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Humble pie

How Belichick should've apologized for spy scandal

Posted: Thursday September 13, 2007 9:04PM; Updated: Friday September 14, 2007 12:29AM
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Bill Belichick developed his passion and principles for football from his late father, Steve, who coached at the Naval Academy.
Bill Belichick developed his passion and principles for football from his late father, Steve, who coached at the Naval Academy.

Roger Goodell has acted quickly against the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick in the infamous Spy Case, fining the coach ($500,000) and team ($250,000) on Thursday, while ordering the forfeiture of conditional high draft picks next year.

I'm not a speech writer, but if I had advised him, I would have had him eat the biggest slice of humble pie he's ever eaten. No one wants to hear him minimize the story by accusing another team of any similar subterfuge, or by saying the competitive advantage gained by videotaping other teams' defensive signals is minute, or by having a lawyer craft some legalese mumbo-jumbo to deflect the blame. It's time for accountability, Bill Belichick, the kind of accountability your parents taught you. But you knew that already.

America wants a repentant Belichick, a believably repentant Belichick, not the smug or brazen guy it has seen far too often in his coaching life. He should have looked into his soul and said the right things.

If I were a speech writer, this is what he would have said:

"I accept without protest the penalties Commissioner Goodell has imposed on me today, and I will not challenge them in any way. I appreciate the work the commissioner is doing to keep football the greatest game in this country, and I'm sorry I have dishonored the game the way I have.

"This is not a time to say how much I know about what other teams do to bend the rules by spying, or to say it's wrong to punish me so severely. This is the time for me to take my medicine, admit I was wrong, and apologize to everyone involved. I apologize to the owner of the Patriots, Robert Kraft, who has given me every possible resource I need to win and does not deserve the black eye I have brought to this franchise. I apologize to the players, past and present, who have contributed to the tradition of greatness that has been established here this decade. They have achieved their victories fair and square, and they should not have their triumphs tarnished by the actions of one man.

"I also apologize to the game of football. It's a great game, one I've cherished and studied for 50 years, since my father, a coach at the Naval Academy, took me under his wing and taught me everything about the game. Generations of children have grown up being taught lessons by the game of football, and all the lessons are good ones.

"One of the lessons is that there are no shortcuts to success in football, which is also true in life. By my actions, I violated that basic tenet of the greatest game I know -- the fact that you succeed in football through hard work and dedication. You should not succeed through any illicit means. It pains me to know that youth coaches and high school coaches and professional coaches -- many of whom have written to me or visited our team or held me up as an example of how to coach -- now know that I authorized an underhanded way of trying to compete with the opposition, instead of the fair-and-square path my father raised me to follow.

"Don't go looking for a trail of blame to lay here. I am the one who authorized the videotaping of other teams' defensive coaches, so we could get an edge. Blame me. This is such a competitive game that my competitive side got the better of me. But that is no excuse. One of the things that has made football such a great game is the integrity of competition. I crossed the line, and the consequences are bitter ones. But they are fair.

"Words are hollow at a time like this, but I can assure you that for as long as I work in football I will strive to be an example of the good things this game teaches us every day."