I've always been a huge fan of the behind the scenes shows like Hard Knocks and 24/7 because we have access and see things we normally wouldn't know about. But I've also said there is one downside to the shows. It can change my perception of players, coaches, and franchises that I detest. When you see these people and they come across as real human beings, you tend to think "he doesn't seem like a jerk after all."
During the 24/7 featuring the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, they showed the Flyers Scott Hartnell(universally disliked by fans outside Philadelphia) inviting some of the young players over to his house for Christmas Eve and going out to Mass that night. I figured Hartnell might spend Christmas Eve acting more like the Grinch, before he brought all the toys back to Whoville. Even if he goes to church, I figured he might punch people on their way in.
But the Hartnell example now pales in comparison after watching a recent edition of "The Coaching Life" on NFL Network. I can't believe I'm actually writing these words but maybe Bill Belichick isn't the villain we make him out to be. Even though its 2 hours about the franchise and the Head Coach we love to hate, it was very interesting and showed a side of Belichick we don't see and perhaps felt didn't even exist. I recommend you see if the show is airing again and make sure you watch it.
It didn't start out well as they showed Belichick relaxing on his boat just days before training camp opened in 2009. The name of the boat is V Rings for the 5 Super Bowl rings he owns. Thankfully he hasn't been able to change it to VI rings after the last 3 seasons. The human side of Belichick comes through in scenes with one of his sons who is with him on the sideline at many games and who is shown getting some tips on his throwing motion from Belichick the Dad, during a break in camp sessions.
You wouldn't think it based on his seemingly full time dour expression and personality but Belichick has a sense of humor. During a pre-season game where Wes Welker was sitting out due to an injury, rookie 7th round draft pick Julian Edelman returns a punt for a touchdown and Belichick proceeds to ask Welker if he knows who Wally Pipp was? For those of you who don't know, Pipp was the Yankees first baseman before Lou Gehrig. He left a game injured one day and never got his job back as Gehrig went on to play 2,130 consecutive games.
As the show moved into the regular season, it was hard to watch the scenes from the prime time opener with the Bills. Obviously I knew what was coming but I did yell at Leodis Mckelvin to take a knee and cringed as he headed out of the end zone. Even if he went down on first contact, the Bills would have been fine but he fought for extra yardage and...well...you know the rest.
The most stunning part of the 2 part series took place during Belichick's last trip to Giants Stadium which was about to be replaced by Met Life Stadium as the home for the Jets and Giants. Belichick gave a tour of the Giants portion of the facilities and while reminiscing about his time as Defensive Coordinator he got really choked up and had to fight back tears. Like I said, when you see the human side of these guys it can really change your perception of them.
It isn't exactly humor but Belichick made me laugh during a game with the Baltimore Ravens. The Pats were winning but there's Ravens receiver Derek Mason trash talking the Pats coach and laughing at him as he walks upfield for the next play. Belichick tells him to "shut the (expletive) up" and then says "can you look at the scoreboard?" Very funny stuff. He even had nice things to say about an opponent as he told Ed Reed before that game that he's the best free safety to ever play the game.
The show chronicled the influence of Belichick's father, Steve, who coached at Navy. The cameras even followed Belichik on a visit to his father's grave site and once again he got choked up as he talked about his Dad. There was a scene where Belichick is joking with Randy Moss about the players upcoming Halloween party.
You might remember that was the season where the Pats were leading a game at Indianapolis late in the 4th quarter and facing a 4th and 2 at his own 28, Belichick decided to go for it rather than punt. They were held short, turned the ball over on downs and gave up a game winning touchdown to Peyton Manning but Belichick, who made a similar decision in a game with Atlanta earlier in the season, said he didn't want to give the ball back to Manning and in his day after the game meeting with the players, explained that decision by saying "One thing I won't be is scared."
If you are a Belichick hater you will definitely enjoy the scenes from their blowout loss at New Orleans where Belichick and Tom Brady are in misery on the sideline and Belichick complains that the team has no mental toughness on the road. After their 17-10 win over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, he tells his son who is on the sideline "We sweated that one out like we always do against these guys." See he actually said something nice about the Bills.
Again if you despise the Pats, this story has a happy ending as they are blown out at home by Baltimore in the playoffs. There's another Buffalo Bills reference as the show closes. When asked how long he will coach, Belichick says he won't be like Marv Levy and coach into his 70's and adds you don't have to worry about that.
I still want the Pats to crash and burn and enjoy any game day when they lose(same with Miami) but despite the fact he cheated in Spygate, I have a different perception of Belichick after watching this show. That might be reason enough for you not to see it but its well done and very interesting.