the Sun Journal staff as a sportswriter.

In the early 1990s, through the help of local fundraising efforts, McPhee was equipped with a “Liberator.” The combination keypad and computerized voice allow him to communicate and conduct interviews.

He is notable for applying his passion and work ethic to numerous youth sports — wrestling, field hockey and tennis among them — that typically did not receive widespread coverage.

His work has reaped regional and national acclaim. McPhee was inducted into the Maine Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2000 as both an athlete and journalist. The Maine Sports Hall of Fame presented McPhee with a special achievement award in 2004.

Other honors included a state editor of the year award from Wrestling U.S.A. magazine, a media award from the Maine Field Hockey Coaches Association, and a writer of the year distinction by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

“All of us knew his story,” said Reese, “and I knew that he was by far Maine’s best sportswriter covering wrestling. Still, to work with Bob on his story is to increase my admiration for the person I admire most.”

McPhee considers Reese, still a volunteer coach at Bonny Eagle High School, a role model and inspiration, as well.

“Ted convinced me the story was truly worth revisiting,” McPhee said. “I feel he deserves a great amount of credit. I contacted a few publishing companies, and they wanted a huge amount up front. I was quite discouraged, but Ted said he’d contact USA Wrestling, and they agreed it was worth publishing.”

The book made more than a ripple in his local debut. McPhee sold more than 1,500 copies.

In addition to his work with the Sun Journal, McPhee is a correspondent for its sister publication, the Rumford Falls Times.

So even when he isn’t at work writing, McPhee has spent the last four years, well, writing.

“It was a lot of work, but it wasn’t work. I enjoyed it,” McPhee said. “Ted inspired and pushed me and dug for details. He really made me think.

“I am still mystified that everything has come together and it’s being published.”

McPhee is accepting orders through his website, http://www.megalink.net/~bigmac/McPhee, and by email at [email protected]

His mailing address is 51 North Street, Dixfield, Maine 04224.

“Bob is a hero to all who know him,” Reese said. “Let’s hope that with the new edition and a national publication that he will become a hero to more people.”

[email protected]


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