Monday, January 30, 2012

Humor Is Lost on Some Crowds

Today's New York Times and Boston Globe each had stories reporting that upon arriving in Indianapolis, Bill Belichick both expressed pleasure at being at the Super Bowl and made some mild pleasantries about that fact. The tone of both stories was of utter incredulity indicating each reporter felt it merited a headline along the lines of "LUCKY LINDY MAKES IT!!!"

Poor Bill. No, really. The more time passes, the more I feel the Pats' coach is a man stuck out of time in a world that cannot, no, refuses to make the slightest effort to understand him.

Start with the obvious. If Belichick's happy to be at the Super Bowl, it's because he's breathing. There is nobody, from team owner down to the most cynical sportswriter, who doesn't land at the airport of the host city and think "Hey, I'm at the Super Bowl. Cool!" That's because being at the Super Bowl is cool, and the coolness of the experience is in direct proportion to the amount of one's involvement in the event. Being a writer was cooler than being a fan who won tickets in some contest. Being a coach is about one million levels of coolness above sportswriting (How coaches feel when they LEAVE the Super Bowl is another story). Can't we accept that Belichick has human emotions even when he's on duty? So he's good at suppressing them. That doesn't mean they aren't in there somewhere.

As for being surprised Belichick made a funny or two, well, that indicates the reporters are prisoners of conventional wisdom, comedy-wise anyway. In my experience, Belichick was often humorous, or attempted to be humorous. This went unnoticed by many because in humor as in many other things, the Pats' coach is a man born out of his proper time.

Belichick's humor is subtle, dry and as understated as he can make it. Many legendary humorists (James Thurber comes to mind) were of that style. Like Thurber, most of 'em have been dead for some time. The wholly dominant style of comedy through most of Belichick's adult life, since "Animal House" in 1978, has been overstatement: the broad gag, the use of hyperbole, the ranting monologue dialed up to 11 for effect. Think "Bridesmaids," "Two & a Half Men" and the late Sam Kinison.

If a man has a Thurber sense of humor in a Kinison world, many of his jokes will move right past his audience. It's not that they don't get it. They don't even recognize it.

I yield to no man or woman in my appreciation of overblown, sophomoric to juvenile humor. But there's a place for wit as well as belly laughs in the comedy universe. Belichick should be congratulated for his contrarian approach to laughs, but it's not something he dreamed up for the Super Bowl. It's part of his personality that's always been there.

Now, if Tom Coughlin cracks jokes at HIS introductory press conference in Indy today, THEN you've got a front page story.


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