Anthologist and author Terri Guillemets once wrote, “Every son quotes his father, in words and in deeds.” Sometimes, it is done verbally. Other times, it is done through actions. However, there are times when that connection between father and son becomes evident simply by example.
As the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles get set to compete in Super Bowl LII on Sunday, we were all reminded of that inherent, emotional bond between father and son. We were reminded of it by the way a man wore his hat.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known for his ‘unique’ fashion sense. Some have grown to love it. Most others have used it as a fashionable punchline. Regardless of one’s opinion, almost everyone can agree that it’s a style all his own. After all, no one but Belichick could make the hooded sweatshirt, often times having the sleeves cut off, become such coveted regional couture.
However, Monday was anything but average in Belichick’s sartorial history. Upon his arrival in Minneapolis, Belichick was seen sporting a black fedora hat as he disembarked from the Patriots team airplane. It was a ‘classic’ look, but it was not exactly ‘classic Belichick.’
Upon seeing New England’s head coach looking uncharacteristically dapper, the reaction of fans and media alike was instant. It became the subject of speculation, some praise and most of all a few laughs (Even I could not resist..)
‘Don Belichick’ arrives in Minnesota ready for work! “It’s not personal…it’s strictly business” #SBLII #NotDone @iglen31 @TMurph207 @ChrisThehood420 @weplayfortitles @SteveB7SFG pic.twitter.com/8J6oR1FTio
— Mike D'Abate (@mdabateFPC) January 29, 2018
Despite the hoopla, it turns out that Coach Belichick had one of the best and most sincere reasons anybody could have for wearing a garment.
A Father’s Presence
During Super Bowl LII’s Opening Night media festivities, Belichick revealed the real reason behind his choice of headgear to Willie McGinest of the NFL Network, as well as Dave Portnoy of Barstool Sports.
“That was my dad’s hat so I thought I’d just toss that one on today,” Belichick said. “I felt good about wearing it. Minnesota is a good place to have a hat, so it did the trick.”
Unashamedly, I will admit that this brought a tear to my eye. Was it because I am a Patriots fan? Did I simply admire Coach Belichick’s response? Could it be because I am an Italian-American and admired his vintage fashion sense? While all of those might be true, none were the reason why this resonated with me.
Quite simply, it was because I understood.
It has been nearly nine years since my own father’s passing. While I feel his presence with me every day, there is something to be said for holding on to a memory, or in this case, memento. While I am fortunate to have saved several of his personal items, I do have a favorite. For me, there is something special about wearing my father’s watch. While it is a very nice timepiece, it was not overly flashy or expensive. Yet, I never miss the opportunity to wear it on special occasions, or in times of need. Simply put, I wear it anytime I need to have a piece of my father with me.
Anyone that knows me can tell you that time management is not one of my strongest attributes. I have become better, but there is still a long way to go. My father, on the other hand, was a great time manager. He worked tirelessly to provide a great life for my mom, my family and especially me. It often involved working long hours. Yet, he always found a way to make time for those he loved, and that which he knew to be most important. I believe that is the reason why I find it comforting to wear his watch. I guess I’m always hoping that some of his time management skills will rub off on me. It’s also a way for him to always be with me, in some physical form.
A Father’s Legacy
For Belichick, his father’s hat has certainly garnered reactions from all over New England, including his team. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady loved the coach’s fashion choice.
“He stepped his game up a lot, said Brady. “I thought it was a good look.”
However, Belichick’s reason for wearing the hat probably has little to do with fashion.
While Belichick is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in sports history, he often credits his father’s influence as a major reason for his success. In a 2017, interview, Belichick had this to say about his late father, Steve, a long-time assistant coach for the United States Naval Academy football team:
“That’s who I learned from…Working hard, doing your job, paying attention to details, treating the players as fairly and honestly as you can treat them. If it’s good, it’s good, if it’s bad, it’s bad. Just being honest with them. I would say all of those things I got from a lot of coaches, but I certainly got it from him.”
The last Super Bowl memory he had with his father came in 2005. As father and son stood together on the sidelines, they were doused with Gatorade after the Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, FL. Steve passed away the following November at age 86. The Patriots will be playing the Eagles once again on Sunday. Joining Belichick on the sidelines this time will be his sons Stephen and Brian, both assistants on the Patriots coaching staff.
As is usual for Super Bowl Sunday, sports will once again unite many fathers and sons. Some will share the experience of watching the Super Bowl together. Some may watch separately but share a post-game phone call, text message or email. There will also be those that watch while missing the presence of the other.
For those fortunate enough to know that unspoken bond between father and son, words will not be needed. In most cases, neither will actions. It will be something they feel, no matter how near or far they may be from one another.
When asked why he chose to wear the hat in this moment (besides Minnesota’s cold climate,) Belichick provided his answer.
“I just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.
As Belichick wore his father’s hat on Monday, I will be wearing my father’s watch on Sunday. Is it to bring my team luck? No. It’s my way of having him there with me. Like Coach Belichick said, I just think it’s the right thing to do.
It’s a ‘father-son’ thing, Coach.
I understand completely.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the AFC East. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC.