Friday, September 05, 2014

A Thousand, Hell, A Hundred Words Are Sometimes Worth More Than Any Picture

Bill Belichick spoiled my late breakfast this morning, but it wasn't his fault. He was a victim, too.

Belichick's face appeared on my TV courtesy of Channel 7 under the dread local news heading "LIVE."  My dismay was instantaneous. The station had decided to cover the coach's Friday morning press conference as "BREAKING NEWS." There was no news, of course, and thanks to the mindless craving for live shots, there would be and will be less information about the New England Patriots then there might've been this season.

Channel 7 was live in Foxboro because on Thursday, Tom Brady wasn't. The Pats' quarterback missed practice with what was laconically described as a "calf" in the mandatory injury report. In a journalism ritual I remember all too well, action became the substitute for thought. Send the crew down there! Make Belichick come clean about this crisis! Forget everything we've learned about his M.O. in the last 15 years!

The decision worked as well as could be expected. As I wistfully rooted for the coach to give Channel 7 the spoofing it deserved and say something like "The CDC asked us not to put Ebola on the injury report,"  Belichick swatted away Brady related questions with the ease of Novak Djokovic belting an overhead smash. The TV showed the terse, secretive Belichick of stereotype, because the press conference was business, the business of making sure nobody can mind the Pats' business but themselves.

That's a pity for Patriots fans, because Friday sessions with Belichick are sometimes more than just business. It is when he is most likely to raise his curtain and let you look inside.

I don't want to exaggerate here.  In the less-than-I-should have attended Friday meets with Belichick, no secrets were spilled. No specific nonsecrets about the Pats were spilled. But in the normal order of things, the Friday morning media availability is when Belichick, as is true for most coaches, is at the apogee of his game week comfort level. Most of his work is done. It's on Fridays when Belichick is most likely to be chatty, even discursive, on elements of football theory and history that catch his fancy.

Not coincidentally, Fridays were and I assume still are the days the fewest reporters show up at Gillette Stadium. Diligence being a trait the coach admires, it's not surprising he'd be a little more open with familiar faces.

As a result, attendees learn stuff about football. And as diligent reporters, they are able to take said stuff  and translate it into stuff their audiences can learn about football and Belichick's football team.
As I have posted on this blog before, deductive reasoning is about the only way to penetrate Belichick's  cone of bland silence. Take what he has said on the record about football theory, apply it to a specific Patriots' issue, consider precedent, of which there's quite a lot after 15 years, and run with the result. Doesn't always work, but it works better than trying to think up new ways to ask "So Bill, is Tom dead or what?"

If Fridays are going to become the new Wednesdays of Patriots game week, with first one, then all, local TV crews there and live tweeting and all the rest of the information instead of knowledge clutter of 21st century journalism, then Belichick will clam up at those conferences as efficiently as he does on the other days of the week. And the world, particularly that part of the world which follows the New England Patriots, will be deprived of some insights by and into one of the more remarkable minds in pro football history.

That's quite a loss in return for nothing, which was exactly how much Channel 7 got out of its live shot this morning. What's the matter, gang? Didn't anybody post a cute animal video on YouTube for you pass off as news?


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