I call him “The ‘Shroom,” short for mushroom.
There he stands on the sidelines in his ugly gray sweatshirt, a sour expression on his face. Short, dumpy, colorless, like a moldy, noxious toadstool.
So it was with great delight that I watched Bill Belichik and his New England Patriots get run over by the New York Giants in this year’s Super Bowl.
It seems like a lot of people have found reasons not to like Belichik, from his wallpaper paste personality to his questionable on-field tactics (i.e. allegedly cheating by stealing an opponent’s signals with a video camera).
Cleveland Browns fans like me have additional cause for rooting against this supposed genius of the gridiron.
He wasn’t a genius when he was calling the plays for the Browns. To this day, fans cringe as they remember his flavorless offense that specialized in running the lightweight Eric Metcalf up the middle on third-and-long situations.
Even when they won, it was boring.
I had more fun watching the freewheeling Kardiac Kids teams lose than suffering through a Belichik win.
His mumbling press conferences made root canal work sound like a hoot in comparison.
He allowed the popular quarterback Bernie Kosar to be chased and mauled by pass rushers like a chicken at Colonel Sander’s family reunion.
They often clashed about the play-calling. Kosar’s last throw for the Browns was a touchdown on a play he drew up in the dirt in defiance of the coach’s call.
A few days later Belichik colluded with owner Art Modell to unceremoniously cut Kosar, complaining of his “diminished skills,” as if they had nothing to do with squandering this talent who brought them closer to a Super Bowl berth than any other QB.
Despite everything Belichik did to bleed away the city’s enthusiasm for this team, the brown and orange continued to run in our veins, only a bit more sluggishly.
Then came the ultimate crime, when Modell stole away the team after promising never to do so, and his faithful toady Bill slinked away to Baltimore with him.
Belichik learned that a pat on the back and an expression of confidence from Modell often precedes the falling of the guillotine blade, and he was soon gone.
Modell went on to win a Super Bowl with the Ravens, while the Browns, restored to a city starved for football, flopped around like a Lake Erie carp.
And somehow Belichik remade himself as the architect of a dynasty, while remaining the same morose technocrat he had always been.
This wasn’t the granite stoicism of a Tom Landry, something you could respect and admire.
You just couldn’t like the guy. But his teams kept on winning.
Until now. Somewhere, somehow, the sports gods decided that the little Giants were going to have their day and clobber the big, bad Patriots.
And America smiled.
The Miami Dolphins’ Don Shula, a northeastern Ohio native and the epitome of class, remains the only unbeaten coach.
The Giants-Pats game demonstrated that the greatest quarterback in the world is no good if he is running for his life, a lesson Belichik should have learned way back in Cleveland.
It showed that the guys in the trenches, in this case the offensive linemen, who never get the publicity and the lucrative endorsements, are the real backbone of any effort.
Belichik couldn’t even wait for the clock to tick down before retreating to the locker room to pout.
In his postgame interview, he was his usual sullen self, offering a few begrudging grunts and then sulking off to a dark closet somewhere.
He probably wouldn’t have betrayed any more emotion had they won.
For once, a little bit of heart and feeling, exemplified by Eli Manning’s big brother Peyton cheering him, triumphed over the colder, crueler machinations that usually prevail.
After all, Bill, it’s entertainment. Smile once in a while.
John Matuszak is managing editor and eastside editor for the Columbus Messenger.