Breaking Down Belichick
By Dr. Keith Ablow
Senator John Kerry
1.For Love of the Father
By Dr. Keith Ablow, psychiatrist and author of Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty
I haven’t spoken directly to Bill Belichick, but I can tell you where I’d start a discussion designed to get to the truth about his life: with his late father, Steve, the Naval Academy’s legendary assistant coach of 33 years.
Steve Belichick scouted for Navy, giving coaches and players exhaustive, incisive insights about their opponents. He is considered one of the finest football scouts ever, anywhere, and his 1963 book, Football Scouting Methods, is a classic.
Bill Belichick worshipped his father. When he was as young as five or six years old, he would accompany his dad on road trips to study rival teams. "He wanted to be with me, and I wanted to be with him," Steve Belichick once told the Washington Post. "He was always interested in what I was doing."
Could Belichick have gotten close enough to his father without following him to work? Could he have been as tightly embraced by such a towering figure without embracing his father’s love for the game? We can’t know. What we do know is that the love between father and son played out against the backdrop of football, of knowing enough about your rivals to beat them, again and again. We know that a young boy saw powerful athletes connect with his father through a common commitment to winning and that, ultimately, winning became a driving passion for that boy.
Is Spygate any accident, then? Are we allowed to wonder whether one chamber of a man’s heart—staying close to the father he adored—would lead another chamber, built around knowing all about an opponent (a desire that father and son shared), to grow beyond accepted boundaries? Can we allow that the little boy inside a grown warrior would look anywhere and everywhere for a glimpse of his hero, even if the lens needed to be trained improperly on his opponents? Love is an unwieldy thing—whether for one’s father or for a great sport. And when the two things are one, winning the next game can feel like everything.
2. Doing Business as Business Is Being Done
By Mike Felger, Comcast SportsNet anchor
Read some of the commentary about Bill Belichick, and you’d think he’s the first coach in history to hold a grudge, bend a rule, or bully people. But where do you think he got that stuff from?
You want grudges? Vince Lombardi was alleged to have traded players whose only misstep was to hire an agent to help in contract negotiations. You want espionage? Tom Landry admitted in his autobiography that he dialed into opponents’ radio signals as far back as 1956. You want nastiness? When Belichick was an assistant under Bill Parcells with the Jets, he once called a play his boss didn’t like. The Tuna responded by telling Belichick over the headsets, so the entire staff could hear, "That’s why you failed as a head coach [in Cleveland]—that’s why you’ll never be a head coach."
And you wonder where Belichick’s behavior comes from? He’s an NFL coach, for God’s sake. He went straight from college to the league in 1975 and hasn’t taken so much as a season off. It’s been more than enough time to learn an important lesson, something he’s long imparted to his players: "Do business as business is being done."
In other words, if the referees aren’t calling holding, then his linemen should adjust accordingly and hold. If the refs are throwing the flags, then they should play by the rules. When it came to the illegal taping, Belichick was merely following suit. His spy had been thrown off the field in Green Bay and reportedly told twice to stop by the Lions during a game in Foxboro. The league issued warnings, and memos were sent out. Yet Belichick and the Pats were never punished. The flag was never thrown, so they kept it up. Business as business is being done. Just don’t think for a second that the taping was Belichick’s idea. He probably got it from someone whose bust currently resides in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.