I have my pencil behind my ear. I wear my New England Patriots sun visor that matches my New England Patriots sweat shirt. I am a genius. I know everything about everything. Am I supposed to discuss this question — discuss anything — with people who live so far away on the other end of the bell curve?
“Jack be nimble,” I say. “Jack be quick. Jack jumped over the candlestick.”
The goal is to give away nothing. Make my face a plaster mask of neutrality. Nothing I say will show that I am happy. Nothing I say will show that I am sad. Nothing I say will be interesting. That is the Belichick way. I will take moments or situations that might be exciting or fascinating — something like playing in a Super Bowl, dealing daily with the best quarterback in football and his famous wife, discovering that a murderer might have resided in your starting lineup — and wring all emotion, all nuance, all interest from the subject as if it were a dishrag. I will leave that dishrag sitting by itself on the kitchen counter. Talk to it all you want.
A public opinion can only get a man in trouble. Look at the short, furious run of Bobby Valentine a year ago as manager of the Red Sox. He had a public opinion about every subject in the encyclopedia. His press conferences were must-attend events because he would say something that could be hung out on a headline. Ah, but there are no press conferences now, are there? Mr. Valentine’s successor, John Farrell, knows the trick. He mentions name, rank, serial number, stops right there. Hasn’t made a headline all year.
“Two times two is four,” I say. “Two times three is six. Two times four is eight.”
Politicians are grandmasters at saying nothing. (Large segments of the Massachusetts population still sleep blissfully after those debates between Ed Markey and that former Navy SEAL in the race for US Senate.) Doctors won’t tell you if you’re dying when you’re dying because of the possibility of lawsuits. (“We cannot discuss the hypotheticals concerning your case.”) And lawyers? Mountains are not molehills to lawyers; they’re flat, arid deserts.
“Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer,” I say. “Take one down. Pass it around. Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall.”
I suppose I could say that 13 years is a long time for one coach to deliver the same message. Times change. Situations change. People change. Can the message stay the same? Doesn’t it become a bit tired? There are limits to everything. Maybe the limits have been reached here.
I also could repeat the bromide that success breeds success. The string of excellence could create an uber coach, a Wizard of Oz figure whose voice cannot be denied. Who can argue with the level of success that has been established in Foxborough? Why should it stop?
I choose to say what the master has taught me to say.
“Mary had a little lamb,” I say, “whose fleece was white as snow.”
Leigh Montville, a former Globe columnist who lives in Winthrop, is writing a book about Muhammad Ali and the military draft.
JESSICA CABRERA on the Unflappable Coach
I still trust Belichick. You can tell he’s really concerned about the players and what the organization stands for. He’s always looking to improve his players and improve on himself as a coach. As an ex-football player, I would have loved to have been coached by someone like Bill Beli-chick. I like how he keeps his composure. If you have a head coach who’s panicking on the side, it’s a little bit like a chain reaction; if the coach is panicking, then the players are going to panic. I’m looking to my coach to settle us down and give us that look that it’s going to be OK, that we’re still in this. But if my coach has that fear in his eye, then who am I going to turn to? I don’t see that fear with Belichick.
Jessica Cabrera recently retired as a defensive end for the women’s tackle football team Boston Militia. She works as a Suffolk County corrections officer and an assistant basketball coach at The Winsor School.
— As told to S.S. (Interview has been edited and condensed.)
THE MONEY MEN
Each spring, Forbes lists the highest-paid coaches in US pro sports, using sources like media reports and industry experts to estimate annual base pay. After two years in the top spot, Belichick tied for second in the May 2013 edition.
$8 million Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
$7.5 million Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs, and Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
A BOOK BURN
In A Dance With Dragons, the fifth book in his Game of Thrones series, New York football fan George R.R. Martin made a thinly veiled reference to the Giants’ crushing defeat of Belichick’s Patriots in Super Bowl XLII: Continued...