I am not a fan of American football. Never have been. But I WILL be watching Super Bowl XLIX with keen interest—and not just for the halftime spectacular.
The N.F.L. has determined that the New England Patriots used 11 under-inflated footballs in the A.F.C. championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. A cataclysmic infraction apparently on par with destroying the planet Alderaan if the punditry is to be believed.
Unlike Super Bowls of the recent past, this game has some actual drama and must-see buzz along with some honest-to-goodness good guys and bad guys. In pro-wrestling parlance, the Seattle Seahawks are the babyface and the Patriots are the heel.
I grew up loving sports of all kinds, even the ones with obviously pre-determined outcomes like professional wrestling, and much like the comics and Sci-Fi books and movies I also adored, a game with the hype of a Super Bowl is so much more satisfying when you have someone to root against. A villain. An archvillain, even! The “arch-er”, the better.
This year’s Super Bowl has just such an über-villain. His name is Bill Belichick.
For those of you who aren’t fans of the grid game, let’s just say Coach Belichick appears to relish the role of evil manipulator. His evolution from Jedi, to Sith, to Sith Lord, and finally Emperor has been fascinating to watch.
I’m not alone in recognizing the Star Wars parallel. Back in 2012, years before “Ballgate”, novelist Drew Karpyshyn named Belichick the N.F.L. personality most likely to become a Sith. “The guy is always looking for every advantage; he’s cunning and crafty and amoral.”
Bill Belichick assumed complete control of football operations of the Patriots during the 2000 season and is the winningest coach in team history. The club has earned the ire of almost every other organization in the league for the perceived smugness of Patriots players and the arrogance of its head coach. The man has a reputation for being an epic control freak, and goes out of his way to foster that image, so it’s hard to accept that he wouldn’t know his balls were a skosh under-inflated.
It’s also hard to believe that the same man who paid a half million dollar fine for videotaping New York Jets‘ defensive coaches’ signals during a 2007 game from a sideline location was once a beloved sports figure in the New York / New Jersey area. Belichick was a longtime defensive coach for the Giants, winning two Super Bowls in 1996 and 1990 and moved on to the Jets where in 1999 he was made head coach. In a surprise move that is still an open wound for many fans, Belichick resigned at the very same press conference announcing his ascension to the top job. It took several years for the team to recover with some arguing the Jets have never actually recovered.
Safe to say “belichick” is a four letter word for supporters of the J-E-T-S. Jets! Jets! JETS!
Emperor Belichick and his protégé, Darth Brady, will have one more opportunity to harness the power of the dark side this N.F.L. season as they lead their stormtroopers, um, I mean teammates into battle on February 1st. Let’s hope the Seahawks playbook is subtitled Return of the Jedi and not Revenge of the Sith.
Everyone knows that cheaters never win but the good guys always do. (Stop rolling your eyes. Ya’ gotta believe!)