I'm very curious to see what type of reaction comes from the two-part documentary "Bill Belichick: A Football Life," the first part of which aired last night on NFL Network.
Will perceptions of the Patriots head coach be changed at all? Will perceptions of the media that covers him be changed?
In small numbers, I think you'll see some of each. The majority of people, however, seem to stick to preconceived notions, and if they disliked Belichick prior to seeing the film, they will probably still dislike him afterwards. If they worshiped him before, they will even more fervently afterwards.
People have become accustomed to the media grumblings about Belichick and the Patriots organization. The organization is mysterious and highly guards all its secrets. Belichick is a dour person, who doesn't give out any information in press conferences, and lacks a sense of humor.
This film will dispel much of that, to the chagrin of many in the local press. Prior to Monday night's season opener against Miami, the 98.5 Patriots pregame show had the film's director, Ken Rodgers on as a guest. The director made it a point to mention how the Patriots organization is not the closed-off mystery it is made out to be. Host Gary Tanguay scoffed harshly at that suggestion, and said that while Belichick might allow NFL Films or David Halberstam inside access to himself and the team because he respected their track record, he did not open up to the locals.
Rodgers again disagreed with him, stating how one of the biggest surprises he had was how forthcoming Belichick could be in press conferences, Tanguay interrupted with a "Whoa whoa whoa, hold on, I don't think so." But Rodgers continued on, noting that when a reporter asked a serious, intelligent question, Belichick had no problem talking at length and in great detail on many topics. Tanguay rushed Rodgers off the air shortly thereafter.
The premise of Belichick opening up to media and writers that he trusts shouldn't be a surprise. Isn't it natural that he should feel more comfortable with those he has history with. He gave lengthy interviews recently with Mike Lombardi and Mike Mayok both on the NFL Network. Belichick worked with Lombardi with the Cleveland Browns, and when Mayok broke in to the NFL as a special teams player with the New York Giants in 1982, his special teams coach was none other than Bill Belichick.
A short column this week from Drew Magary on NBCConnecticut.com explored this notion further, noting that "When he feels the person covering him is worthy of doing so, Belichick becomes a far more human subject." Then noting that Belichick trusted Halberstam and the Sabols because he trusted them to get his story right - which doesn't mean 100 percent positive either - and that he likely does not trust many of the day-to-day media types which may explain his frequent stonewalling of them.
It then becomes a vicious circle, where those shut out are resentful and it taints their coverage of him, which makes Belichick lose even more respect for them and shut them out further.
Now, some in the media take exception to this, saying that the media as a whole should not be painted with broad strokes and it's unfair to group them all together in this way. I see the point, but my feelings in this instance is that sometimes you are judged by your peers. If you don't separate yourself from them and show yourself to be different, the assumption is going to be made that you are like them.
After watching this film, are people going to question how the media, locally especially, have missed the boat so thoroughly on Belichick? It's not so much the beat guys, who I do get the sense are respected by the coach, but the columnists, the radio and TV people, who might breeze into the interview room at Gillette once or twice a season, but still have plenty to say on a daily basis about the the coach and team.
When people watch this film and see Belichick in a completely different way than they are used to, are they going to wonder why the local media at times is so focused on how he acts in press conferences, talking about injuries or analyzing his postgame handshakes with opposing coaches? It seems like a fair question to ask.