Sports Commentary 7/25/13
Bill Bellechick’s appearance to the media in the wake of Aaron Hernandez’s arrest…
THE SOUL OF BILL BELICHICK
Who was that masked man? That was no mask, he just didn’t look or act like the man we’ve known him to be these past dozen years. It was a more contrite, more open, more introspective Bill Belichick who met with the media yesterday, for the first time since former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested last month for the murder of semi pro football player Olin Lloyd. The Patriots coach wasn’t a new man, just a changed man, in light of recent incidents. He spent 22 minutes with the media, an uncharacteristically long time for a man who would be more comfortable spending 22 minutes in a snake pit, comparison fully intended. Belichick was obviously changed by the stone wall he had driven into with his drive to be more successful than anyone else. Suddenly “Spy-gate” is a meaningless footnote in Patriots history and the “tuck rule” that opened the door on a dynasty is lost somewhere in the NFL Officials Hand Book. This was a soul searching Bill Belichick who, for a few minutes, was williing to open the door to that soul just a crack to admit to having many of the same human frailities as the rest of us. “We’ll continue to try to look at ourselves in the mirror and see where we can do a better job and where we can improve the process”, he said, perhaps the longest single sentence he’s ever offered to the media. Belichick, saying he had been on vacation when he first heard of the murder of Lloyd and the ensuing arrest of Hernandez, mentioned his former tight end by name in the first minute of yesterday’s press conference. For the next 21 minutes he referred to him in a variety of ways, “A certain individual who happened to be a New England Patriot”, “That individual”, “A certain player”. Despite a number of red flags that rose during his college years at Florida, Hernandez was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. Interestingly, the usually combative Belichick, eager to argue his decisions against all challenges, did not defend the pick, he just tried to explain it, acknowleging that even he can get one wrong. “Of the hundreds of players that we’ve had through this program in the last 14 years”, he opened in defense of the organization’s record, “There (have) been a lot of good ones, a lot of real good ones. We’ll try to do a good job in bringing people into this organization in the future. We’ll try to learn from the mistakes we’ve made.” Belichick isn’t the only person in the NFL searching the depths of his soul today, in the wake of a league wide wake up call to assess the character of draft picks before their talent, rather than after. Aaron Hernandez became the most severe symptom of a disease that has permeated this league far too long. The league itself is considering a program to evaluate the meanings behind the increasingly more prevelant tattoos acquired by potential recruits during their college years. But for the soul of Bill Belichick this was a coming out party, a side of him the public and, certainly, the media, had not seen before. Belichick says the organization is ready to move forward from here. The side of himself he gave to Patriot Nation yesterday was a side they may never see again, but it was one they needed to see now, just to know Bill Belichick is capable of putting the present into a perspective he can take with him into the future. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.