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Shelton: Isn't up the best way to run a score?

By GARY SHELTON, Times columnist
Published November 1, 2007


Quick everyone, Bill Belichick's in the dunk tank.

If you hurry, you can still get a good place in line.

When it comes to bashing Bad Bill, of course, most of us are up for it. He is Vader. He is Voldemort. He is De Vil. Why, he is Villechick, and there is enough scorn to go around.

After all, Belichick is the guy who cheated. He is the guy who wouldn't apologize for it. He's the guy with the personality of spam mail.

And now, Belichick stands accused of yet another dastardly crime. He is accused of scoring too many points.

Feel free to gasp.

Belichick's team tried, the nerve of it. When victory was assured, they did not stop. When etiquette demanded it, they did not slow down. Worst of all, they did not help cover up just how bad the Washington Redskins were.

What they did was score. And score. And score some more.

Evidently, this is a bad thing.

Don't get me wrong here. If you want to make fun of Belichick, I'll not only join in, I'll bring the chips. Once you ignore the fact that Belichick is a terrific coach, there is a lot to room for giggles. There are computer viruses that are more fun.

On the other hand, if Joe Gibbs couldn't stop the Patriots, why in the world should Belichick have to?

For the life of me, I have never quite understood all of the angst wasted over the concept of an opponent that continues to score points. Running up the score? Once you graduate from pee-wee sports, isn't up the best way to run a score?

And yet, every so often, a few times a year, you will hear the anger of a fan as he protests a perceived lack of mercy from a team that has embarrassed his. Time was, you would hear it about Miami's Jimmy Johnson. Time was, you would hear about it Florida's Steve Spurrier. Time was, you would hear it about FSU's Bobby Bowden. Around here, we refer to that as "the good old days."

This week, you are hearing it about Belichick. As it turns out, once the NFL stopped him from studying all of those illegal films of opposing coaches on the sideline, it gave him more time to draw up plays.

Some of those plays, evidently, included Tom Brady throwing to Randy Moss when the score was 38-0. Some were designed to convert on fourth-down situations in the fourth quarter. Some of them were extra points. When the fourth quarter came, the Patriots gave none. And because of it, a lot of people around the NFL seem to be in a lather.

Can someone explain this to me? If Tiger Woods is leading a golf tournament by 33 strokes, no one grumbles if he birdies the 18th. If Roger Federer is ahead two sets and 4-0 in the third, no one suggests he should stop hitting drop shots. If the Red Sox are ahead by 12 runs in the ninth - and if the World Series was still going on, they probably would be - no one minds if David Ortiz hits a home run.

Only in football do opponents expect a superior opponent to suddenly play nice. Respect for the game? Come on. Scoring 52 points doesn't disrespect the game; giving up 52 does.

It makes no sense. If you want to be upset about someone running up the score, be upset at the owners who set the ticket prices. Be upset at the people who charge you insurance premiums. Be upset at the guys who set the prices at gas pumps. Those guys could back off a little bit.

A football team? Not so much.

Here's a question: I wonder how the Hogettes felt about Belichick? Did they think he showed enough class? Because if anyone is going to judge class, I want it to be large men in dresses wearing pig snouts.

Look, if any fans are going to be upset at Belichick over this, it's Patriot fans, because when you're using Tom Brady on a quarterback sneak with a 38-point lead, you're risking injury. And that's why teams shouldn't run it up.

Part of this is football, because the notion of a team taking a knee in the final quarter is so familiar it has come to be expected. Amos Alonzo Stagg did, and Knute Rockne did, and by golly, Belichick should do it, too.

A lot of it, too, I suspect, is because Belichick is involved. Already, there is a theory that the Patriots are winning so big because Belichick wants to show up the league that showed him up. When you think about it, though, isn't that a terrible thing to suggest about the rest of the NFL, that one coach can embarrass the league so badly because he's miffed?

Part of it, too, is the timing. We love a good guy vs. bad guy matchup, and as you may have heard, there is a delicious game featuring Belichick against Tony Dungy this week.

If Belichick's team scores 100, it wouldn't bother me.

Of course, if Dungy's Colts score 101, it would amuse me greatly.