January 21, 2015


Football's Joker : Why Bill Belichick and his antics make the NFL a better place. (Luke O'Neil, 1/21/15, Slate)

Belichick is a bit less emphatic in his anarchist glee, but it's still exceedingly apparent in the form of his often-playful in-game manipulations. The team's victory over the Baltimore Ravens two weekends ago brought another round of accusations of cheating against the coach, simply for using a wonky offensive line formation. Those who've long followed Belichick know that he must have delighted in unfurling this perfectly legal play and having it portrayed as a grand deception, simply because it was something no one had ever thought of before. After a certain level of success, there's nothing left for a villain to do besides start seeing what he can get away with. Remember his unshelving a dropkick on an extra point by Doug Flutie in 2006? That play hadn't been successfully completed in more than 60 years, partly because there's no need for it with modern kickers, but also because it's just sort of goofy. For Belichick, that was the point. How about employing receivers as defensive backs, or linemen as receivers? Or consider his constant gamesmanship when it comes to the injury report, or his turning the NFL into a real-life video game in the record-breaking 2007 season, seemingly as a middle finger to those who accused him of cheating after the Spygate scandal, yet another one of his wacky schemes. Watching Belichick coach is like a real-life version of "Breaking Madden." He pushes at the edges of the sport to see what will break, partially because it ends up highlighting the absurdities of the NFL's byzantine rule book, but also, quite simply, because it's fun.

Heroes are admirable, we tell ourselves, but in sports, and in fiction, what they're really about is regressing to the status quo. They represent a conservative outlook, in which balance must be restored, order reinforced, rules upheld. Villains, on the other hand, want to change things. We may not always admire the methods they use to do it, but the journey requires them to be more imaginative and creative along the way. Some men simply want to watch the world burn.

The League has depended on drug use/abuse since at least the '60s, but ball inflation is supposed to be a major transgression?

Posted by at January 21, 2015 7:07 PM

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