Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bennett, Belichick An Odd Couple That May Just Be The Genuine Article

"(he's) the Silver Fox that you never get to see but you hear about.  You only get to take one photo, and you have to stay outside for a year just to get it." - Martellus Bennett on Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady

Tom Brady has been called many things in his career, from the "Greatest of all time" to "cheater" to "insufferable geek", but a Silver Fox?  Lord only knows what Bennett meant by that, because there are plenty of connotations.

Why, the Urban Dictionary alone has several definitions, among them, "An attractive older gentleman with silver hair, that are dead sexy because of it" and "sexy older men who maintain their physique, are usually rich, and are the classiest fuckers around." - or he could have been speaking of the Marvel comic book character, or simply a member of the red fox genetic family.

But that's the somewhat suggestive banter we've come to expect from Bennett in his short tenure in New England - comparing playing for two quarterbacks to dating two girls at the same time,  and in an interview for ESPN the Magazine, he teams up with brother Michael on what it feels like to sack a superstar quarterback...

...with Michael, the Seattle Seahawks' defensive end, stating that sacking the quarterback is like making love and getting that once-in-a-season climax, then Martellus picking up where his brother left off by stating, "All the other rushes are like foreplay.  You finally get to the bedroom."

Fans of the Patriots may cringe when Bennett goes off on one of his sex and profanity-laced rants, thinking that head ball coach Bill Belichick will have a few words with the extroverted tight end, but Martellus Bennett being the genuine article, Belichick probably appreciates his candor, if not his actual verbiage.

People expect that from Bennett, so when he suddenly blurts out something about black unicorns, or what the NFL stands for in his mind, or who he feels has game and who doesn't, it's all dismissed as a talented athlete having a bang-up time, and not to be taken for anything else, with the dismissive, "well, that's Marty for ya." to justify the means to that end.

And it's cool.  It's really cool that the Patriots have signed such an enormous personality whose vernacular ranks right up there with fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski's party habits - and also such a departure from the stuffed-shirt approach that has been a staple of the Patriot Way since it's inception, a corollary effect of the personality of Belichick.

"People think it's weird that we're ourselves," Martellus said, speaking for his brother. "I think it's weird that you're trying to be something you're not."

And for that, Bennett almost certainly has admiration for Belichick because, just like Martellus and Michael, Belichick is genuine, if not forthcoming.  Bennett gets a pass for his sometimes outlandish claims, and Belichick does as well for being exactly the opposite - well from the fans at least, because outside of the six weird little states that comprise the New England region, he is loathed.

That comes with success, something that Bennett is about to experience for the first time in his career,

The thing about Bennett is that he speaks his mind on a variety of topics, and expresses disappointment or anger in a manner so forthright that it offends some, but brings overwhelming joy to journalists and media types, for his soundbites always make for compelling must reads...

...while Belichick is most often so vague that only ambivalence survives, leaving beat writers frustrated and obtuse and fans laughing heartily at their difficulties.

Particularly when he decides to go after a beat writer for asking a question that they should know better than to ask.  It's happened a few times in Belichick's tenure, most recently when a writer decided he needed to ask Belichick  if there would be a quarterback controversy brewing in Foxborough...


Jesus Christ was a polarizing figure in his time on the planet - to the point that when people become exasperated, they will use some inferential of his name to express their displeasure.

For example, the urban dictionary defines the derivative expression "Jeez" as expression of  anger and disappointment, a minor expression of annoyance.  It is a derivative of the expression the New England Patriots head ball coach muttered under his breath at Friday's training camp press conference in response to yet another question that the media should know better than to ask.

All except Albert Breer, of course, who is the Penguin to Belichick's brooding Batman act - and he does know better, but prefers to antagonize Belichick at every turn.  Breer developed a healthy disdain for the Dark Master in his time as a Boston beat writer before moving on to the NFL network, and has had some classic moments... in 2013 when Breer confronted Belichick at a press conference a few days before a win over the Falcons in Atlanta - it started out contentious and escalated quickly, but ended with Belichick openly mocking Breer, giving him a taste of the whip that one would think would have served as the caveat of asking Belichick stupid questions.

Apparently not.

Some poor geek from the Concord Monitor came up with the question of who the Patriots' starting quarterback should be when Brady's four-week suspension has been satisfied, and if Jimmy Garoppolo lights the world on fire during that same month-long period that he will be filling in for the Greatest.

Belichick has become curmudgeonly and increasingly impatient with the media in the three years since taking Breer to task, as evidenced by him shaking his head sadly in response to the question, and offering the name of the Savior in barely audible exasperation to appropriately display his disdain for the reporter and his foolish query.

It was funny, though.  Funny in a way that only Patriots' fans can appreciate properly, because they have been desensitized to Belichick's singular wit in a Clockwork Orange kind of way, by being forced to listen to his monotone droll in response to just about any question - and there is little doubt that he regards them in a similar fashion to how Hunter S. Thompson felt about newspaper journalism in his heyday.

"Journalism is not a profession or a trade, it is a cheap catch-all for fuck offs and misfits - a false doorway to the back side of life, a filthy piss-ridden hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a monkey in a zoo-cage." 

What makes this even worse is that Thompson was a journalist at the time that he wrote that, locked into violence of the early 70's and about to see his words come true covering the 1972 Presidential campaign, hanging mostly with Democratic nominee George McGovern because the incumbent Republican nominee, Richard Nixon, despised the media... the point that someone in his administration, if not him directly, put out a contract on the lives of a couple of particularly pesky writers for the Washington Post, who made the Watergate break-in and cover-up go from an annoyance to the Boss to a full-fledged scandal that eventually saw Nixon resign his office.

Now, Belichick doesn't seem the type to go for dirty deeds done dirt cheap, and if he was going to off a beat writer, he would go after one of the more smug bastards in the industry, like Breer, Shaunessey or notorious Belichick-hater Ron Borges, not some dupe from a backwoods New Hampshire rag.

But his query brings up an interesting question: What can a beat writer ask Belichick in a press conference that won't incite a verbal flogging - or even the non-verbal variety that involves a soap-opera-pre-commercial-stare-down - from the mercurial head coach?

The answer to that really depends on how froggy one feels heading into the dungeon of a press room at Gillette Stadium.  But one thing is for sure - and it's not like this is going to be a breaking news story - Belichick is just not a people person.

At least not to you and me, and certainly not to the trolls in the media - but there was a time when Belichick was the defensive coordinator of the World Champion New York Giants, and the Management of the team was so concerned about Belichick's all-business personality that General Manager George Young asked Belichick to attend Carnegie classes on self-help.


As confirmed by Cleveland General Manager Ernie Accorsi, who initially interviewed Belichick in 1989 for the vacancy in the coaching ranks for the Browns caused by the departure of Marty Schottenheimer - Belichick didn't get the job, he lost out to Bud Carson, but Accorsi remembered his personality as technical and robotic.

"The guy's been preparing to coach since he was seven." Accorsi recalls thinking, in respect to his matter-of-fact style - which didn't lend itself to the Cleveland media, the fans or the team owner when he actually was hired for the Brown's job two seasons later.  The fans and the owner could have been won over by success, as winning cures many ills, but the media would never be convinced that Belichick had their best interests at heart.

And he didn't.  He didn't give two meatloafs about the media, didn't feel obliged to their deadlines, didn't give them anything of substance out of any of his press conferences.  The only reason he was even talking to them at all is because it was mandated by the league - but this, along with his contentious relationship with Art Modell ended with his firing in 1995...

...essentially run out of a town that no longer had a football team anyway - so the media, who nicknamed him "Dr. Doom" for his disdain for dealing with the media and, to that end, his brief, terse responses to stock questions and his infernally long soliloquies that reveal absolutely nothing when he's in the mood to give the writers the business put him on a pedestal right next to Modell, who to this day is still hated in Cleveland for moving the team to Baltimore.

They still hate Belichick, too, but that hardly matters.

A lot of people find Belichick a smug, pretentious, arrogant narcissist - even Patriots' owner Bob Kraft was initially wary if his people skills when first confronted with his personality during the search to find a replacement for Bill Parcells, after the Tuna abandoned the team after dropping a tight Super Bowl decision to the Green Bay Packers.

After interviewing Belichick, Kraft told him that he wouldn't hire him until he worked on his people skills, and instead hired the personable Pete Carroll, whose magnetism is essentially the polar opposite of Belichick's, and far less aggressive than Parcells' intimidating style.

But after three seasons of watching Patriots' players opt out of Carroll's laid back ways and looking back to the success they had under Parcells, Kraft dumped Carroll and brought in the only person he could think of who would appeal to the players who were loyal to the ways of the Tuna, but also was enough of a player's coach to appease the Carroll supporters.

Yup, Bill Belichick.

The media in New England loved Parcells, made fun of Carroll and currently love-but-mostly-hate Belichick, but none of that matters because as Belichick puts it,  it is what it is - but they are currently locked in a love affair with Bennett, simply because he is upbeat, personable and will speak his mind on just about any subject, and give you perhaps more detail than you care to know.

In many ways, he is the anti-Belichick.  He probably would have gotten along with Parcells and would have walked all over Carroll, but in Belichick he finally has a coach that respects players' skills to the point that he brings them in to add their distinctiveness to his playbook, not to force his playbook down a players' throat.

That is why Belichick is considered a player's coach, and why he is so beloved by his charges as to cause Shottenheimer to defend Belichick's coaching style after an ESPN report last decade that the players hated him,

"Are you telling me that the players don't respond to him?" Schottenheimer quipped, "Those players win for him."

And so it is, how perception fueled by the media paints Belichick as the aforementioned ill-tempered narcissist doesn't match reality.  The players love him, the ownership loves him, the fans adore him - and now the mouth that roars in the person of Martellus Bennett says that he loves it in Foxborough and that there's no place that he'd rather be.

And knowing how Bennett always speaks his mind and presents himself as being brutally honest, perhaps his stated contentment with his situation in New England isn't just word play for the media - and maybe, just maybe, they should try seeing Belichick as the rest of us do...

...and not just an ogre who spouts the lord's name in vain when a reporter asks a question that he should already know not to ask - but should also be careful of what they ask Bennett, lest they bite off more than they can chew.

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