Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Jumping Shark Makes the Rubble Bounce-Football Edition

One inestimable blessing of no longer being a professional sports commentator is that I no longer must comment on sports matters in which I have no interest. As far as life satisfaction goes, getting excused from writing about "Spygate" (the lame name alone tells you what a stupid story this is), is worth any chance I had of getting sent to China for the Olympics on someone else's dime.

The Pats cheated, got caught, were punished severely, and life rolled on. I wrote a couple things about it at my leisure. Had I still been at the Herald, well, it would have been both arduous and awkward. Loyalty to the brand is an important concept for me, and suppressing my sentiments that the paper's big front page story was no big deal would have called for diplomatic skills I do not possess.

Now that we've all actually seen the videotapes, it's all over but the ridicule. The idea Bill Belichick gained any useful knowledge from them is too ludicrous to be considered unless one is as foolish as a U.S. Senator. The reason people went ape over this story was simple-people go ape over every story. Belichick, who incurred the hatred of an entire American city (Cleveland) because his boss screwed the place, surely knew that would happen, and removed himself to the Fortress of No Comment accordingly.

The only question that interested me about Spygate (sorry, English language) was Why did Belichick do it? Why did a master calculator of the percentages undertake a venture with such a poor risk-reward ratio? Belichick has stated the tapes were of almost no value to the Pats. Why take the chance of getting caught and punished> The penalties, a $500,000 fine and a first round draft pick, weren't hay, and the humiliation inside and outside the NFL community was intense. Why borrow trouble, the very last thing any coach wants to do?

I have a guess about the answer, which is why I'm writing this post. Belichick taped all those signals because they made him feel good. I'm serious. The knowledge he had pushed the NFL rules envelope to breaking and past in the effort to do his job comforted Belichick. He could prepare the Pats for each game secure in the faith he had done his utmost, turned every stone, measured every angle. Since the primary element of NFL coaching is getting one's players to believe what you tell them, belief in oneself is essential-even if, maybe especially if, like Belichick, you knew the dodgy elements of one's work were pretty much useless.

That's my explanation for Spygate. Belichick was a guy who self-medicated himself with a potentially dangerous drug in order to get its placebo effect.

Whatever life hands you today, readers, give a moment of thanks you're not a professional football coach.


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