If you could have dinner with any three sports people, dead or alive, who would they be?

I can guarantee you that, years from now, Bill Belichick will make a lot of these lists.

The first words narrated in “A Football Life”, an NFL Films documentary that follows the already legendary Patriots head coach for an entire season: ”If you think you know Bill Belichick, think again.” The problem is that there’s almost nobody who even thinks they know Bill Belichick.

And that’s part of the reason he’s such an interesting person.

We are fascinated by Belichick, not just because he’s so successful but also because he’s so obscure, almost anonymous. It’s as if he has something to hide under that world-famous hood. His press conferences are stale and his players say nothing. And that’s why a behind-the-scenes look inside his world is so intriguing. When he usually gives you nothing, Belichick fishing in Nantucket is golden television.

Would anyone care to see Jack Del Rio fishing?  What about John Fox?

What’s most amazing about the documentary is the simple reality that Belichick allowed them to make it.

A few of my favorite parts from Part 1, which aired Thursday night on NFL Network:

  • Belichick isn’t known for being a celebrator, and he pushes discipline like no other coach (aside from maybe a fellow Bill Parcells disciple, Tom Coughlin). And yet one of the first scenes involves him giving his players hell for not congratulating one another following good plays. He lectures while showing a clip of Ty Warren making a great play: “Nice play Ty. Can’t even see one guy saying, ‘good hit.’ Walk back to the huddle and honest to god it looks like we don’t even care. We aren’t good enough to play that way — I don’t know that anybody is.”
  • His exchange with Tom Brady in Brady’s return from knee surgery is pretty fantastic. Tom was struggling and in denial and Belichick was trying to point out some bad throws.

“Like the one to Maroney?”

“It was right in his hands!”

“It was over his head.”

“Oh, that one…”

“Yeah, just step into it, okay?”

  • Belichick’s tour through the old Meadowlands facility was cool, and his emotional moment is getting the most attention from that scene, but I thought the best part was the story he told about Romeo Crennel’s daughter being assigned to go through a bunch of stuff Lawrence Taylor left in his locker and finding about $75,000 in uncashed cheques.
  • Really awesome seeing Belichick and Brady, two future Hall of Fame masterminds, plotting on how to beat Ed Reed in a meeting in Bill’s office. You can see the respect Belichick has for his long-time quarterback. And you can see evidence of the strong relationship that exists between the two men. Brady is almost like another one of Belichick’s assistant coaches. Later in the episode, the two agree that it would’ve been ideal to practice in foul weather prior to a snowy, windy game against the Titans. Not many players want to practice in crappy conditions.
  • The exchange between Belichick and Derrick Mason making the rounds today is awesome. But you can tell that they’re both having fun and get the sense that there’s a lot of mutual respect there, too. In fact, despite a crusty rep, Belichick strikes me as a very respectful, caring dude. (Then again, I’m sure he had some creative control over what made the final product, and keep in mind that he was aware he was mic’d up.)
  • As a person in the media, I dislike Belichick’s attitude toward the press. That said, I laughed out loud watching him eating and studying and otherwise not paying attention during a media conference call ahead of their Week 5 game against Denver.
  • Following a loss to the Broncos, Belichick disses his receiving corps for not spending any time working with Brady after practices. He clearly believes that you have to go above and beyond expectations to be successful. He and Coughlin inherited that from Parcells in New York.

I’d recommend watching the whole first episode, because there are dozens of other great moments, including Belichick’s awkward exchange with Wes Welker (who had no idea what being Wally Pipped meant) and some nice moments with his son. In fact, I’d love to see what’s on the editing room floor — it’s the kind of program that leaves you wanting more.