Maybe you remember the scene at the end of “Almost Famous,” when young reporter William Miller finally gets his interview with enigmatic Dennis Eckersley-lookalike guitarist Russell Hammond? …
William asks, “What do you love about music?” Not exactly a Pulitzer-level inquiry there, but Russell, played by Billy Crudup, lights up.
“Everything,” he says.
Oh, fine, I’ll admit it. When I saw the nearly eight-hour run time of “Get Back,” director Peter Jackson’s Disney+ docuseries drawn from more than 60 hours of footage and 150 hours of audio recorded as the Beatles scrambled to produce a new album in January 1969, it seemed daunting.
Eight hours. That’s a commitment, man. Even some Red Sox-Yankees games don’t take that long.
Because it was promised as the Beatles, unfiltered at a most tenuous moment, I dived in anyway. I could say I lost the weekend watching it in its entirety, but the truth is that I felt like I gained something from watching the intimate process of creating something meaningful. I can’t wait to watch it again.
What did I love about it? Without giving away spoilers … everything. The candor, the weariness, the interpersonal dynamics, the passive-aggressiveness, the silliness, the procrastination, the tension, the minutiae, and especially — especially — those flickering moments of inspiration, the right note here, the perfect lyric there, that suddenly burst forth from the tedium and allow us to bear witness to musical history in the making.
I guarantee you’ll gasp on more than one occasion when a future classic suddenly emerges from trial, error, and Paul McCartney’s relentless genius.
What’s that? Why, yes, there is actually a sports angle here. The privilege afforded by “Get Back” of allowing us to be in the room, eavesdropping on these seminal developments in Beatles lore, made my Sports Brain click on and ponder a question about a certain dynasty in other genre.
If you could be in the room, hearing and witnessing the unvarnished truth, during any moment in Bill Belichick’s 22 seasons with the Patriots, when would it be?
There’s so much to choose from, of course, and NFL Films has provided a sheened version of behind-the-scenes insight for so much of it, particularly the details from the six Super Bowl victories. That’s how vignettes and phrases like “Malcolm, go!” become part of a fan’s lexicon.
NFL Films is incredible, and I’ll always believe a significant reason the sport blew past Major League Baseball as America’s pastime in the ‘80s was Steve and Ed Sabol’s cinematic production. But as a de facto arm of the NFL, there is much it can’t, or won’t, show us.
I suspect most football fans outside New England would choose to be a fly on the wall for one of the scandals, Spygate or Deflategate. Journalistically — and just to know, man — Spygate is more compelling. That is, unless hidden-camera footage of Roger Goodell directing his Park Avenue underlings to turn Deflategate from, at worst, a misdemeanor into the most exaggerated controversy in NFL history could somehow be procured.
I doubt most Patriots fans would choose one of the -gates, though. It’s safer to presume exoneration than to actually find out. But the Malcolm Butler controversy? I think we’d all like to know — and witness — exactly what went down in the days before the starting cornerback’s benching for the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
Vague reports and rumors have floated around for years about what happened that caused the Patriots’ leader in defensive snaps during the 2017 season to play just one snap (none on defense) in the 41-33 loss. In “It’s Better To Be Feared,” Seth Wickersham’s deeply reported recent book on the Patriots dynasty, the author writes that Butler had a heated exchange with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia about his effort during practice that week.
“At the team party after New England’s loss, Butler responded to teammates asking why he was benched by saying, ‘These dudes,’ referring to the coaches … ‘these [expletives],’ ” according to the book.
Maybe there was nothing more to it than that: a coaches’ decision. But I’d like to see for myself. He should have played, and it was obvious in real time; the Eagles piled up 538 yards of total offense, so it’s not as though Butler could have been worse than Eric Rowe or Johnson Bademosi.
Of course, there are dozens upon dozens of more satisfying scenes we’d love to witness during this dynasty’s long and winding road: Watching Belichick and his staff cook up the bookend Super Bowl game plans to stall high-flying Rams offenses 17 years apart … the players’ response to ESPN’s Tom Jackson’s unintentionally unifying declaration that they “hate their coach” following a lethargic season-opening loss to Lawyer Milloy, Drew Bledsoe, and the Bills in 2003 … Every Belichick/Randy Moss interaction ever …
The most fascinating conversations to sit in on, though, would be any relevant to Tom Brady’s NFL origin story. Former general manager Scott Pioli has said that the Patriots discussed his name as early as the third round in the 2000 draft. Wouldn’t you love to hear the conversations Belichick and the personnel and scouting staff had about him as Brady went unselected, pick after pick, until No. 199 came around?
And wouldn’t you love to know when Belichick knew — and began to tell confidants like Ernie Adams — that Brady was going to surpass Bledsoe? There were markers along the way suggesting that Belichick saw something in Brady — most notably, keeping him as the fourth quarterback as a rookie, then elevating him to the backup ahead of trustworthy veteran Damon Huard in ‘01.
But wouldn’t you love to have been there to see what Belichick saw, and hear what he said, about Brady at the beginning of one of the greatest careers in sports history?
Wouldn’t you love to have been there, behind the scenes, standing in the corner, taking it all in, for … well, as Russell Hammond said, everything?
Cue your Spygate wisecracks if you must, but here’s hoping that more cameras than we know of right now were running in corners of Gillette Stadium over the last two decades.
It turns out that documenting the daily grind of genius at work is a gift to the rest of us.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go watch McCartney summon “Get Back” from the ether again.