Belichick Shrugged Perhaps there will be no greater evidence of the frenzy that the situation known alternately as video, camera, and spy-gates has risen to than this article. Because the title doesnât refer Belichick shrugging in the traditional sense, that is in a casual rise of his shoulder, probably imperceptible beneath the folds of his now-infamous hooded sweatshirt. No, the title has cast Belichick as the protagonist of Ayn Randâs last work of fiction: Atlas Shrugged. In the novel, those of greater talent are pitted against those with lesser talent. Those lesser people, labeled moochers, are intent on both appropriating the fruits of the talentedâs labor, while simultaneously bemoaning the state of affairs that has made this necessary. They hate them for their talent but take from them their ideas. It does not take a great imagination to understand Belichick as one of the more talented people. His schemes are widely copied. He has disciples around the league whoâve studied under him. Belichick practically raised the expected Judas in this case, Eric Mangini. His methods for motivating his team, his practice of conducting tight-lipped press conferences, his salary cap mastery the subterfuge that became his injury reports, all replicated. He even helped usher in a new revolution of 3-4 defenses with his success. It could be argued that he has had the greatest influence on the NFL coaching profession over the last decade. Coaches have gained jobs, on their own merit mostly, but also on the strength of having a Belichick influenced resume. But his success has made more enemies than it has cultivated allies. He has beaten so many teams in so many big games, with apparently lesser talent, that it appears to have been smoke and mirrors. And now, with Cameragate (my favorite) they may claim that the smoke machine has been found. The issue has become misconstrued in the media as a form of cheating. The Miami Dolphins, in 2006, bought tapes with audio that is left out of the game film that they receive form the NFL. From these they stole Tom Bradyâs audible calls. The NFLâs reaction to this revelation was a collective silence and a subtle approval. Stealing signs isnât cheating. Stealing signs from videotape isnât cheating. Videotaping, try following the logic here folks, is cheating. And it has to be doesnât it, or itâs not the smoke machine that people have been looking for all along. Calls have been made for Belichik to apologize to other coaches and players. All of his wins are tainted by this they say. Super Bowls come with an asterisk. And yet there is a tacit understanding that if Belichick were not so successful then this would not be an issue. If thatâs the case, then what is he being punished for other than his success? Anyone who believe that his Super Bowls were won on the power of this videotaping hardly understands the man behind them or really the game of football. Likely the videotapes were used to accumulate, as some have posited, a book on the tendencies and signals used by all the coaches in the league. An archive. A database. A reflection of the attention to detail that is behind all of these wins. Belichick probably viewed this as important in the same way he views form tackling in training camp as important; details as important components of a perfect whole. Not as the whole, not as the reason for their dynastic stretch, but an issue of preparation, of understanding. For he is never more comfortable then when breaking down football film. But Belichick does have a tragic flaw, there can be no mistaking it. It is not hubris; his arrogance is mostly attributed to success and secrecy. It is certainly not stupidity. Few would argue that, those that imagine Belichick blatantly videotaping was anything less than calculated-for reasons ranging from wanting micâd up defensive player to wanting a rule clarification. No, his tragic flaw lies in the underestimation of how much others hate him. Coaches hate him because he is smarter than them. They, along with players, hate him for their losses. They envy his wins and success. And now we are learning how far the voices of the sanctimonious may carry from high on the backs of their ivory-colored steeds. Hines Ward, his teams beaten and often embarrassed by Belichickâs over the years, is possibly the bet example of this. âOh, they knew,â he said. âThey were calling our stuff out. They knew, especially that first championship game here at Heinz field. They knew a lot of our calls. There is no question some of their players were calling out some of our stuff.â I have no doubt heâs correct, but I also have no doubt heâs referring to them calling out their offensive plays. Those plays are relayed to the quarterback via a headset, which according to its manufacturer, carries a s signal coded with 268 million number combinations, essentially unbreakable in a 3 hour football game without the help of at least one former-KGB officer. âIt seemed like they were a step ahead of us at all times.â They probably were but that has far more to do with the brains that inhabit the other sideline, less conspicuous over there because there are so many more of them on that sideline than on Hinesâ, but there nonetheless. The media despises him for a lack of access, which they take as his arrogance but is in fact evidence of their own because they operate under the assumption that he is denying them what they deserve. Usually they can exact their revenge on coaches like this, or at least expect to soon, because of a lack of success. They can claim that his tyrannical methods donât work and hope for a more media-friendly successor when the despot is overthrown. Not so with Belichick. With him, there is the omnipresent reminder that he may stay as long as he wishes despite their cries foul. He has for all intents and purposes unstrung the prominent Boston media member Ron Borges and turned him into a talented hack. Not talentless, the man can still write, but his opinions havenât converged with reality in years. Why? Because a lack of access left him with scraps and until he was forced to adopt an unbecoming shtick. Underestimating the collective power of this loathing has left him here. The scavengers are swarming. They are out for revenge. Coaches refuse to come out in support of him, to implicate themselves in this witch trial even if they do similar things (which it has been reported a significant percentage of them do). They do so because they owe him no allegiance and because secretly they wish the Caesar to be killed. Even those who offer support at all do so indirectly with admittances of other sign stealing episodes, legal, but differing in spirit only by the letter of an obscure bylaw. The media ignores calls of caution from the few who will offer them. Belichik was damned by league sources now days before Goodell announced a decision. When he does, we will understand just what kind of commissioner the man is. Because his act has been one of the hardcase, the merciless, the iron fist. But it takes more than an iron fist to rule, it takes an understanding of the politics of that which you rule. It takes a recognition of ramifications, of reverberations, and of the importance of rationality. A harsh punishment would be indicative of a commissioner who has lost sight of fact and has fallen victory to rumor, sensationalism, and outright hyperbole. The Patriots have been accused of having a videocamera on the sidelines. That is it, that is the realistic scope of provable accusations. Past rumors of having cameras in other games are hearsay. Questions about wireless communication malfunctions by the Jets are not only hearsay but are outright absurd. The NFL sets those communications up. They shouldnât be part of the argument. A cameraman was in the wrong place. It isnât an issue of cheating. It isnât an issue of competitive advantage since none could possibly be gained by a tape that never made it into the hands of anyone with football knowledge. The Patriots canât be given a murder sentence for having a knife-thatâs why we have attempted murder. At worst, and this is a stretch, it is attempted cheating. Since the Denver Broncos were docked a third round pick for successfully cheating on the salary cap, can you argue a harsher penalty for the Patriots?