Breaking Down Belichick

| Boston Magazine |

9. Picking Up the Signs
By Eileen Page, handwriting analyst (pageink.net)

Bill Belichick’s cool, composed demeanor on the sideline is also very evident in his handwriting. His rounded "i" dots represent a sense of loyalty; the height of the upper extenders in the "l," "h," and "k" suggests pride in wanting to do more than is expected of him. His assertive independence can be seen in his lowercase "i"s: The way in which they stand alone indicates he is very much his own person. The dots’ precise placement over the stems says that he is meticulous about details, and their roundness suggests a man of patience. The retracing of his upper extenders reveals someone who prefers to rely on his own resources for the information he needs.

10. A Man of Comic Contradictions
By Gary Gulman, host of NESN’s Comedy All-Stars and former Boston College tight end

Examining Bill Belichick’s interests might shed some light on his psychological makeup. His two favorite albums are Springsteen’s Born to Run and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet. So, he is 1) a man with an ear for genius, and 2) a teenage girl circa 1986 begging her mother for Glamour Shots. He’s even close friends with the Boss and Bon Jovi! Which is the comedy equivalent of being best friends with Lenny Bruce and Seinfeld’s Kenny Bania.

He reads Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. (Obviously! What type-A alpha male doesn’t?) But he’s also an avid Harry Potter fan. This makes him an expert on ancient military tactics…and a 43-year-old mother of two. His education is also puzzling. He’s a graduate of world-renowned Wesleyan University, and yet his saying of choice is "It is what it is," which also happens to be the go-to phrase for the cast of MTV’s unbearable A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. (Are we really supposed to find her sexy?)

Finally, what about Spygate? Doesn’t it prove he’s an arrogant megalomaniac? First of all, Spygate is not a "gate." Contragate is a "gate." Plamegate is a "gate." Christina Applegate is a "gate." After the Pats rattle off 20 or so Super Bowl victories in a row, Spygate will become trivia. Kobe Bryant averaged 28 points a game this year, and everyone has completely forgotten all that business out in Colorado.

So some corners were cut? JFK stuffed the ballot boxes in Chicago. Bill Belichick videotaped defensive signals. And New England is better for both.

11. Running It Through the Loophole
By Roger Cossack, Pepperdine University School of Law professor and ESPN legal analyst

Despite the smoking-gun evidence indicating that he violated NFL rules against taping opposing coaches, Bill Belichick has steadfastly claimed he had no intention of cheating. Rather, citing the specific wording of the league bylaw on the matter—which reads as if it had been translated from the legalese of some long-forgotten language—he’s insisted he just "misinterpreted" the rules on filming.

The coach does seem to have found a little loophole here, as the bylaw only explicitly forbids taping "that might aid a team during the playing of a game." That clause gave Belichick the go-ahead to bend the rules now and explain later. No matter what he filmed, he could just say it didn’t help the team during any actual games.

We know the NFL found him guilty, but would a court of law? The answer hinges on the question of intent. To earn a conviction, a prosecutor would have to convince a jury that Belichick knew he was breaking the law, not interpreting the NFL rule in good faith. In Boston, that would make it tough to get a conviction. In St. Louis or New York, not so much.

12. A Classically Tragic Figure
By Gregg Easterbrook, author of ESPN.com’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback column and contributing editor at the Atlantic

The Bill Belichick–Richard Nixon parallel has been overworked (including by me!), so let me propose a different analogy: Greek tragedy. In Greek tragedy, the protagonist is usually an otherwise admirable figure brought low by his hubris or his hamartia, the latter meaning roughly "fatal flaw." (Please, you thousands of Boston-area classics majors, don’t write to me about the centuries-long argument regarding precise use of this term.) Nixon was unappealing and unprincipled, deserving of the contempt in which he is now held. Belichick, by contrast, seems a respectable man tormented by his hamartia. That makes Aristotle, not Tricky Dick, the proper lens.

Belichick was a great leader surrounded by great warriors, likely to be favored by the football gods in battle. His fatal flaw made him want to cheat and rig the contests even though he didn’t need to. When caught, Belichick could not bring himself to tell the truth, and by his arrogance caused the citizenry, or polis (now we’re really getting Greek), to assume the worst about his motives. Had Belichick abided by the rules, his reputation would be secure. Or, when caught, had he admitted the truth, he would have been forgiven. Instead, his name will forever be tainted, and he brought this upon himself.

Postscript: The essential work on Greek tragedy is Aristotle’s Poetics. Though Aristotle was more accomplished than his father, some believe Aristotle thought his father had the greater mind. Belichick has won three Super Bowls; his father topped out as an assistant coach at Navy. But in The Education of a Coach, David Halberstam suggests Belichick has always believed his father had the superior football mind.

13. We All Want to Be in Control
By Mel Robbins, life coach, syndicated radio host, and CNBC contributor

There’s only one thing that juices Bill Belichick, and that’s control—because to him, control means winning.

Belichick is the kind of guy who would turn down sex, money, anything, just to remain in control of the situation. Getting his way beats getting anything else. He’s measured and methodical—even his players attest that he’s no yeller (that would show a loss of control). Instead, he manipulates like a cult leader, climbing inside players’ minds so when they talk it’s really Belichick speaking. At press conferences, we hear players say they’re "focusing on tomorrow" and that "what happened last week has no bearing on this week." As Laurence Maroney once said, "It’s the Belichick way. The less you say, the better you are." When you control the language, you control the message.

Maybe we all obsess over this guy because somewhere inside every one of us is a Bill Belichick waiting to come out, dying to take control regardless of what the boss, the spouse, or the neighbors think. Win or lose, at least this time we made the rules. That kind of control isn’t easy and doesn’t come cheap. For Belichick the cost was a $500,000 fine—and his reputation.