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Some film that won't make Belichick's home movies

September 16, 2007|Jim Litke | Associated Press

Here's hoping the people at the Department of Homeland Security study as much film as the typical NFL coach, or better yet, as much as New England's Bill Belichick does.

It says something about the competitive nature of pro football that the only certifiable genius in the coaching ranks, with three Super Bowl titles, a deep-pocketed owner and the shrewdest player-personnel department in the game behind him, felt a need to cheat to keep winning.

Then again, maybe it just says something about Belichick's monumental arrogance or his monumental insecurity, or both. Even after he issued a one-paragraph apology Wednesday for the sideline spying scandal for which he was fined $500,000 last week, it was impossible to say which.

"Although it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players," Belichick said.

League spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed a day earlier that Goodell had reviewed confiscated videotape taken from a Patriots employee working the Jets' sideline Sunday.

Considering how often Belichick messed with waiver-wire transactions and fudged weekly injury reports, the only surprise in the unfolding spy saga might be that he got caught. The Packers had similar suspicions about spying after catching a Pats employee carrying a video camera on the sidelines at Lambeau Field last November, but let him go with a warning.

"When you're successful in anything, a lot of people like to try to take you down and do different things," New England owner Robert Kraft told reporters at a charity appearance Tuesday. "We understand that."

A few days before Belichick won his first Super Bowl in 2002, his father, Steve, turned up at a news conference and wound up holding an impromptu session of his own in the back of the room. His answers were much funnier and a lot more revealing than any his son was delivering in the front.

Steve had been a coach, assistant or scout with the U.S. Naval Academy football program for more than 50 years, so he knew plenty about football. All anyone wanted to know about, though, was Bill, and whether he'd always been so driven.

So Steve told one story about how his wife and the family dentist might be the only people who had actually seen Bill's teeth since then, as now, his son rarely smiled. Then he told another about how 5-year-old Bill insisted on staying home and poring over game plans with Steve and his Navy assistants instead of playing with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood.

There was something familiar, almost comforting about those stories at the time, since they reinforced the notion that the younger Belichick was not just smarter than his counterparts, but that he started preparing earlier. When the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2004-05, that seemed to confirm he was not just still outsmarting rivals, but still outworking them, too.

Now, nobody is sure.

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