If you’re into Youtube — and who isn’t these days? — there’s a vintage television profile of then-Cleveland Browns coach Bill Belichick posted on the popular site. It’s a window into the past and portends the future.
The video was shot by Cleveland’s NBC affiliate as part of a 1992 season preview. Belichick was going into his second season with the Browns.
Looking back nearly 20 years later, the clip is a riot. Not just because of the cheesy early 90s production values, music and the training camp short-shorts of Belichick and company, but because that the not-so-subtle gist of the story was to humanize Belichick.
It was an attempt to break him out of the machine-like coach-speak mode that he mastered in double-quick time and for which he has since become renowned.
The forced anecdotes, half-smiles and awkward exchanges contained within the snippet indicate that it wasn’t a successful effort. An attempt at damage control that might have done more damage than good.
The video is fascinating because it shows, from day one, that Belichick has always made it hard for himself to be embraced. He doesn’t suffer fools, and it seems that if one views the NFL through his eyes, there’s plenty of fools around the NFL to suffer. The black hat has always fit comfortably on his head.
This is especially true in Indianapolis. The fact that Belichick was participating in his fifth Super Bowl Media Day on the Colts’ home-field for Super Bowl XLVI is salt in the wounds of Indy fans who only experienced the Super Bowl twice themselves — and seem unlikely to enjoy more in the near future.
The Colts would doubtless have appeared in more Super Bowls in the 2000s — if Belichick’s Patriots hadn’t been in the way.
So hated are the Patriots in Indianapolis, and Belichick along with them, that he could have entered Lucas Oil Stadium for Media Day on an apocalyptic black steed to a doom-laden Sergei Prokofiev leitmotif. Or the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back. It would have been devilishly appropriate
Certainly, Belichick did little during Media Day to melt his own permafrost. Questions were taken and answered, but rarely was the two-sentence mark breached. Same old Belichick.
The thing of it is, though, is that if the proper stimulus is given to Belichick, he will open up, if only for a minute. I was armed with a story, one I feared might be apocryphal, that might do the trick.
Several years ago, a parent of an Indiana State recruit was visiting the Terre Haute campus, and I was told a story about Belichick. I was told that Belichick’s reputation as a moody malcontent in Indianapolis was unfair. The parent said that Belichick was more charitable than his image suggested.
I was told that Belichick had donated equipment to Indianapolis Broad Ripple High School, alma mater of former New England linebacker Rosevelt Colvin, to keep its football program afloat. This parent didn’t want to be publicize Belichick’s donation, but was in a position to know.
Indeed, Colvin — now retired — has long been active in helping the financially hamstrung Indianapolis school maintain its athletic programs. He announced this week that he will donate $8,000 to the Broad Ripple athletic program and will have a news conference at his former high school to formally make the donation on Wednesday.
When told the story about Belichick all those years ago, I thought it was interesting, but never thought I’d get the chance to verify it. Until Tuesday.
When I asked Belichick about Colvin, he immediately perked up.
“Rosie’s a great friend. He was a great player with the Patriots and he always represented us well. His wife has a bakery here in town, hopefully I can tap into some of the [food] before [the Super Bowl] is over. It was wonderful to coach him,” Belichick said.
So I had to ask, had Belichick donated any of his own time, money or items to help Colvin’s charitable activities? Did the man who is public enemy No. 1 amongst Colts fans step up and assist one of Indy’s high schools?
“I’ve helped him out with some items, a couple of things,” said Belichick, who seemed pained to admit it. “But that’s really about him. He’s the one who put the time and effort into it. He’s a great guy.”
Belichick went on to explain that he feels a sense of loyalty to those who have helped him and that have respected the game of football along the way during his 36-year journey in professional football.
“I’ve been very fortunate with the opportunities I’ve received through the years. The game has been good to me and my family. I want to try to give that back to anyone I can. I know I can’t give back as much as I’ve been given, but I give as much as I can,” Belichick said.
After that thaw, the ice refroze. For a brief moment, the automaton that we think we know and loathe disappeared. Truth be told, Belichick’s contributions to Colvin’s activities, no matter their extent, is probably more than what some Colts fans have done for their own community. Even if none of us knew about Belichick’s generosity.
The black hat fits him comfortably, but even Belichick has a heart of gold. He’d just prefer that no one knows it.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (812) 231-4272. Please follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.