So I’m starting a new feature here on All Things In Their Place. It’s actually more of an award than a feature. I’m introducing it because there are a lot of different types of real jerks in this world – there are the kind that you’d like to see actually removed from the gene pool, like the kind I put on The Cut List, the truly evil kind who cause worldwide chaos and suffering, like Vladimir Putin, and then there are the kind who are just so frustrating, so unlikable, that all you want to do is stick a middle finger right in their face. And maybe flick them in the eyeball with it.
This latter category is who I am targeting with this award – The Middle Finger of the Apocalypse.
The Middle Finger of the Apocalypse goes to that breed of person who you can’t even bear to look at – who inspires a burning desire to kick their ass whenever you so much as see their face. You see his or her name in the newspaper and go “Man, I hate that guy!” In the grand scheme of things, these aren’t very important people, very relevant people. They’re not major figures in politics, or philosophy, or religion. In fact, it’s their very irrelevance that makes them so annoying – they don’t even matter that much, and still you want to throw a brick through their windshield. So I think it goes without saying that the inaugural recipient of the Middle Finger of the Apocalypse is none other than New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
Bill Belichick: Black power
And here’s why, in convenient list form:
1. He makes millions of dollars a year and yet prowls the sidelines in a hooded sweatshirt. A hooded sweatshirt. You wouldn’t catch Tom Landry pulling some weak sartorial stunt like that. Hey Bill – you’re going to be on national television every week, how about springing for a couple pairs of Dockers? You look like you’re on your way to make a late-night run to the gas station for some jerky and RC Cola.
2. He runs up the score. In professional football, I think all’s fair through 3 quarters. There have been some miracle comebacks in the history of the league, and you can’t take for granted that, given 15 minutes, a team won’t suddenly catch fire and score a lot of points on you real quick. Look at what the Bears did this weekend behind Devin Hester. So if you’re pasting a team with 5 minutes to go in the third, and you have the chance to paste them some more, by all means do so. Hit them with a throat shot. But when you’re into the fourth quarter and the game is out of reach, just pull your Hall of Fame quarterback and run the ball until the game is over. Belichick, on the other hand, throws a pass on fourth down and 2 in the final quarter of play with a 45-0 lead and two plays later has widened that lead to 52-0. Asked to explain his playcalling, Belichick displays nothing but disdain for sportsmanship and decency with this answer: “We’re just out there playing.” Now, there is a school of thought that says all’s fair until the game is over in professional sports, that it’s the job of the defense to stop teams like the Patriots from hanging 50 points on them. I don’t entirely dismiss that point of view, but I do with regards to Belichick. The reason for that rolls into #3.
3. He is a cheater. We all remember Spygate– Jets coach Eric Mangini blowing the whistle on the Patriots practice of videotaping opposing defenses’ signals in order to get an edge on the offensive side of the ball. A lot of people have tried to blow this off in terms of its impact on the league. And truth be told, I don’t think the infraction itself is a huge deal. It’s not like its steroids, it’s not like Belichick is planting a hidden microphone in the opponent’s huddle, it’s not like he’s throwing games to pay off a gambling debt. So as far as pervasive damage to the game goes, I think Spygate ranks pretty low on the list. And I further buy the argument that a lot of other teams are doing it. And I especially agree that videotaping the signals didn’t give the Patriots some sort of disproportionate advantage. So what’s the big deal if Belichick cheated?
He cheated, that’s the big deal. Our integrity is one of the most important things we have. And integrity is built on a lifetime of decisions, some little, some big. We’re presented with moral choices every day. And one day in the recent past, the choice came to Bill Belichick: “Coach, it’s against the rules and it’s unfair, but should we go ahead and videotape the defensive signals of our opponents so we can study them for the next time we play them?” And Bill Belichick, confronted with the choice to honor the rules or to willfully break them, said “Yeah, do it.” That, more than anything, is why Belichick deserves unending scorn and condemnation. He cheated.
And because he was caught cheating, he’s running up the score. After the story broke, people started questioning the worth of the Patriots’ past victories. They suggested that all the Super Bowl victories were tarnished. Maybe Belichick isn’t a genius, they said…it’s a lot easier to win games when you know the other team’s defensive scheme. So to wipe those ideas away, to clear his name (an impossible task, by the way, since win or lose, he’s still a cheater), to prove he doesn’t need to cheat to win, Belichick is killing everybody. He’s passing on fourth and short when he’s already up 5 scores. In short, he’s compounding personal dishonesty with unsportsmanlike conduct.
So Bill, the Middle Finger of the Apocalypse is yours. Try putting a Super Bowl ring on this one.