Alex Reimer has written a fascinating look at the mindset of reporters covering Bill Belichick in this piece on the Forbes website:
To me, the title is a bit misleading, because I see it more as a look inside the minds of those working the Patriots beat, and what their agendas and predispositions are towards the Patriots coach.
The article leads off with Dave Brown, the Concord Monitor writer, who made himself the center of attention the first days of camp with his questions about Tom Brady’s job and the insinuation that if Jimmy Garoppolo plays well, Belichick might have a tough choice to make. It was clear at the time that Brown was looking for an angle to back Belichick into a corner. Brown confirms it here, saying:
So for the last eight years, I’ve been thinking: ‘Is there a way to get [Belichick] off his game plan?
Really? For eight years you’ve been looking for the opportunity to trip up the coach of the team you’re supposed to be covering? Sounds a little obsessive to me.
Next up is Tom E Curran, who disputes the narrative that “Belichick doesn’t answer questions and is a prick” which seems to be the national view of the Patriots coach. Yet, as Curran notes, there are always several times during the season when Belichick goes expansive on a topic, and the same people act like it is a unique episode because it is contrary to their Belichick narrative.
After a look at the first week of Deflategate and how Belichick handled that week, including his masterful Saturday press conference in which he played scientist (and in retrospect was largely correct about everything he said.), Curran acknowledged the skill with which Belichick handled that week:
“Nobody, in my opinion, is more instinctive than Belichick at reading what needs to be done,” Curran says. “You have this guy employing the Ideal Gas Law, using it, and taking attention away that day as his team was going to the Super Bowl, and then not talking about it again. It was masterful.”
Mike Giardi comes on stage next, showing himself to be the good media soldier, willing to jump on the grenade and sacrifice himself for his media colleagues. We’re talking of course about the press conference after the 2014 Kansas City game in which Giardi asked Belichick if the QB position was going to be evaluated that week. Giardi says:
That was one of those days where we felt like we had to ask the question, and the result was fairly predictable. But it had to be asked anyway.
That will be a line in the oral history of the Kansas City press conference.
I’ve never understood this mindset about the questioning having to be asked. It reminds me of the quote usually attributed to Albert Einstein about how insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
It had to be asked. That’s usually the response of someone who asks an obvious question when they are challenged about it.
What does that mean? Why did it HAVE to be asked? You’re not grilling a Presidential candidate here on foreign policy. It feels like a misplaced sense of importance is at play here.
The Boston Globe‘s Ben Volin steps up next and has a similar sentiment to Dave Brown.
you can’t let him win, because we have a job to do, too
Ben, your job is covering football. Maybe focusing on that rather than whether you “won” a press conference with the head coach might serve you and your readers better.
I mean, look at that mindset – you can’t let him win – you’re not in a war, or a contest here. The adversarial view isn’t going to work.
Shalise Manza Young is another who has frosty feelings for Belichick. Despite acknowledging that for almost her entire time on the beat, Belichick treated her professionally, she holds a grudge over being correctly publicly by the coach.
“When you want to try to demean me and put me down –– and I hate how this sounds, but I don’t know how to say it any other way –– all of the stories I had broken over the years and none of them had ever been proven wrong, and now all of a sudden I have hundreds of people telling me I’m garbage because he came out with a statement saying I wrote something that was incorrect? It was a lot to handle. And I thought it was really shady and really underhanded,” she says.
Now read the actual statement. What is she talking about? Demeaning her? Putting her down? Shady? Underhanded?
In protest, and this says a lot more about her than him – she refused to ask a single question of Belichick for the rest of the season and then left the beat.
Oh, by the way:
I spoke to Aaron Dobson…he told me he didn't have an incident with McDaniels. we shook hands. sources can be wrong sometimes.
— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) October 3, 2014
So…what about all of the stories I had broken over the years and none of them had ever been proven wrong?
She wanted Belichick to approach her privately instead of making a public statement. But she has not problem saying stuff like this about Bryan Stork.
Occasionally? he was worst guy I dealt with in 9+ years https://t.co/FTbox9oOdo
— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) August 24, 2016
Very next tweet:
Because how he treats us as reporters doesn't matter. Just makes our job unpleasant. https://t.co/8ixSFxTtC0
— shalise manza young (@shalisemyoung) August 24, 2016
Apparently it doesn’t matter until he’s gone. Then you can dish.
A story on the Patriots media would not be complete without Ron Borges.
According to Reimer “it’s not his annoyance with the press that Borges takes issue with, but the apparent enjoyment he receives from humiliating those who cross his path.”
I think the technical term for that is “not suffering fools gladly.” Borges then throws this gem out:
Many of the people who are so enthusiastic about how Bill Belichick operates, if they were working for him, their asses would be in the HR department in about 15 minutes. All of the things they’re cheering, they wouldn’t like it. They’d be crying about it,
The only people crying about things here are the media. Borges winds things down with a statement about the utter otioseness of sports media:
if you win, the writers can’t hurt you, and if you lose, the writers can’t help you.