What's Gonna Happen: Waiting Edition

(Home of the Cult of Belichick)

When Tommy Vardell and Todd Philcox were in Bill Belichick's Cleveland Browns backfield, I did not think to compare Belichick with Vince Lombardi.

Life is about perspective. It explains everything.

When Bill Belichick was hired as coach of the New England Patriots, I was cash poor.

That's why, at the time, I inadvertently peddled my DNA and a brain sample to a small laboratory in a little New England college town just before I wrote: "Be afraid, Patriots fans. Be very, very afraid." 

How could I have missed the obvious?

Now, here in beautiful New England, where the snow is eight miles high, no one seems to notice because even the epic snow is subject 2 here this week. Belichick as Lombardi is subject number 1.

The only image change more complete (albeit, in the opposite direction) was O.J. Simpson's transformation from a loveable sportscaster into a golf course detective.

Dude, you're crazy! Pass the game film, you wild man!

Greetings from Belichickstock, the party that makes Woodstock look like Romper Room. Here, the party is the business of football, and the joy is the journey. "One game at a time" is the mantra, much like the mud-soaked "No Rain" chant from so many years ago on Max Yasgur's farm. The only difference was that it rained at Woodstock. This Belichick chant is working.

And now the party is in Bob Kraft's house, an audacious-looking building with a lighthouse at one end to remind you that you are not in Kansas. No, this is beautiful, snowy New England where nothing goes wrong at Belichickstock.

Oh sure, there is adversity. That is life. But the cult of Patriots' players, and let's face it, it's a cult, has chosen to believe that adversity equals opportunity.

It's like this: Things go wrong. Deal with it.

Adversity equals innovation when linebackers play safety, or sometimes tight end. Wide receivers play cornerback. Defensive tackles play fullback. 

It's wild and crazy in New England, where a Patriots' victory is expected in an even more pronounced way than a Boston Celtics victory was a couple of decades ago whenever Larry Bird touched the ball.

Now, when Tom Brady touches the ball, everyone knows what is going to happen. When Adam Vinateiri kicks, you just know. Certainly it helps that Brady and Vinateiri are once-in-a-lifetime talents.

But when this defense has to make a goal line stand, the confidence is palpable because confidence – the faith of a leader in his troops and the troops in their leader – is like momentum. It snowballs. 

The years of sports have given us many wild teams that fight with each other and still win.

Bill Belichick does not have one of those teams.

This is a business; perhaps the best run company in America. You don't want to hear it. You are a Cleveland fan. But think about it.

Every player talks of team goals. They speak with passion. Nothing is by rote, although the repetitive nature of their comments makes one imagine it being drilled into them. But the comments are genuine. It is not about individual goals. It's about the team. When the team wins, we all win. All for one, blah, blah, blah.

They respect authority and authority respects them. They are given responsibilities beyond their job description and they don't argue. They ask for it. And they excel.

They excel because they study, and they are given the freedom to use their talents within a system.

And Belichick plays everybody. Every player counts, and has an impact on the outcome.

It is a business formula. Any business would love their employees this on message.

And Bill Belichick has created a dream for the American fan.

For years, fans everywhere have complained about selfish players, loudmouth players, and players complaining about money. Fans hate players putting themselves above the team, and players getting into trouble.

For years, critics said no coach could ever create another selfless team the way Vince Lombardi did. In the era of big money, big media, and a salary cap, critics laughed at the possibility.

But it seems Belichick understood something no other person did: this so-called selfish generation of players is no different than any other generation. The times may be different and the game may be different. But I'll bet you a George Washington trading card against a Leonardo DaVinci trading card that there ain't one generation better than another. Everyone is a product of circumstances.

Life is about perspective. It explains everything.

As a Browns fan, it's painful to watch. As a sports fan, it's nothing short of astonishing.

For decades, cheer-but-don't-emulate has been the way of sports heroes.

And for all we know in 20 years this whole gang of Patriots could become golf course detectives. But for now, the New England Patriots are the kind of team you want to tell your kids about.

This column is sponsored by The Committee to Elect Art Modell President of Iraq.

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