By Terry Lyons, Editor in Chief
BOSTON – October 7, 2018 – Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your local bookstore, whether you are UNHINGED or EDUCATED. Just when you thought all you had to FEAR was fear itself, we are thrust back into the drama of Foxboro, once again, as Belichick – The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All-Time lands as #1 on the Amazon sports list, #10 on the New York Times list for non-fiction (overall, not just sports) and #45 on the all-around list of best sellers.
For years – call it nearly four and a half decades, actually – William Stephen Belichick has been roaming the sidelines of football fields from Baltimore to Denver to Cleveland to New York to Foxborough. Why is it that a book dropping now on the life and times of the 66-year old New England Patriots head coach would garner such interest, especially after the subject has been poked and probed before by the likes of the late David Halberstam (The Education of a Coach), Boston media man Michael Holley (via a number of titles) or the recent (2016) Erik Frenz and Mike Mayock try with (Bill Belichick vs. The NFL – The Case for the NFL’s Greatest Coach).
Why – on earth – would we need another, as we all have full knowledge that “The Coach” meets the media and provides insight as though he is sitting for a root canal in the motion picture thriller, Marathon Man? Adding to the conundrum is the fact Belichick chose not to participate in “Belichick – The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All-Time,” and reportedly urged his closest friends and football allies to do the same as ESPN and former New York Daily News sports columnist Ian O’Connor crafted the unauthorized biography.
The answer is that this one is different.
To accomplish the great feat, O’Connor interviewed some 350 Belichickian connections, from those affiliated with Wesleyan (no, not Lin Manuel Miranda or Amby Burfoot), to those connected to Alabama coach Nick Saban (via connections in Cleveland) to countless New England cohorts. O’Connor touches on all the Patriots points of light, like SpyGate, DeflateGate, the Malcolm Butler Incident and Belichick’s relationship with his star QB Tom Brady and team owner Bob Kraft.
“I thought I knew everything there is to know about the brilliant, secretive coach,” wrote Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy of his initial reaction to this book. “The “Hoodie” would have made a model Prisoner of War,” he said. “He gives up nothing. Yet Ian O’Connor cracked the code at Fort Foxborough, producing this compelling portrait of the coach and the man. It’s a “must-read” for football buffs and anyone who appreciates leadership.”
To write such a portrait, O’Connor had to put his hand on a bible at his high school alma mater, St. Cecilia’s in sunny Englewood, New Jersey, right alongside the very field where the great Vince Lombardi took his first assistant coaching job, and proclaim that Belichick was, indeed, the greatest American Football coach in history. In doing so, O’Connor learned a lot about Belichick in his research and writing process.
A few of the gems?
“I expected nothing of Belichick as I started this project which offered him no financial reward and no editorial control,” wrote O’Connor. “I learned he was a game-day reflection, not only of his father, Steve, a lifer scout, but also of a high school coach Al Laramore (Annapolis). I learned that Belichick grew from a disconnected tyrant with the (Cleveland) Browns into a vastly underrated motivator in New England.
“I learned that he blamed himself for the Patriots’ most devastating loss in Super Bowl LII and that he always credited his players – in public and in private – for the team’s most glorious victories.
“In the end I was trying to humanize a person who had no interest in being humanized and it proved to be the most daunting challenge of my 30-plus years in journalism,” wrote O’Connor.
Well, what do I think?
“It’s on to Belichick.”