On Thursday night, after watching J.R. Smith lose Game 1 of the NBA Finals for the Cavaliers in one of the biggest sports blunders in history, I decided to hop on over to Patriots.com for a quick football fix in the midst of a basketball-oriented evening.
I came across an article called “Patriots having plenty of fun” by Paul Perillo, written for Patriots Football Weekly, in which New England players respond to criticism by other players who said there is no fun to be had in the Patriots organization. According to the ‘critiques’, Bill Belichick runs such a tight system with his coaches and his players that nobody is ever allowed to actually enjoy themselves.
Lane Johnson of the Eagles is referenced in the article, claiming the team never had any fun even though it has experienced plenty of winning over the years. And then former Patriot Cassius Marsh chimed in, supposedly saying that his time spent in New England caused him to consider quitting football.
Now, I’m no athlete. I haven’t played a team sport since I was in elementary school. I understand that when you’re that age, parents and coaches preach about how the most important thing is to have fun playing the game. That’s all fine and well when you’re a little kid.
But when you’re a professional athlete, isn’t winning the reason you play your sport? Isn’t that more important than just “having fun”? And more importantly than that, isn’t winning fun?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Bill Belichick isn’t about having fun. Not that he doesn’t want his players to enjoy themselves, but Belichick is in the business of winning above anything else. His players don’t come to Gillette Stadium to have fun, they come to work. And working doesn’t mean hanging out, laughing together, exchanging pleasantries and having a grand old time. It means taking this game seriously, working your ass off, and becoming a team that contends for a Super Bowl title every single year.
Last time I checked, Cassius Marsh barely even spent two months in New England. He was acquired via trade in September of last year, then released in November. He was hardly a Patriot long enough to be considered relevant. Maybe that’s why he didn’t “have fun”.
The Patriot players that have actually been here for a little while, and know why Belichick is the way that he is, appreciate what this organization is all about.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower responded to some of the comments: “I mean, it’s not for everybody. It’s definitely harder than most places, but I mean, that’s part of it. A lot of guys know that when they come here. But in the locker room, it’s not Bill’s job to make this fun and this atmosphere fun; it’s the guys around it.”
“Every guy in that locker room, I love like a brother,” Hightower continued. “We have fun, whether it’s out here struggling together, blood, sweat, and tears, or we’re back in the locker room or we’re hanging out outside of football. So there’s a time and place for everything, but we know whenever we walk through the building, it’s time to work.”
Hightower has been in a tightly ran system for years. He spent four years at Alabama, playing under Nick Saban and winning two BCS national championships. He was then drafted by the Patriots in 2012, and has since played in three Super Bowls, winning two of them.
Four years with Nick Saban? Six years and counting with Bill Belichick? That doesn’t sound like a walk in the park. But two national championships and two Super Bowl championships? If that isn’t fun, then I don’t know what is.