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Have We Been Pronouncing Bill Belichick's Name Wrong This Whole Time?

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Bill Belichick has been around for a while -- a long while. He's been a high-profile NFL coach since the early '80s, and he's currently in his 18th season in New England, where he's been at the helm for arguably the most successful dynastic run of any team in history.

At this point, we know everything there is to know about the man. Except, apparently, how to say his name.

In a clip from "The Belichick Legacy," which aired on CBS Sports Network, the future Hall of Fame head coach spoke about his father. And you'll notice that when Belichick says his last name, he says it in a way that's not at all the way everyone has pronounced the name for the last 30 or so years.

Yes, that's Steven Nicholas Bull-ICH-ic, and not Steven Nicholas BELL-i-check.

Everything you've ever known in your entire life has been a lie.

OK, maybe not. I do vaguely remember reading in David Halberstam's "The Education Of A Coach" that Belichick's Croatian family name was "Bilicic." And as tended to happened with some foreign names upon arriving in the United States as an immigrant, that name ended up changing. According to CroatianHistory.net, immigration officials asked that Ivan Bilicic change his last name to "White," but he refused. Perhaps "Belichick" was a compromise for the name to be "Americanized."

And while I'm no phonetics expert, the letter "K" at the end of that name would probably influence the way the name is commonly pronounced. Yet for whatever reason, it's always been "Bella-check" instead of "Bella-chick." In any event, apparently both are wrong.

Life is just too confusing sometimes.

Another noteworthy aspect of the clip came when Belichick bragged about how his father owns an NFL record for punt return average.

"He returned one punt in his career, against the New York Giants, 67 yards, a 67-yard average, highest in NFL history," Belichick said with a smile.

Maybe Belichick is right -- he usually is when it comes to history -- but pro-football-reference has Steve Belichick's lone punt return as a 77-yarder instead of a 67-yarder. An old Boston Globe article says the same.

Surely, Steven wouldn't appreciate being short-changed those 10 yards. And Wikipedia (the world's most reliable source of information) says it was a 65-yard return.

So maybe we ought to get to the bottom of this!

Fortunately, the internet is amazing sometimes, and if you look hard enough, you can find the newspaper recap of the game from 1941. Here's what Arthur Daley wrote in The New York Times on Nov. 10, 1941:

"Therein hangs a tale. A few weeks ago Belichick was equipment manager for the Lions. After a few games as a concombatant, Belichick disgustedly told Coach [Bill] Edwards, 'I can do better than most of those guys you've got.' Oddly enough, he can."

Thing is ... Steve Belichick didn't score a punt return touchdown that day. He scored a pair of rushing touchdowns.

The punt return touchdown actually came against the Detroit Lions. Back to the internet! This time, it's PackersHistory.net, which shares the newspaper clip from the Milwaukee Journal:

"Detroit got its consolation point when Steve Belichick, an equipment boy here until two weeks ago, scooped up a punt on his own 20 in the closing minutes and raced 80 yards across the goal."

OK, so the message we're getting from the various sources is this: maybe the process of keeping stats in 1941 was not exactly scientific. A punt return might have been 80 yards, it might have been 65 yards, or it might have been somewhere in between. The folks marking these stats down in pen -- likely with a cigarette between their teeth -- probably didn't think anyone would care much about the yardage on a punt return in a 24-7 football game, especially not 76 years in the future.

But those folks underestimated how stats-obsessed we'd become. But for the sake of being wise, we should probably just defer to Bill Belichick's memory of the play. He's probably seen the film and committed it to memory.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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