A couple times a year, I’ll step back and ask myself “why are you watching grown men play games on TV so much?” It’s an odd concept. A couple days a week in America, men and women watch professional football while simultaneously saying “screw it, my diet starts on Monday.” There is a pretty long list of other things I could be doing on top of that. I’ve been planning on learning a new language for about, what, a decade now? I know zucchero means sugar in Italian (don’t act like you’re not impressed) but I can’t order a dish of spaghetti if I decide to take a trip to Milan. But I digress.
If you haven’t heard, Tom Brady will not be playing in New England this year and is taking his talents to West Beach (Tampa Bay). Devastating news for everyone who’s grown up in New England and followed Tom since his first pass in 2001. He’s been a huge part of our lives.
As a kid, my dad took me to Fenway Park in 1997. We actually saw a few games that year, including one against the Yankees. The place was mixed with Red Sox and Yankee fans. The “1918” chants got loud. To those unaware, the Sox hadn’t won a ring since 1918 and Yankee fans weren’t shy about reminding us. I tried to eat my cotton candy and pretend I didn’t hear them but they were persistent. They liked seeing us down.
Around the same time frame, I saw the Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots take on Doug Flutie and the Bills in the old Foxborough stadium. Spoiler: we lost in overtime. But what I took away from this game was the energy. Even though we always rooted for these squads, Boston wasn’t really a place where we actually believed winning was possible. Of course plenty of people held their “you gotta believe!” signs but there was a dark cloud that hung around and produced quotes like “they always get so close and they rip our hearts out.”
So getting back to the whole “why do we watch grown men play games” thing. Some of people’s favorite fictional stories derive from a protagonist who is an unlikely winner. They’re always someone who stands up for good when the odds are against them. They push and do the small things right, never waiver and keep the faith. Whether it’s your favorite book, a TV series on Netflix or a broadway play, we can always see a bit of ourselves in that person.
The best thing about professional sports is that it’s real. We got to see a protagonist that was overlooked in college. He had to compete for a starting role with the “chosen one” who had his pick of being the face of the NFL or the MLB in the future. Tom fought through it. He was a 6th round draft pick for the Patriots and fought his way to a backup role. And when our QB1 went down with an injury, Tom seized the moment and never let go. 20 years later, we’re left with the greatest of all time. An unlikely 9 trips to the Super Bowl with 6 victories. All in a town where it seemed impossible.
The story of Tom Brady in our home region has come to an end. What I’ve come to find is that this man and story means something different to everyone. We have memories with our families, trips to the stadium, distractions from tough life moments. We as coaches could tell our kids “this is how it’s done, this is how you work.” We’ve grown up and some of us have grown old in this time. Through all of it, Tom has showed us how to handle power and success with class. This 20 years couldn’t have gone any better.
So to Tom Brady I wanted to say thank you for providing me and my family some amazing times. We all wish you the best of luck in Tampa Bay. But we know you don’t hang your hat on luck. Here’s to #12. New England will always love you.