BOSTON -- Many of Bill Belichick's meetings with the media this season could not be described as joyous occasions. Such is the case when a team puts forth a 2-10 record.
But on Friday morning, Bill Belichick couldn't hold back his smile when talking to the media in a video conference. Not only did his team win the night before, but he now has a free weekend enjoy the Army-Navy Game at Gillette Stadium.
"Well it's nice. I won't lie. It's nice," Belichick said when asked about being able to take in the game on Saturday without having to worry about a game of his own on Sunday. "It's nice that the schedule fell the way it did. I would say most years it doesn't fall that way. But the fact that it did and coincided with the game being in Foxboro is nice."
Belichick said he hasn't attended an Army-Navy game with that type of freedom since he was in college in the 1970s, as he has held an NFL job every single year since entering the league as an assistant for the Baltimore Colts in 1975. He said that he's attended the game a handful of times over the past five decades, but "always with having to go to a meeting or something like that."
"So this is really a nice luxury for me," Belichick said. "It's been a long time since I've had an opportunity to do this. I'm very much looking forward to it. And I think it'll be a great, classic event for this region. There's really nothing like Army-Navy. You know, I've been to a lot of big games and I've seen a lot of big games, both collegiately and professionally. There aren't many that are this special."
It was quite the answer from Belichick, who generally prefers to say as little as possible in these sessions. But having grown up in Annapolis when his father was a football coach and scout at the Naval Academy, this game and moment clearly means a lot to him.
And as it turned out, that first mini-speech was just the lead-in to the much longer answer when Belichick was asked in a follow-up what first-time attendees of the Army-Navy Game should look for:
Well, not to get overly dramatic, but look, when you go to one of the military academies, you voluntarily agree and sign up defend our country at all costs, including your life. And that's a voluntary decision, and a very important one. So ultimately, these are the men and women that are going to lead our country in the coming years and decades. So the March On for the Corps Cadets and the Midshipmen is an impressive thing.
You look down and you see 4,000 men and women who are training to be our country's leaders and our country's defenders in the future, and it's a pretty impressive moment to recognize all those kids as they're going through the process and who they're going to be and what's going to come out of there and the training that they're going through. It makes you very proud to see that.
But the March On starts about three hours before the game, so I would recommend that for sure.
And again, when you voluntarily take the oath to go to the Naval Academy or to go to West Point, you're not thinking about your future as an NFL player or whatever. You're thinking about your career as a military officer, and fighting for and defending our country. Football is part of it, but there's a bigger part of it for them. Football is a game, but they'll lay it all on the line, as they should, and as they will, and as they will in future years of combat and engagement.
I think that's what you're seeing, and the intensity of the game and how much it means to both academies. It's a lot. It's really a lot. It's a game that'll be followed around the world. Every Army and Navy officer that's stationed, wherever they're stationed, will be watching or listening to the game or following the game. And there will probably be some wagers and so forth on it in all points around the world. It's a very intently viewed, watched and recognized, and every American has probably some connection to Army or Navy, through some family member or friend or whatever that served in one of those two branches or their associated ones, like the Marine Corps and so forth. And so it's, sometimes you have a regional game that you don't necessarily pick a side in. But I've learned through the years that everybody has a stake in Army or Navy, one way or the other. And so it's a national game that will be followed worldwide. And there'll be a lot riding on it.
While that was quite the answer -- more than three and a half minutes' worth -- it wasn't the last time Belichick was asked about the game in this session.
"It's a very unique opportunity that, as you said, is really a full-circle [moment]," Belichick said. "And I have a great appreciation for the Naval Academy, a great appreciation for this game. And it's a thrill for me that it's taking place in our stadium. And I look forward to the the people I'm going to see, the classic event that it is -- not just the game, but everything that leads up to it, starting with some events today and tonight and hopefully culminate in a Navy win."
With that, Belichick smiled ear-to-ear before continuing on with his normal press conference. He's long been a master of hiding his own thoughts and emotions when speaking publicly, but clearly, this weekend marks a very special occasion.
for more features.