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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The CEO treats employees with disdain. He cuts corners and hides important facts that are needed to make decisions. He resorts to chicanery, trickery and even cheating.

If that CEO were the leader of a Fortune 500 company he would receive some harsh publicity. In Boston, he is placed on a pedestal, revered as a genius. Why?

Simple. His name is Bill Belichick and he has led the New England Patriots to fame and fortune.

Full disclosure: I am a Cleveland Browns fan, a long-suffering one at that, who has watched Belichick for a long time. I saw him make the same moves in Cleveland with different results on the field. In fact, his coaching led to the total collapse of the team in the final games prior to its "hiatus" after Art Modell sold out the city and moved his players to Baltimore.

So the word he has finally been caught cheating hardly surprises me. Nor does the fact it will be sloughed off because we hold our sports "leaders" to different standards than our corporate or political ones. Just ask Barry Bonds.

Let's start with Belichick's treatment of Drew Bledsoe, an admittedly tough sell for many -- perhaps even me -- given the success of Tom Brady. But let's recall the general rule of thumb in sports is you don't lose your job to injury.

But after Bledsoe recovered from a potentially life-threatening injury, he stayed on the sidelines, even when healthy. Oh, he did come back for a game when Brady got hurt and played a role in one of the Super Bowl wins, but basically he was cast aside. He put in several more productive years for mediocre teams but remains one of the top passers in Patriots history.

Not all that different from the case of Bernie Kosar, who was jettisoned in mid-season as having "diminished skills" to be replaced by Todd Philcox (who?) and Vinnie Testaverde, who had a very undistinguished record with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at that point.

Kosar, meanwhile, re-emerged under former college coach Jimmie Johnson and help lead the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl.

Belichick's playing fast and loose with injury reports is the stuff of legends. NFL rules require that teams honestly assess a player's availability. Belicheck don't believe in no stinkin' rules. Apparently neither do some of his star players.

We won't even get into his cold affect -- I've seen dead fish with warmer personalities.

Which brings us to the latest infraction -- stealing signals on video. There is a long tradition of trying to steal signals -- in baseball as well as football. That doesn't make it right.

I naively grew up in a time when the standard line was "it's now whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." That standard doesn't apply to Belichick.

But back to the analogy. What if the chairman of XYZ Corp. had a similar record? Oh sure, there might be some stockholders who would say 'I don't care as long as he brings me the dividends.' But does that make it right?

Many will pass this off as sour grapes from someone who is watching Romeo Crennel, a Belichick disciple, cope with a totally dysfunctional team and organization -- but one that one ruled the old All American Conference and NFL the way the Patriots do today.

But I ask Pats fans to take a second look and decide whether they truly believe in winning at any cost -- in the world, in business or in sports -- which is supposed to reflect our better side.

And remember that a return to the Patsies of yore is still only an injury (or lost draft choice) away.

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