ATLANTA – The comic and actor J.B. Smoove was standing in front of Bill Belichick at Super Bowl Opening Night here on Monday, participating in what has become a tradition of sorts – trying to draw the famously stern New England Patriots coach into some bit of awkward and potentially funny viral moment.
Belichick, as with all members of the Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, was mandated by the NFL to answer any and all questions thrown at him for an hour during this session at State Farm Arena.
Through the years that has moved beyond sports writers and broadcasters asking about the game and become the purview of jokesters, hucksters, comics, entertainment shows, puppets, actors dressed in superhero costumes and other absurdities.
One time a woman from a Mexican television station wore a wedding dress and asked Tom Brady to marry her. He declined.
It’s all good. The reason the Super Bowl is so popular is because it appeals to nearly everyone, and promoting the game far from sports shows and websites is part of the deal. Sometimes the jokes are even funny.
Often they center on Belichick. The 66-year-old curmudgeon has little patience for bad questions at even regular news conferences. His dry wit and timing can cut reporters in half. As such, he is liable to respond in an unpredictable way to some poking. And so they poke, like he’s a bear at the zoo. If it works, they get promoted by him.
And in turn, Belichick does his grandfatherly best to handle the situation with as much patience as he can muster.
In this case, Smoove was going for some joke involving Belichick using a fake name when checking into Super Bowl hotels.
“Isn’t it true you use the name ‘Samuel Adams?’ ” Smoove asked.
“That’s not true,” Belichick responded, not playing along.
“But if it was true … ” Smoove continued.
“It’s not true,” Belichick said, cutting him off.
The joke appeared to be lost. Smoove said something but Belichick couldn’t hear him and had turned his attention to someone else. As Smoove moved on to other player podiums, Belichick’s longtime girlfriend, Linda Holliday, who was sitting nearby, walked up and whispered to the coach that Smoove was on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Belichick just nodded.
He was onto the next question.
And there would always be a next question.
The Super Bowl is about entertainment and there may be nothing more entertaining than watching Belichick in the middle of this swirl. It’s a strange scene, like a pack of class clowns trying to bully the square kid. Yet Belichick does his best to deflect or at least try to act like he is in on it and isn’t bothered.
When he can, Belichick tries to ignore questioners who appear to be less than serious, but they are usually the most persistent. When he gets asked about the game, he breaks into a football filibuster. He gets excited when someone asks about, say, the development of Jared Goff’s passing on intermediate routes. At one point he discussed a joint practice the Patriots held with the Chicago Bears a couple years ago.
If nothing else, it kills the clock.
“Coach, when was the last time you laughed,” one guy asked.
Belichick just offered a weak smile.
“Coach, Julian Edelman wrote a children’s book, do you know the character of that book?”
“I’ve got to read that book,” Belichick deadpanned.
“Coach, what are the chances you are going to get an Instagram account?”
“Less than zero percent,” Belichick said.
On and on it goes. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be witty or fun; it appears he isn’t sure how to answer. He’s a grandfather obsessed with coaching football and must know that people here are trying to embarrass him for their professional gain, but being too standoffish gives them what they covet.
So when in doubt, he goes with either with a, “Yeah, I don’t know” or a “Yeah, I’ll just worry about what our team has to do.”
It’s an absurd scene. Soon Guillermo from “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” was handing him a blanket with the comic’s face on it.
“I made it for [you] so [you] can always remember me,” Guillermo said.
“I’m going to wear it someday, I promise,” Belichick said. “I’ll send you a picture on SnapFace.”
— C. Contreras Legaspi (@CCLegaspi) January 29, 2019
Then one of the entertainment shows was jamming a football helmet at Belichick and demanding him to pull a card with a question printed on it out so he could take a “quiz.”
Belichick didn’t want to do it but eventually relented. He scanned the first card, which read, “Can you name any of the Oscar nominated movies?”
“No,” Belichick said, throwing the card back. It fluttered to the floor.
They demanded he answer another.
“Who is Adam Levine married to?” Belichick read.
He flipped that one aside without comment and moved on. This was apparently television gold. The host was pleased.
Up next, a children’s game show that wanted Belichick to participate in a ring toss where he’d throw them at a kid who was up on someone’s shoulders.
“Nah,” Belichick said, “I’m good.”
The game show left defeated.
A guy from a fatherhood website asked what advice Belichick would give young fathers.
“Yeah, I don’t know.”
Next a guy claiming to be a standup comic arrived. He isn’t very famous because he had to introduce himself as a standup comic.
“Give me advice on how to make you smile and make you laugh,” he asked.
“I’ve smiled 20 times today,” Belihcick said, defending himself as lacking in personality.
The comic was undeterred.
“Is there one question today you could say, beside this question, that is the dumbest question you heard today?” he asked.
“No, they are all good questions,” Belichick smiled.
“One more question, I am seriously out of shape,” the comedian continued. “What can I do to look like Tom Brady in a month?”
“Yeah, I don’t know.”
Belichick then went back to trying to find someone who might ask about football. He happily waxed on about Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and his defensive philosophies. He recalled some of his days as an assistant coach. Then he talked about a comparison between Aaron Donald and Lawrence Taylor (he preferred Taylor).
Belichick said he takes media night as just one part of the job, basically you figure out how to survive and advance.
“The ring toss?” Belichick asked. “I just go onto the next question. It is what it is. It’s media day or media night or whatever it is called.”
He shrugged. Every year he comes back and every year they come at him more and more and more. He’s the prized comic kill of the night.
Soon Guillermo was even back for a second chance. He wanted to tell Belichick a joke. Belichick agreed.
“What did the wide receiver tell the football?” Guillermo asked.
Belichick didn’t flinch.
“I’ll catch you later,” Guillermo said.
“That’s a good one to end on,” he said.
With that he got up and left the podium with Holliday. Opening night was over.
Bill Belichick was onto another Super Bowl.
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