Yesterday I read a story on the Bleacher Report about how fearing Bill Belichick only makes him stronger. I agreed with a lot of that article. My belief is that the NFL bends backwards to cut off its collective nose to spite its face. But that’s beside the point. I wondered if all this bad press he gets will ultimately destroy his legacy, make him a forgotten figure. And this morning it occurred to me why I don’t think it will. And that’s because of Miyamoto Musashi.
First things first, the details of the historical Musashi’s life are murky and, to be frank, unreliable. We don’t really know if he fought all those dudes that he says he did or even if he did if he really beat them. As my friend Jeff, who is a Japanese history professor, says, we know that he was a really good painter. In addition to the dueling questions, there are questions about the sculptures attributed to him.
But then there is the legendary Musashi, who is often heralded as the greatest Japanese swordsman of all time. A self-made man who defeated over 70 opponents before he was 30. A man who fought a whole gang of swordsmen outside the city of Kyoto. A man who dueled the famous Sasaki Ganryu at Funajima. And on and on.
This Musashi was also a man whose reputation goes something like this: he’s gruff and rude and he kind of cheats (he was notorious for showing up sometimes hours late to duels in order to piss off his opponents). He was a master of mind games. He was unkept, etc., etc.. Sound familiar?
Today, he the subject of a lot of movies, TV dramas, and comics. His book is still widely read by martial artists, businessmen, and evidently baseball players. He lived obscurely at the end of the 16th and into the 17th Century, and is now world famous. People may not like Bill Belichick. But the fact remains that even a gruff and surly winner will get respect and probably more of it the more time has passed.