Kevin Love opens up on The Players Tribune, a Derek Jeter project that is working well

 

You’ve read some stinging criticisms of Derek Jeter in this space from time to time, all of them dealing with his disconnect when it comes to Miami Marlins fans being fed up with the team’s constant teardowns.

I’ll give Jeter credit, however, for recognizing that athletes often have a deeper story to tell but don’t really trust anyone else in the telling of it.

FILE – In this Jan. 8, 2018, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love watches from the bench in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis. Love disclosed in an essay for the Players’ Tribune on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, that he suffered a panic attack on Nov. 5 in a home game against the Atlanta Hawks. He was briefly hospitalized at the Cleveland Clinic and the episode left him shaken. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

We’re talking about The Players’ Tribune, a website founded by Jeter in 2014 and expanded since then with videos and podcasts to augment the written content provided by sports celebrities.

The latest buzz created by this site is an essay written by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love. He reveals that he had a panic attack during a game in November but at first wanted to keep that information from teammates for fear that they would consider him weak.

“Everyone is Going Through Something” is the title of the essay, and in it Love writes “No matter what our circumstances, we’re all carrying around things that hurt — and they can hurt us if we keep them buried inside.”

Would a player feel comfortable talking about private reflections and personal issues with a member of the traditional sports media?

Some have, like Ricky Williams, and with full knowledge that they might be misconstrued or ridiculed or marginalized. Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan took all of those risks last month in an interview with the Toronto Star about his ongoing problems with depression.

For most, though, it figures that truly opening up to a reporter in the locker room is way outside the comfort zone.

If you only see that reporter ever now and again, how do you make a connection that is solid and believable? And if that reporter covers the team every day and strikes up something like a friendship with a player there, sooner or later he or she will wind up writing something that offends the athlete because it points out an error made to lose a ballgame or is perceived to be taking the wrong side in a contract negotiation with the team.

Honestly, if I had the blessing of athletic skills worthy of millions of dollars on the open market, it might just be easier to keep spouting clichés in interview settings. That’s pretty much what Jeter did in the high-profile position of New York Yankees captain. He made no enemies that way and he tried, other than what happened on the field, to make no news.

Are these Players’ Tribune essays ghost-written? Surely, in some cases, they are crafted and edited and packaged by people who are writers by profession. Since the athletes approve every presentation before it is published, however, this shouldn’t bother anybody all that much. If it’s a genuine expression of their feelings on a particular matter, they are saying what they want to say.

Not journalism in its strictest sense. More like journal writing, and then passing that journal around the room for anyone who is interested to read.

Jeter is a smart guy to figure all this out. We all need to know each other a little better, and any forum that makes that possible is a benefit.

[Jim Kelly astonished a Boca Raton crowd with his courageous story]

[Marlins’ inaugural spring training 25 years ago was a Space Coast blast]

[Wade’s return strikes every emotional touchstone for Heat fans]

What Jim Kelly told an astonished crowd in Boca Raton three years ago still applies in facing down cancer

  Three years ago this month Jim Kelly gave a speech at an Inspiration Breakfast benefiting the YMCA of South Palm Beach County.
  A large crowd was on hand to hear him at the corporate headquarters of Office Depot in Boca Raton. Not just because Kelly is a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, inducted in his first year of eligibility back in 2002. Not just because he starred at the University of Miami during Howard Schnellenberger’s foundational work there, either.
BLOOMINGTON, MN – NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly does a show on Super Bowl LII Radio Row at the Mall of America on February 1, 2018. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

What drives people to Kelly’s side more quickly than any of that is his very public battle with oral cancer and the bold and hopeful attitude he brings to the mission.

  Cancer touches every family at some point or another. No, “touches” is the wrong word. Cancer pulverizes.
  So when Kelly gave that speech here in 2015, one like so many others he has given nationwide, it was to build as much immunity as possible against the despair that is this killer’s specialty. He spoke of the strength he derived from all the encouraging cards and promised prayers he had received. He spoke of faith as the armor to be worn in this personal struggle and any other.
  And now, in a statement released on Thursday, Kelly is announcing that his cancer, beaten back for a time by extensive surgery and chemotherapy and radiation treatment, has returned.
  It’s not an unusual story in terms of recurrence and the need to ramp up for another scary wave of certain punishment with uncertain results, but fortunately Kelly is an unusual man, and his family is every bit as impressive. No doubt, in time, they will be back before another large group, summoning courage from all who are there and inspiring all to stay “Kelly Tough.”
  Until then, the best I can do is return to my column from that Boca Raton appearance three years back. There is inspiration here, and it comes with no expiration date.
(Here follows a column from the Palm Beach Post on March 25, 2015)
by Dave George
Palm Beach Post Columnist
 It pays to be sitting down when Jim Kelly runs through the menu of surgical procedures he has gone through, and much of it in the last few years since cancer was discovered in his upper jaw.
“In two years’ time, I had a plate and six screws put in my neck, and then six months before that I had two plates and 10 screws in my back,” Kelly said Tuesday at the YMCA of South Palm Beach County’s Inspiration Breakfast. “I had double hernia surgery. I had six root canals. I was diagnosed with cancer and I had my jaw removed.”
There were gasps in the audience at the Office Depot corporate headquarters as the former University of Miami and Buffalo Bills quarterback rattled through that daunting list as rapidly as if he were calling out plays in the huddle.
Then came the clincher. Just a few months ago, with the gravest danger behind him and MRI cancer scans becoming less frequent, Kelly, 55, learned for the first time that doctors had given him less than a 10 percent chance to survive in the midst of his most aggressive cancer treatments.
Why did it take so long for him to hear that? Because his wife and daughters and friends wanted to keep Kelly’s psyche safe while his body was under attack.
“People that walked into my hospital room, even though I was having some of the worst days of my life, for those minutes and hours that those people were in my room, they made a difference,” Kelly said. “Hey, I grew up in a family of six boys. I had physical toughness. Where I needed it was the mental toughness. I needed people to tell me and show me with their smiles that I could do it, and don’t ever give up.”
Not a bad lesson to all of us who struggle with knowing what to do or say when someone close is critically ill. Keep the energy positive. Recycle a few giggles from sillier times. They might still have a little charge left in them.
Imagine, for instance, how often Kelly has heard about his great Bills teams losing four consecutive Super Bowls. Howard Schnellenberger, his old Hurricanes coach, even spent a few light minutes on that topic Tuesday while inviting Kelly up to the stage.
That didn’t even faze Kelly, who used a few squirts of mouth spray before his speech and explained that it’s not because of bad breath. Truth is, he no longer is able to produce saliva.
Can’t believe how good he looks, trim but not gaunt. Can’t believe he worries about lisping ever so slightly as a result of the prosthetic jaw and teeth that followed surgery. Nobody at the YMCA event noticed that. They were too busy coming up to Kelly to tell survival stories of their own and to thank him for the inspiration.
“So good to see you,” many of them said.
“Better to be seen than viewed,” Kelly regularly shoots back.
There are many appearances like this for Kelly, who still lives in Buffalo and in October will speak before a group in Rochester that provides services for the mentally ill. As always, his charitable activities center around the Hunter’s Hope Foundation, established to aid research on Krabbe Disease, the genetic disorder that ended the life of Kelly’s son, Hunter, in 2005 at the age of 8.
At Kelly’s induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, he dedicated his speech to Hunter, an exceedingly brave little boy.
To spend much time with Kelly, however, is to laugh a lot, and eventually to talk about the Bills, who are trying to rev it all up again under new coach Rex Ryan.
“I love it,” Kelly said in the VIP reception room after posing for photos with a long line of YMCA donors. “The biggest question is whether it’s going to be EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel, but I just hope that one of the quarterbacks steps up because that’s all we need.”
Just a whiff of hope and the tank is filled once more.

The Marlins’ inaugural spring training 25 years ago was a Space Coast blast

Thought it might be fun, as part of the franchise’s 25th anniversary celebration, to look back at the Marlins’ inaugural spring training in 1993.

For openers, they were the Florida Marlins back then, owned by Wayne Huizenga, who made many of his millions renting videotape cassettes of Hollywood movies. Yes, it really was a long time ago.

Jeff Conine honored at Marlins 2008 opener. Staff photo by Allen EyestoneThe Palm Beach Post.

The first training facility was near Melbourne on Florida’s Space Coast. They call the community Viera these days but back then it was just a flat expanse of land along I-95 where developers were just kicking off plans to build a huge residential community with plenty of retail and schools and a Brevard County  governmental complex.

As it was, the practice fields were barely ready for use and the more general landscaping of the property and painting of the clubhouse were still being done when the players headed out for the opening workout. Manager Rene Lachemann warned against anybody complaining too much about the conditions, bad hops and such.

“Some of the (groundskeeping) guys here are on work release,” he said. “You know what that means. They’re from the joint. Be careful what you say.”

Lachemann, always a funny guy, had already been fired twice as manager of the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers. He worked six years as Tony La Russa’s third-base coach in Oakland before former  Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski hired him to lead Miami’s expansion team.

Today Lachemann is out of the game but it took a while. He retired in 2016 after 53 consecutive seasons in a professional baseball uniform. Dombrowski remains busy as president of baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox.

Back, though, to the spring of 1993 and a detail that most Marlins fans have forgotten. Space Coast Stadium wasn’t available for the first exhibition season. In fact, there wasn’t even a groundbreaking for the stadium’s construction until the Marlins had left Melbourne to begin the regular season.

Consequently, the first-even Marlins spring game and all other 1993 home exhibition games were played 11 miles south on I-95 at an old facility called Cocoa Expo Stadium.

The Houston Astros used that place for 21 years and moved on, feeling cramped and ready for more modern accomodations in Kissimmee, but the Marlins did their best to spruce things up for their opening exhibition game in Cocoa on Friday, March 5, 1993.

Huizenga chartered a Boeing 727 to fly 150 VIP’s up from South Florida. Parachutists floated into the stadium pregame. There were fireworks in a sunlit sky and groundskeepers in tuxedos and all kinds of circus-style extras, like a fire-eating performer and live alligators on display.

As for the baseball, as you would expect, Jeff Conine hit a two-run homer for the Marlins, who beat Houston 12-8. As you might not expect, a sellout crowd of 6,696 was there to cheer and stomp and clap for practically everything that happened.

The next day a greater sense of reality set in as the Marlins climbed on a couple of buses for what should have been a four-hour ride to Homestead and a game with the Cleveland Indians. It took a little longer because one of the buses blew a tire soon after leaving Melbourne.

It took a sense of humor to get by in those early days, and in many cases with the rebuilding Marlins, now training in a first-class facility at Jupiter’s Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, it still does.

[Wade’s return touches every emotional touchstone for Heat fans]

[Where was Derek Jeter when the Marlins were born?]

[There was a time, gulp, when the Heat played in the Western Conference]

A Honda Classic streetcar named Kizzire

OK, I know you’ve been dying to know my pick to win the Honda Classic, so here goes.

Patton Kizzire.

Sure, he may not be the biggest name in the 144-man field. It’s possible you haven’t even

HONOLULU, HI – Patton Kizzire plays his shot from the 17th tee during the final round of the Sony Open In Hawaii at Waialae Country Club on January 14, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

heard of him, but really, were Mark Wilson, Michael Thompson and Russell Henley high on your list before they won this tournament?

Kizzire, for openers, is the only two-time winner at this early point of the PGA Tour’s 2017-18 wraparound season. He’s got four top-10 finishes in nine starts and leads the money list with $2.9 million already in the bank.

Even better, the 6-foot-5 graduate of the Web.com Tour showed the kind of toughness it takes to excel on PGA National’s Champion course when he outlasted Rickie Fowler by one stroke to win the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Mexico in November.

Because of rain, there were 36 holes to play on Sunday and Kizzire closed with rounds of 66 and 67. Fowler, the defending Honda champion and the No. 7 player in the Official World Golf Rankings, finished 67-67 and found it wasn’t enough.

Kizzire also won a playoff with James Hahn at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

As for Kizzire’s Honda history, has tied for 26th and tied for 66th, which may not sound like much but there are a lot of missed cuts in this tournament by much more accomplished players. Kizzire shot a six-under 64 in the second round here in 2016. He can go low and he can hang tough. Eight consecutive cuts made is enough to prove that.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, but just in case, is there anybody out there who can show me out to delete a blog?

[Wade’s return strikes every emotional touchstone for Heat fans]

[Where was Jeter 25 years ago when his new Marlins team was born?]

[There was a time, gulp, when the Heat played in Western Conference]

 

Dwyane Wade’s return strikes every emotional touchstone for Heat fans

Group hug, everybody.

Short of winning another NBA title, Thursday’s wholly unexpected trade bringing Dwyane Wade back to Miami is the greatest emotional touchstone this franchise could strike for its fans.

Think of all you get here.

  • The most decorated player in Heat history, seemingly lost forever in the foul tide of free agency, is returning to AmericanAirlines Arena for what certainly will be the last stop of his NBA career.
  • Wade no longer is a teammate of LeBron James, a temporary arrangement that unsettled stomachs around here much worse than the side of D-Wade in a Chicago uniform.
  • The wall that existed between Wade and Heat godfather Pat Riley has been torn down and a beautiful garden of memories can grow again where it once stood.

That’s a whole lot of payoff for one deal involving a 36-year-old guard who started just three games for Cleveland this year, but Wade has never been about the numbers alone.

Heat president Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade. (Miami Herald file photo)

He’s a symbol of so many good things for Miami, and that predates The Big Three phenomenon.

What happens now for the Heat of 2018 is less glorious. With Wade they will find a way into the playoffs and find their way out pretty quickly. It would have been the same, to be honest, without him.

How much fun will it be, however, to break out those old No. 3 jerseys from the back of the closet, the ones with mustard stains from that concession-stand hot dog wolfed down before Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals, the night that Wade scored 42 points to start Miami toward its first title, as well as tear stains from July of 2016, when he signed with the Bulls feeling unappreciated by Riley?

The only thing left to hope for is a first-round playoff pairing with Cleveland.

Dwyane and LeBron are still best buddies. In fact, they both reportedly were consulted on Thursday’s trade, a chance to get Wade the kind of playing time that was being denied him while a Cav. Maybe there’s even a chance to like LeBron a little bit again if that’s true, but only after the hoped-for opportunity to boo him and cheer Wade at equally ridiculous decibel levels in the crucible of the postseason.

As for Erik Spoelstra, the former assistant coach who worked directly with Wade on his jump shooting skills when both were kids, this is the end of wondering who will take the last shot in Miami’s close games. Wade does that. For good or for bad, and remember that this season Wade is nearly 90 points shy of his career-best .545 shooting percentage, closing is what he was born to do.

What is the best that could come of this?

Well, in Wade’s rookie season he led a 42-40 Heat team to the second round of the playoffs, and that team had one fewer All-Star than this one does in Goran Dragic.

I’m not counting on anything like that, nor is it logical to expect that anyone in Cleveland is feeling particularly wounded by Wade’s departure. The Cavs will go on without him, and they’ll be better equipped to win a title following Thursday trades that did not involve Wade at all.

For now, let’s just say that the best thing that could come out of this reunion has already happened, and in an instant. It’s the burst of enthusiasm it already has sent through Miami’s fan base, and the sheer joy that will come with seeing Wade back in the Heat lineup Friday night at the arena.

It’s the perfect salve for sore attitudes during a five-game losing streak, and the ultimate answer to why anyone should be investing additional energy in a team that is not constructed to do much damage this spring. For the alternative emotion, imagine if the addition of Luke Babbitt had been Thursday’s only Heat transaction.

Getting Tim Hardaway at the trade deadline in 1996 was a bigger deal for Riley, but this transaction is a better one for the overall psyche of the franchise.

Miami-Wade County has its mayor back, and now, finally, he is unanimously proclaimed as mayor-for-life.

http://heatzone.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2016/07/06/dwyane-wades-top-five-miami-heat-highlights/

 

http://heatzone.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2016/07/07/15181/

 

http://heatzone.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2016/07/07/dwyane-wade-by-the-numbers/

 

http://heatzone.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2016/07/07/dwyane-wade-miami-heat-not-the-only-messy-breakup-in-south-florida-sports-history/

 

http://heatzone.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2016/07/16/pat-riley-says-dwyane-wade-exit-was-his-fault/

 

[Where was Derek Jeter 25 years ago when his Marlins franchise was born?]

[There was a time, gulp, when the Heat played in the Western Conference]

[Please, NFL, takes us back to the days when a catch was a catch]

 

Where was Derek Jeter 25 years ago when his new Marlins team was born?

 

The Miami Marlins are making a big PR effort during their current teardown mode to celebrate the franchise’s 25th year with a special teal logo and with the promise of $4 seats and throwback uniforms during a special June 8-10 series against the San Diego Padres.

So what was Derek Jeter doing 25 years ago, and how strange would it have been to imagine him running the Marlins’ show in 2018?

Miami Marlins owner Derek Jeter leaves Major League Baseball owners meetings at the Four Seasons Hotel, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Turns out The Captain was 19 years old and playing in North Carolina with the Greensboro Hornets of the Class-A South Atlantic League. Gary Denbo was his manager there, just as was when Jeter broke into pro ball with the Yankee’s Gulf Coast League rookie team in Tampa.

The Marlins wouldn’t have been on Jeter’s mind back then. He only had eyes for Yankee Stadium and, as everybody knew, he would make it soon enough. Five times he won World Series titles with the Yankees and once, in 2000, he was the World Series MVP.

Crazy to think that his first try as a baseball executive would come with the Marlins, but the old ties are still strong. When Jeter traded away Giancarlo Stanton, Miami’s homegrown star and the biggest slugger in the majors, it was to the Yankees.

Denbo is back in the picture, too, as Jeter’s Director of Player Development and Scouting in Miami.

All those nostalgic connections to the old Marlins, 25 years in the making, actually seem a bit of a stretch these days than a continuation of something special. This is Jeter’s life and these are Jeter’s Marlins. Welcome to a new world of baseball in South Florida, starting all over again.

[There was a time when Miami Heat, gulp, played in NBA’s Western Conference]

[Please, NFL, takes us back to the days when a catch was a catch]

[Eagles went from losers to champions in one year, but what about Miami?]

 

There was a time, gulp, when the Miami Heat played in the Western Conference

 

Imagine if the Miami Heat were in the NBA’s rugged Western Conference, how much more difficult mounting a legitimate playoff run would be.

Wait a minute. They actually were a Western team, back in Miami’s expansion season of 1988-89, and the results were not pretty.

1988 AP file photo of Miami Heat coach Ron Rothstein shouting encouragement at his team during a game against the Denver Nuggets in Miami.

Maybe you’ve heard of the franchise’s 0-17 start that year against a sprinkling of Western and Eastern teams.

That had coach Ron Rothstein and company scrambling for the slightest taste of success, and they finally got it in mid-December with a groundbreaking 89-88 victory over the Clippers at the old Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Grant Long, Pat Cummings and Billy Thompson contributed 15 points each that night.

Along the way to 15-67 were some truly horrendous happenings and some ridiculous road trips. As a member of the NBA’s Midwest Division, Miami’s closest division rival was about 1,000 miles away in Houston.

One trip crossing from December into January included games at Seattle, Denver, Portland, Golden State, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Those stops were part of a 10-game losing streak and it wasn’t much better when the Heat were home.

Magic Johnson, James Worthy and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers scored a 47-point victory at Miami Arena that season, for instance. That was nice for Pat Riley, who was their coach at the time, but it should be pointed out that the West wasn’t even the toughest conference back then.

The Lakers were swept by Detroit in the 1989 NBA Finals and that set off a five-year championship run by the Pistons and the Chicago Bulls of the Eastern Conference.

What was Miami doing out west in the first place? It was all part of the NBA’s effort to work in some expansion teams and make all the numbers work in the process. Miami and Charlotte came in first, followed by Minnesota and Orlando the following season.

The Heat spent just that one season in the Western Conference, finishing 36 games back of Utah in the Midwest and 42 games behind the top-seeded Lakers.

It took a while, but Miami eventually won three NBA titles. Keep that in mind when today’s Heat team lays an egg like that loathsome 111-109 home loss to Orlando on Monday night.

Remember, too, that just about most every NBA team looks fairly hopeless from time to time.

In 2000 and 2001, Riley failed even to get Miami to 60 points in a couple of bad losses, and those were 50-win Heat teams featuring Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.

[Please, NFL, take us back to the days when a catch was simply a catch]

[Eagles went from losers to champions in one year, but what about Miami?]

[Dan Mullen predicts a national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

 

Please, NFL, takes us back to the days when a catch was a catch

I’m with Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti when it comes to the NFL’s nit-picky reviews of what is a catch and what isn’t, a debate that slowed celebrations again at two crucial moments in Sunday’s Super Bowl LII.

“The whole thing is stupid,” said Bisciotti, whose team didn’t even play in that game. “Start over. It’s just ridiculous.”

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz dives for a touchdown past New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty in the third quarter of Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Secure the ball. Two feet down in bounds. Bingo. That’s what is required by the NFL in the rule’s simplest form, and how it used to be judged in real time by referees who got most of them right and missed a few without the support or the dissent of an instant-replay review team in New York.

Now, however, doubt is the strongest instant emotion that fans can afford to invest in any spectacular catch. It’s up to a frame-by-frame analysis of the video, examined over several minutes, to determine whether it is finally safe to cheer or boo or head for the exits based on what just happened right in front of their eyes.

Wait a minute. Did the ball wobble in his arms while a receiver is getting blasted by a linebacker, or do we give him due credit for merely retaining possession of all his teeth under the force of that hit? To me, it’s the latter.

There are hundreds of amazing catches in the history of this league that would be wiped out if the video vultures went back and feasted on them now. With the amount of coordination and pluck that is needed to fit some of those passes in there and to snatch them out of the air in heavy traffic, is it realistic to demand an additional layer of precision, almost surgical precision, before a catch can count?

In baseball there are arguments every inning over what constitutes a strike, but if a player or a manager can’t accept that judgment call in the moment, he gets tossed and the game goes on without him. The way that instant replay is creeping into bang-bang calls at the bases is a worrisome trend. It slows down a game that already is too slow. It pretends that sports can be made perfect.

This wonderment over the shifting definition of a completed pass in football is a result of our love affair with technology. It has reached its zenith in tennis, where calls on whether a ball is in or out are settled by the display of an animated replay that is accepted with the same validity of an actual camera shot. The Great Cartoon has spoken. The Great Cartoon knows all and sees all.

As that other great cartoon, Charlie Brown, often says, I can’t stand it.

What is a basket in the NBA? Everybody knows that, and if the answer was even a little bit fuzzy they couldn’t play the game.

It works the same way in other sports, too, when it comes to the absolute basics.

What is a lost ball in golf? When you can’t find it, right?

What is a strike in bowling? When all of the pins get splattered and much of the beer gets spilled.

What is a knuckle sandwich in hockey? Again, you don’t even belong in the arena if a clinical explanation is needed.

So the NFL stands at a real crossroads here. Figure out the catch thing. This isn’t a video game. It’s real, and it’s really hard to get it right when the league keeps piling on reasons why a difficult touchdown grab is wrong.

[Eagles go from losers to champs in one year, but what about Miami?]

[Dan Mullen predicts national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

[Eagles coach Doug Pederson once saved Shula’s bacon as backup QB]

 

Look past Brady to bottom of depth chart and you’ll see what makes Belichick so Super

Whenever something goes right for the New England Patriots, everybody says, well, that’s Bill Belichick for you.

Playing angles that other coaches don’t see. Getting more from particular players than anyone else has. Digging deeper and demanding more, so that man on the roster or on the staff either owns a vital role in the franchise’s continuing success or he is quickly replaced.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JANUARY 29: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots arrives at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for Super Bowl LII. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Oh, and if I don’t mention that on occasion Belichick and his team have been caught cheating, somebody out there is going to say I left something out of his personal toolbox, so there’s that, too.

The point is that while we’re all focusing on Tom Brady and his singular contributions to all those Super Bowl titles, Belichick is working so far behind the scenes and doing it so well that most of it never gets noticed.

For instance, Belichick spent a fifth-round draft choice on a long snapper in 2015. That may not seem like such a big deal, but Brady was a sixth-rounder when he came to the Patriots from Michigan in the 2000 NFL draft.

For that matter, Danny Amendola, whose two fourth-quarter touchdown catches completed New England’s comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game, wasn’t drafted by the Patriots or anyone else when he came out of college in 2008.

So for Belichick to use a fifth-round pick on a specialty item like long snapper, well, it had to mean something. And it does. Joe Cardona is a highly-disciplined guy who played college football at the U.S. Naval Academy. He will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl, just he played in the last one, only after receiving permission to reschedule his weekend duty with a Navy reserve unit.

Belichick grew up around Navy football and graduated from Annapolis High School. His father, Steve Belichick, was on the football staff at the academy forever, coaching special teams and producing some of the most detailed and useful scouting reports anyone has ever seen.

Those are the reports that the future Patriots coach studied and absorbed as soon as he was finished with his homework. Those are the influences that would lead Belichick to prize the minute details of snapping and kicking and punting so highly, and to call Cardona personally in 2015 to let him know that New England had used the 166th overall pick on a specialty player like him.

Only a handful of Navy athletes have been selected in the history of the regular NFL draft, not much more than a dozen. Roger Staubach and Napoleon McCallum are the best known.

As for long snappers in general, Cardona was believed to be only the fourth in history to be drafted by an NFL team at the time he joined New England. Since Belichick made such an unusual priority of that position, however, a long snapper has been selected in the sixth round of the last two drafts, one by Detroit and one by Pittsburgh.

None of this will ever matter to anybody watching Super Bowl LII on Sunday unless there is a bad Patriots snap on a kick, and I’m figuring there won’t be. Cardona can be trusted to come through. He’s a Belichick guy and has been from the start.

We could jump all over the Patriots roster and find other names that explain why this team is so great.  You get the picture. There’s a coach here who know what he wants – consistency, reliability and a high football I.Q. – and he never compromises.

Yep, that’s Belichick for you.

[Dan Mullen promises national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Cooperstown when Marlins traded him?]

[Nothing remains for LeBron to do except giving it a try as player-coach]

Eagles could go from losers to Super Bowl champs in one year, but what about Miami?

How far are the Miami Dolphins from winning a Super Bowl?

It seems a ridiculous question coming off a 6-10 season, but there is a history of losing teams making the jump to NFL champion in the space of just one year.

New England did it in 2001. The Patriots were 5-11 the previous season and there was

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld, second from bottom, is followed by running back LeGarrette Blount, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and quarterback Nick Foles, as they arrive for the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Minneapolis. Philadelphia is scheduled to face the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

nothing much to recommend them except that they never got shut out. Miami suffered that indignity twice in 2017, and it very nearly happened a third time.

The 1999 St. Louis Rams won a Super Bowl after going 4-12 the previous season and sticking Dick Vermeil with the worst record of his 15-year NFL coaching career.

San Francisco won it all in 1981, just one year removed from a 6-10 clunker that was similar in some ways to what the Dolphins are going through. Bill Walsh, for instance, was in his second year as an NFL head coach and he had no more luck igniting his creative offensive ideas with Steve DeBerg at quarterback than Adam Gase did with Jay Cutler.

So what happened to transform those losers into Super Bowl champs so quickly? Obviously there was improvement throughout the rosters, but the most glaring similarity was a significant upgrade at quarterback.

Tom Brady, Kurt Warner and Joe Montana all were first trusted to handle full-time starting roles in those breakthrough seasons. They got their teams through some tight spots and continued to do so for years thereafter.

So about those Dolphins. Can’t see Ryan Tannehill or even some first-round draft pick suddenly giving Gase all that he needs at quarterback. It’s not impossible, though.

The Philadelphia Eagles were 7-9 a year ago and it’s not impossible that they might become Super Bowl champs on Sunday, even with a supposed downgrade at quarterback.

[Mullen promises national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Hall of Fame when Marlins traded him?]

[Nothing left for LeBron to do but give player-coaching a try]