Bill Belichick is, in his own weird way, becoming my new favorite sports figure because he is such a royal butt spur.
That doesn’t make him separate from other coaches; most of them are mutants of one sort or other, and not in the cool X-Men way where at least there’s a superpower attached. They are mostly unpleasant, guarded, distracted or locked into the competing voices in their own heads – or all at once.
But Belichick rages against power in the same way that Gregg Popovich does in San Antonio, and the way Al Davis did when he was at the top of his game three decades ago, and many of those rages are on point, rational and absolutely deserved, thus disqualifying him from national office.
Anyway, he angrily hurled one of those Microsoft tablets that are supposed to help coaches, well, coach, to smithereens Sunday in an otherwise routine win over Cincinnati, and decided when asked about it by Comrade Perry at CSNKremlin.com to go on a magnificent soliloquy that would do a Trotskyite and a Luddite simultaneously proud (highlights follow):
“There are multiple communication systems on the sideline. As you probably noticed, I’m done with the tablets. I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can’t take it anymore.”
“The other communication systems involve the press box to the coaches on the field, and then the coach on the field, the signal caller, or the coach-to-quarterback, coach-to-signal caller system. Those fail on a regular basis. There are very few games that we play, home or away, day, night, cold, hot, preseason, regular season, postseason, it doesn’t make any difference; there are very few games where there aren’t issues in some form or fashion with that equipment.”
Not to mention:
“I would say weekly we have to deal with something. This is all league equipment so we don’t have it. I mean we use it but it isn’t like we have the equipment during the week and we can work with it and ‘OK, this is a problem. Let’s fix this.’ That’s not how it works. We get the equipment the day of the game, or I’d say not the day of the game but a few hours before the game and we test it and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Usually by game time it is working but I would say not always. And then during the game sometimes something happens and it has to be fixed, and first of all, you have to figure out what the problem is. Is it a battery? Is it the helmet? Is it the coaches’ pack? Is it the battery on the coaches’ pack? I mean you know, again, it could be one of 15 different things.”
And in summary:
“It’s basically a problem every week. The degrees aren’t always the same but we’re usually dealing with something. For me personally, it’s a personal decision, I’m done with the tablets. I’ll use the paper pictures from here on because I’ve given it my best shot. I’ve tried to work through the process but it just doesn’t work for me and that’s because there’s no consistency to it.”
He even apologized to Perry for the length of his answer, which is a sign that he is at his human best when separating from the Borg collective.
Now this is not a rant against technology, or technocrats (although I have rarely met one that didn’t deserved to be drowned in a puddle at a picnic). But we should appreciate when technology fails in sports, and we should revel in those moments when a user snaps and smashes a machine to the ground in righteous indignation. It just looks and feels so cathartic even when it’s someone else doing it, and since we can imagine Belichick seeing Roger Goodell’s smug mush as he’s doing it, well, who can’t object to that? Any blow against graceless bullnecked authority is a triumph for the species as a whole.
Plus, chaos is a much better milieu for sports in general, which is why the new rantings about robot umpires vs. pulling back replay because of the baseball playoffs are so delightful. It’s like we are as a group just noticing that no matter what system is imposed atop all the other systems to try and impose infallibility, chaos always wins. Chaos wins more than Bill Belichick, that’s how good chaos is.
Chaos rewards the creative, and the improvisational, and the quick-witted. Chaos reminds us that an overly regulated sport eventually collapses under the weight of its own rigidity. Plus it reduces smug, self-important gasbags to spasms of impotent frustration the way nature intended.
So yes, we must endorse Belichick smashing the machinery of the state, even if it is only the size of a placemat and is in any event totally symbolic. We must also also endorse honestly blown calls (as opposed to what we like to call Donaghy Moments) because they make people who fixate on the “getting it right” thing turn apoplectically purple.
And here, as if to prove the point on cue, an NFL statement, sent to ESPN’s Darren Rovell on the subject:
“Since Microsoft has been a partner of the NFL and implemented their (sic) technology on our sidelines, the efficiency and speed of communication between coaches has been greatly increased. As with any technology there are multiple factors that can cause issues within our sideline communications system either related to our outside Microsoft’s technology. We continue to work with all our partners to insure the best systems are in place to give our clubs the greatest chance for success on a weekly basis.”
As you notice the temperature in your soul rapidly dropping as you read that load of bleargh, I triumphantly rest my case.