Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Blue and Silver Hawaii

In January 1999, after his New York Jets lost the AFC championship game to the Broncos, Bill Parcells announced he'd fallen ill, and would be unable to coach the AFC team in the Pro Bowl, a duty which falls to the coaches from each losing semi-finalist.

Parcells wasn't sick, of course, merely sick of football after falling short of a Super Bowl. He was spotted out and about in his winter digs of Jupiter, Fla. In fairness, however, Parcells didn't feel well enough to travel down I-95 to Gulfstream for some big races, doubtless because so many New York sportswriters down in Miami for the Super Bowl would be there, too.

Aside from a few jokes by said writers, nobody in football held Parcell's self-written sick note against him. He wasn't fined or anything. Everyone in the NFl knows some people can't hack the Pro Bowl, including players who're voted in as an honor. A coach who got the job as a very poor consolation prize is within his rights to beg off.

Bill Belichick sure looked pretty sick in the immediate aftermath of last month's AFC championship game. Yet two weeks after the loss to the Colts, the Pats' head coach is in Hawaii conducting practices in shorts and a cut off windbreaker.

Not only that, but Belichick appears to be enjoying himself. Not wildly, of course, but he used the opportunity to mend fences with LaDainian Tomlinson and the 82 other Chargers on the AFC team, and swap stories and a few wry remarks with the rest of the AFC squad.

Does this mean Belichick's a slave to duty? He is, but I don't think that's his motivation here. The idea of being a figurehead coach in a meaningless football game offended Parcells to the point of fury. To Belichick, the idea of hanging out for a week with a bunch of terrific players in a no-pressure situation was something different-a nice busman's vacation. He might learn something from interacting with his all-stars, but just seeing good players running around with helmets on would cheer Belichick up after the most unhappy defeat of his career.

Belichick and Parcells' attitudes towards the Pro Bowl have nothing to do with their respective merits as coaches. They merely demonstrate how equally competitive men can take wholly different approaches to their trade. In this case, more people in the NFL are probably on Parcells' side of the ledger. Belichick's quarterback is.

When Philip Rivers bowed out, the vacant AFC quarterback spot went to Vince Young rather than Tom Brady. This raised some eyebrows, but a CBS promo during the Super Bowl made the situation perfectly clear.

Given his choice of sporting exhibitions, Brady opted for one with a different view of the Pacific. He'll be playing in the National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach this weekend.


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