In a shocking turn of events, Bill Belichick smiled 33—thirty-three!—times on Super Bowl 52 Opening Night.
MINNEAPOLIS — This is, theoretically, Bill Belichick’s hell.
A live press conference from which he cannot escape for an hour. Thousands of sweaty reporters bulling through crowds of other sweaty reporters converging from countless angles at low speeds, each of whom wants to ask him one of five questions that he’s already answered.
It is everything—gawking, mindless drivel—he has largely trained the New England press not to be. This should make him want to roll his eyes and spit. Alas, Belichick has made a living surprising his opponents and contemporaries and on Monday, he surprised at least one reporter in attendance.
By my count, the Patriots head coach genuinely smiled 33 times over the course of the Super Bowl Opening Night media session Monday. He smiled at a question from former Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, he smiled when someone asked what he does for fun (sailing, preparing for grandchildren), and he smiled when someone asked him what the difference between this Super Bowl and the other seven were (“this one is in Minnesota,” he said).
There are some safe bets. Questions about lacrosse and the Naval academy have become commonplace for shaky first-timers. Belichick actually had a thoughtful answer about the team components of squash, which, to the untrained eye seems like an individual game. Though it took three different junior reporters—kids all appearing to be under the age of 12—to make him grin.
Belichick during media day has become an odd attraction. There are people sent here just to elicit a reaction. A professional comedian tried out his bits. Actor and comedian J. B. Smoove chatted him up about the ninth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm (Belichick is not caught up, but surprisingly admitted that in the offseason, he could run through six or seven episodes at a time in one sitting). Someone asked him about Justin Timberlake and the NBC show This Is Us.
It’s hard not to keep staring. By bottling these aspiring comedians and hobbyists with football reporters on deadline looking for tidbits on their Rex Burkhead feature, they have essentially shoved Mentos in a Diet Coke bottle and shaken the contents. And on stage is the most successful head coach in NFL history trying to keep up with the flurry.
In some ways, this was the most relaxed Belichick has appeared all season. It’s easy to forget that the Patriots got here despite trading Jimmy Garoppolo and nearly losing Tom Brady to injury in the AFC title game. There was reported infighting throughout the season that seemed to threaten the power troika atop New England’s dynasty. Then again, maybe he smiled so much Monday because he wasn’t asked about any of that. Just squash, and sailing, and the fate
Milo Ventimiglia’s character on a show he’s probably never seen before.
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NOW ON THE MMQB: Doug Pederson is ready for his Super Bowl spotlight … the evolution of Bill Belichick’s defense by Andy Benoit … Jenny Vrentas on Brandon Graham, the underdog’s underdog.
LATER TODAY: Robert Klemko on Doug Pederson’s hiatus to coach high school football … Roger Goodell meets the press … In Ohio, James Harrison grows up amid controversy.
WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Jimmy Garoppolo will make more than Tom Brady from this Super Bowl … Why Chris Long will steer clear of the White House if the Eagles win … A five-step survival guide for the NFL’s new head coaches.
1. Tom Brady hopes the Boston-area radio personality who insulted his daughter on the air doesn’t get fired.
2. Blake Bortles had wrist surgery heading into an utterly fascinating offseason.
3. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was asked about post-Chip Kelly vindication at least five times in 15 minutes during media day. No link necessary. I witnessed it. It was hilarious.
4. Roger Goodell mulls the catch rule. Truly, the biggest paradox of our time.
5. Doug Pederson is planning on utilizing the full 60 minutes to beat the Patriots. That is a good plan.
8. Nick Foles represents the duality of man. Which of those men will play on Sunday?
9. Brandon Graham puts Eli Manning at No. 4 among NFC East quarterbacks.
10. Patrick Chung disappointed some reporters who traveled a very long way just for him.
Fun fact about the city of Minneapolis, which has been a gracious host to us over the last 24 hours so far: They are home to none other than Lipps Inc., better known as the band who set the world on fire in 1979 with the song Funkytown.
Wana feel insane? Listen to this song on 1.5 speed on Youtube a few times before bed.