Fridays With Bill (Triumph Books, 2018)
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Bill Belichick press conferences have acquired a reputation for sarcasm and stonewalling. The New England coach has never bothered to hide the fact that he considers talking to the media to be a waste of time and uses a range of techniques to let them know.
There’s non-committal Bill:
Q. “What does that say about your football team?”
A. “I don’t know.”
Q. “You mentioned Tom Brady’s age at the draft…”
A. “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
Q. “Do you think having a 37-year-old…”
A. “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
And then there’s downright rude Bill:
“I could just Xerox you a copy of the game plan and you could send it over to Kansas City…”
However, if you follow NFL writers on Twitter then you’ll see that Belichick is sometimes unusually effusive. Transcripts circulate in which Bill delivers a thousand words on some aspect of the game, frequently an obscure point and often regarding special teams.
This, according to John Powers’ book, typically happens on a Friday. With most of the preparation for Sunday’s game out of the way and the majority of journalists busy elsewhere, Belichick is, writes Powers, happy to talk:
“This is Belichick at his most relaxed, profoundly philosophical and often puckish, holding forth on topics ranging from deferring the coin toss to his struggles with technology to his favourite Halloween candy.”
Powers gathers some of the highlights from those press conferences in this book, divided into broadly thematic chapters. We start with “Coaching”, move on to “Players”, then “Roster and so on. The themes overlap a lot and plenty of the quotes could be slotted-in anywhere but it gives things a general. Amongst the quotes are plenty of photos of Belichick at the podium, on the sidelines and on the practice field.
In his preamble, Powers admits that it’s a book designed for “browsing” and he’s right. It becomes repetitive when read in long chunks, something that isn’t helped by Powers’ chapter introductions which tend to feature quotes that you will read again, a few pages later.
Even so, a lot of the quotes are interesting. Belichick talks about how a team is constantly in transition throughout the season. The team of the first four weeks is not the same one that you’ll see in the final four, for example. And it’s almost impossible to carry things over from one year to the next. “You just can’t do the things that you did a year ago in December, in September,” Belichick says.
He also has some comments that are insightful in the social media world, in which everyone from former players to die-hard fans posts videos of plays in which they break down what went wrong – or right. Belichick warns:
“I know it’s very hard for me when I see a mistake on film that another team makes to identify exactly what the problem was because it could probably be one of two or three things. Unless you actually know what the call was, what they were taught to do, I don’t know if you really know who actually made the mistake.”
It’s worth remembering the next time you watch some Twitter film expert break down a game that even Bill Belichick doesn’t try to draw too many conclusions from film study.
If you’re a Patriots fan then there is lots here to absorb and enjoy. Those who, like me, aren’t Pats fans could be a little disappointed. I was hoping for more deep insights that would change how I think about the game. They’re aren’t that many of those; I guess that, even on a Friday, Belichick isn’t going to reveal all his secrets.
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