Bill Belichick, New England Patriots: A Brit's Perspective
First of all, I am English. Now, hang on. Bear with me a moment. Before you cast derision on my right to an opinion on American football, let me assure you I love this game and have followed it religiously (and played it poorly) for many years.
Now that I have established my impeccable credentials, I can come to my point.
I am constantly amazed by America's attitude to what they term as "running up the score". It is a phrase unfamiliar to Brits. The reason seems to be that whilst your average American laments the practice, even to the point of righteous indignation, Brits have no problem at all with the black art of metaphorically kicking a team whilst they are down.
This is a rather surprising state of affairs as, last time I looked, America was a nation that adores winners and has little time for losers. Conversely, my own nation (bless its little heart) is full of very plucky athletes that are not exactly synonymous with the act of winning.
I cannot think of a single sport that is played in Britain where the act of extending a lead is perceived to be ungentlemanly. Even cricket, the very embodiment of fair play, allows a team to mercilessly pile on the misery without sportswriters and the fans of the opposition frothing at the mouth.
Cricket does frequently see the captain of such a side cutting short the batting by declaring the innings, but this is done to enhance his team's chances of victory due to time constraints, not to spare the blushes of the vanquished.
Please don't get me wrong here.
We Brits are not totally heartless, and we are well versed in the practice of withdrawing the best players in schoolboy teams, when leading handily, to limit the humiliation of the opposition.
When it comes to highly-paid professional athletes, however, the gloves come off. It is ludicrous to imagine that Manchester United, for example, would deliberately ease off when leading 7-0 against Hull City. They may make substitutions in order to rest players for tougher tasks ahead, but the concept of easing off the throttle is totally alien in Britain.
Surely such an action deprives the paying audience of seeing 90 minutes of pulsating action. (Yes, I know most Americans do not consider "Soccer" to be pulsating but you need to take a leap of imagination here.)
It has never been explained to me why it is unethical for the New England Patriots to keep trying to score for 60 minutes against the Washington Redskins, a collection of elite athletes paid handsomely (some would say exorbitantly) for their efforts.
As a Miami Dolphins fan, I have little time for Belichick or his team, but surely the American audience would rather see them bring their stuff until the final gun? Would it not be more edifying to see Randy Moss make a spectacular grab and streak down the sideline than a two-yard line-plunge and another 30 seconds off the game clock?
In any case, if I were a Washington Redskins player, I would be insulted by the very notion that Belichick and his boys had decided to withdraw their effort, as though I was a seven-year old in short trousers.
Perhaps I am missing something here.
Maybe your average American is more chivalrous than us ruthless Brits? It could be that the famous American predilection for statistics causes them to bridle at, what is perceived to be, stat padding. Whatever the reasons, it won't stop me from enjoying a good Pats-'Skins matchup. Just don’t expect me to join in the hand wringing when Brady notches one more score.
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