Belichick Ranks with Lit’s Great Plotters

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick

Sports Saturday

There is one game and one game only that football fans are talking about this weekend. Peyton Manning fan though I am, I can’t say it’s Broncos-Chiefs. No, the Patriots-Packers match-up may well be a preview of the Super Bowl given how well both those teams are currently playing.

In addition to featuring the two best teams according to most experts, the game has an archetypal feel, with the best quarterback in the league—Aaron Rodgers—pitted against a team that resembles an infernal machine with Professor Moriarty as the coach. Yes, I have written posts applying both Jean Cocteau’s description of fate and Arthur Conan Doyle’s super villain to Bill Belichick.

Here’s an instance of Belichick’s system at work. Against a very good Indianapolis Colts team, running back Jonas Gray, playing in only his fourth game, ran for 201 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries to set a franchise record. But because he was late to a team meeting the following week, Belichick benched him against a good Lions team. In his place, he played veteran LeGarrette Blount, whom he signed on Thursday, and Blount proceeded to rush for a very respectable 78 yards and two touchdowns against one of the best defenses in football.

In seeing the game as a battle between a supremely gifted athlete and an organization that can crush the life out of virtually any team, I don’t do entire justice to the Packers’ team nor to the gifted individuals on the Patriots’ roster, beginning with Tom Brady. But it is also true that Rodgers can improvise and use his legs while Brady’s genius lies in making Belichick’s system work. Belichick has ways of plugging practically anybody into this system or, to be more accurate, he has an uncanny genius for devising a system that allows the players he has to make the most of their abilities. As if this were not enough, he changes the system week to week depending on whom the Patriots are playing.

Maybe it’s because I have seen Belichick teams beat Peyton Manning so many times that I don’t see Rodgers having much of a chance, even playing at home. Two works that come to mind and reinforce my pessimism are Portrait of a Lady and Liaisons Dangereuses.

Both novels feature very sympathetic young women—Isabel Archer and Madame de Tourvel –who are staked out for destruction by fiendish plotters. Isabel is particularly cocky, thinking that she’s in control of her own destiny, and in this way she resembles Rodgers. She is betrayed by Madame Merle, who tricks her into marrying the loutish Gilbert Osmond. Merle knows just how to play her.

The same is true of Madame de Merteuil in Liaisons Dangereuses. Others are mere putty in her hands and she ruthlessly brings down everyone in the book just because she can. When her co-plotter Valmont, in spite of himself, falls in love with Tourvel, she knows how to defend against this one saving grace and plays on his ego to goad him into betraying his heart. Belichick knows that, to win, you take away the opponent’s greatest strength and force him to beat you in other ways. Like Merteuil, he is ice cold in diagnosing the opposition. He knows just how his victims will act.

Belichick knows well how others think of him. He knows the envy-filled joy that would swell up opposing fans were ever to start losing. At the end of Liaisons Dangereuses, Merteuil is exposed and, when she visits her theater box, finds herself shunned and hissed. In what has to be seen as a case of piling on–a football analogy–author Choderlos de Laclos throws in a case is disfiguring small pox as well. And yet, despite her fall, her critics come across as no better than a cackling mob. Even in defeat, she rises above them in her splendid isolation.

Actually, the only character who bests her is one of those that she destroys. Tourvel falls in love with Valmont and gives up her life for that love. To turn her example into a lesson for Patriot opponents, play your heart out, leaving nothing on the field. When you do so, losing becomes irrelevant.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete