In the finest tradition of the craft, even the best magicians sometimes either deliberately or inadvertently reveal their secrets.
Such was the case this week when New England Patriots coach Bill “ooh! Matt, put the camera down QUICK!” Belichick revealed how he ended up winning three Super Bowls… he cheated. And in getting caught, demonstrated to the world what lengths a well-paid, highly-successful coach will go to to keep up his paycheck.
Yes, erstwhile nemesis of fair-playing football teams everywhere, the New England Patriots, were slapped Thursday night with a $250,000 fine and the loss of a draft pick, and Belichick hammered with a $500,000 fine (“sorry, my ‘other woman’, the world cruise is out this year, Roger wants that new motor home”) all for spying video-camera style, on their opponents’ signals during the Patriots’ game against the New York Jets.
Apparently it all started going south when video assistant Matt Estrella’s camera was confiscated while he was on the Jets’ sideline. In actuality, Estrella’s actions just pushed Belichick a few more miles down the I-95 highway (500,000 miles to be exact) in a landmark year for an extremely public-eye coach who’s shown little boys how to aspire to football greatness, and little girls how to slap their future husbands with successful divorce suits.
Belichick’s troubles range from being named the “other man” in a New Jersey divorce suit which resulted in the breakup of his marriage, to having former linebacker Ted Johnson accuse Belichick of overruling doctors and sending Johnson back onto the field too soon after his concussion. And let’s not forget about the hilariously humiliating defeat to the Indianapolis Colts in last year’s AFC championship, a game in which the Patriots had a 15-point halftime lead. The Colts went on to beat the Chicago Bears in last year’s Super Bowl. Had Belichick actually spied on the Colts, perhaps he could have gotten his fourth NFL title in six years. But perhaps Matt was sick that day.
In a letter to the Patriots organization, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell branded the Patriots as cheaters. “This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field,” the commissioner wrote. His ruling will, besides TKO’ing Belichick with the maximim fine, would, should the Patriots make the playoffs (how hard can YOU pray?) make it the first time ever in NFL history that a first-round draft pick has been taken away as a punishment for infraction of NFL rules.
And speaking of NFL rules, I think the sweetest irony for a coach who’s (somehow) won 3 NFL titles, is the content of his initial statement, in which he said he ‘misinterpreted’ league rules. OK… “misinterpreting” league rules to help your team win three Super Bowls… sorry, but is anyone else buying that? I didn’t think so.
You can’t be a major player in NFL coaching history, lead your team to three titles, be the holy terror of the AFC, and NOT know how the league wants its rules interpreted!
It seems to me that people, including Belichick himself, are trying rapidly to distance themselves from the severity of this infraction, and are trying to “dumb down” the potential implications for investigations of the franchise reaching years back. Belichick, in a press conference Friday, when pummeled with questions about the scandal, said, “It doesn’t matter… It already happened. So right now, we’re focusing in on what’s in front of us, and that’s the Chargers.”
Fullback Heath Evans joked about taking up a collection to pay Belichick’s part of the fines, but said of Belichick, “I view Bill in my own way…”
Even Patriots Chairman & CEO Robert Kraft said in a written statement on the Patriots official website:
“After reviewing the facts of the past weekend, the commissioner has made a determination that our franchise engaged in activities that violate the league’s rules. He has determined the punishment and I accept it.
“I believe that Coach Belichick always tries to do what is best for the team and he is always accountable for his decisions. He has been a very important part of what our organization has accomplished over the last seven years. In this case, one of his decisions has resulted in a severe penalty for our franchise. He has paid a heavy price and so has our organization. He has apologized for his actions. I accept his apology and look forward to working with him as we move forward.”
Notice that Kraft didn’t come out and laud praises over Belichick and say how he stands behind him 100% and that they’re going to see him through this… no, he left it more open-ended. Perhaps Bob will be in the mall later this season shopping for a new coach…?
It seems that Belichick’s troubles just won’t leave him alone. The publicity of this cheating scandal, and the potential that will doubtless be discussed for months to come that this isn’t the first time Belichick and the Patriots have resorted to such dirty-low tactics, is just another layer in a life full of sinful distractions for a coach who preaches to his team about avoiding them.
So, whether or not the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl this year, one thing is pretty certain: many eyes will be scanning opponents’ sidelines for the remainder of this season, looking for the next Handycam. Or maybe Bill will change tactics and hire the new GoogleEarth satellite to read signals from space.