By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
BOSTON, Mass. — Will it be “Mona Lisa Vito” or “We’re on to Cincinnati”?
Maybe we get a mix of both. But whatever Bill Belichick does in his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, the session has a chance to rank right up there with the most famous (infamous?) pressers of his tenure as Patriots head coach.
Fair or not, he’s going to face multiple questions about the latest controversy involving the Patriots and cameras, which pretty much immediately launched into another round of cheating allegations from professional opinion-havers around the football world. This time the team has admitted the wrongdoing. The question is the intent of the videographer who inappropriately recorded the Bengals’ sideline last Sunday, right in the press box, in front of Bengals staffers, while wearing Bruins gear.
It could just be a big misunderstanding (silly me thinking this controversy would only last 28 minutes) and an incredible error by the person doing the recording. This sure seems that way. No way Belichick would be so brazen as to order the code red on such blatant behavior. The Patriots head coach has already addressed it with Cincinnati reporters: “It’s not a football issue in anyway shape or form. Zero. It’s part of a TV show. I had nothing to do with this whatsoever.”
But he’s still going to face more questions about it from the local media, and perhaps some national people. This is certainly a day where WHDH reporter Byron Barnett shows up and sits front and center. The team has instituted a “raise your hand” policy with Belichick’s pressers this season, seemingly with an eye toward curbing reporters like Barnett from absolutely peppering Belichick with question after question on uncomfortable topics. You can expect Barnett to get his one question on Wednesday, though. Hell, maybe even Dan Shaughnessy will find it in him to make the trip.
Whether Belichick “owes” anyone an explanation on his side could be debated forever. The big mystery regarding the press conference itself, is how Belichick will respond to the questions.
Ironically, Belichick is “On to Cincinnati” once again this week. So it’s easy to harken back to Oct. 1, 2014, when he said “We’re on to Cincinnati” three answers in a row and uttered “Cincinnati” 12 times. So there’s a chance he stonewalls Spygate II questions, defers to the team statement and his conference call with Bengals media, and gives something along the lines of “I’ve already addressed that.” He’s said several times that he has nothing to do with the video crew that shoots the Patriots’ “Do Your Job” documentaries and that the matter is being handled internally.
But there’s also a chance that he opens up like we’ve rarely seen and starts to fight back against the relentless scrutiny. Perhaps we get something more like his first press conference after the DeflateGate accusations happened, an impromptu Saturday session in which he referenced the “Mona Lisa Vito” character from My Cousin Vinny and talked openly and aggressively about Spygate for the first time.
“I mean, look, that’s a whole other discussion,” Belichick said that day when asked about Spygate. “The guy’s giving signals out in front of 80,000 people, OK? So we filmed him taking signals out in front of 80,000 people, like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too. OK? But forget about that. If we were wrong, then we’ve been disciplined for that.
“Guy’s in front of 80,000 people. Eighty thousand people saw it. Everybody [on the] sideline saw it. Everybody sees our guy in front of 80,000 people. I mean, there he is. So, it was wrong, we were disciplined for it. That’s it. We never did it again. We’re never going to do it again. And anything else that’s close, we’re not going to do either.”
This new controversy could ultimately result in a minor punishment for the team. It already sounds like the NFL is inclined to believe that this was just a misunderstanding and will go relatively easy on the Patriots. But it’s also a surreal conflation of two of the team’s most controversial narratives, and arguably the two most famous press conferences of Belichick’s career.
Perhaps Wednesday will deliver Part III. But anyone who’s seen any movie trilogy knows the third installment is usually the biggest letdown. So we may get another, more stale version of “We’re on to Cincinnati.” Either way, it should be a memorable morning in Foxboro.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.