By D. Allan Kerr
I’m rooting for Tom Brady this weekend.
In fact, I’m a little irked with those New England fans who don’t to want to see him win his record-extending seventh Super Bowl ring.
Given the historic success Brady brought to this region over the previous two decades, is it asking too much to be happy for the guy?
Yeah, it would be far more enjoyable if Brady was playing in a Patriots jersey Sunday night, but fate didn’t work out that way.
Instead we’ll have to settle for being treated to yet another Super Bowl performance from the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League – even if he won’t be in our preferred uniform.
There are still some hard feelings over Brady’s departure last year, which makes sense.
“Friends” viewers wanted Ross and Rachel to stay together, “Cheers” fans hoped Sam and Diane would stick it out, and Patriots Nation always envisioned Brady and coach Bill Belichick riding arm-in-arm into the sunset.
Instead, Brady wound up taking his talents to Tampa Bay and we’re left with this silly debate over which was more responsible for their success together.
It didn’t help when the Pats suffered thru their first losing season of the Belichick era during their first post-Brady year, with a successor in Cam Newton who threw just eight touchdown passes and ten interceptions (although he did score 12 times on foot.)
Brady, meanwhile, actually threw more interceptions than Newton (by two), but also had 40 touchdown tosses and ran for another three.
At 43 years of age, long after most elite football stars have retired, Brady passed for more than 4,600 yards this season, led his new Tampa Bay Buccaneers team to their first playoff spot in 13 years, then guided them to three victories on the road.
Now, he’s finally taking part in his first postseason home game with the Bucs, the first Super Bowl team in history to play in their own stadium.
So in hindsight, it seems clear Brady made the wise choice when he departed the New England cold for Florida’s sunny shores. But there are some – a small but vocal minority, I think – who actually brand Brady a traitor.
These folks are forgetting more than the countless classic memories Brady left behind for us – nine Super Bowls, several of them considered among the most thrilling in history; six NFL championships; the Tuck Rule game; the 16-0 season; the numerous records and awards and epic performances; and not one but two distinct eras of dynasty.
They’re also forgetting what it took to get this all done.
They’re forgetting Brady almost routinely restructured his salary to enable the team to afford high-quality players and win games, to the point where we as fans just took it for granted.
As a result, Brady throughout his time here was paid less than many quarterbacks with far less ability or history of winning.
These fans forget the way he led by example both on and off the field, with an unsurpassed work ethic that’s downright legendary, and his contributions to the community over the years.
Believe me, I was hoping he would stay. He had to do what was best for him and his family, and he sure as hell earned the right to do so.
I totally get the animosity toward Brady outside New England (and now Tampa Bay.)
It’s hard not to envy someone who even acknowledges how ridiculously blessed his life has been: the cleft chin, the boyish All-American smile, the super-nice-guy-who-happens-to-date-movie-stars thing he had going before entering into an insanely perfect marriage to one of the most famous supermodels ever, and the way he seems to be a great dad with wonderful kids.
And of course the annoying habit of just winning, winning and winning.
Last week “Saturday Night Live” had an opening segment in which the brilliant Kate McKinnon concluded Brady “might be the only thing in America that still works” because he does what he’s supposed to do – win football games.
“So I guess everyone must rooting for you, right?” McKinnon asked guest host and Massachusetts native John Krasinski, who portrayed Brady.
“Almost no one,” Krasinski-as-Brady replied.
Well, as previously stated, I’ll be rooting for Brady on Sunday, but frankly don’t like his odds.
This Kansas City Chiefs team the Bucs are facing are scary good, with a ton of offensive weapons orchestrated by the freakishly gifted young QB Pat Mahomes.
Travis Kelce is likely the best tight end this side of Brady’s continuing partner-in-crime Rob Gronkowski, and flashy wide receiver Tyreek Hill runs like his feet have hummingbird wings.
The Chiefs defense is extremely underrated because they tend to get overshadowed by the pyrotechnics of team’s explosive offensive side.
Put it this way – if Brady manages to pull off yet another miracle performance, it might be the capstone to a lifetime crammed with them.
People the age of my kids usually aren’t even aware of this, but at the peak of his physical powers few athletes were as reviled as Muhammad Ali. By the end of his life, the ex-heavyweight champ was the most beloved athlete in the world.
I predict something like this will happen with Brady as well. Sometimes viewers are too close to fully appreciate the genius at work right in front of them – they need to step back and take in the whole canvas.
I suspect Brady won’t get his just due until after he steps off the field and the world can take in the entire mosaic of his brilliance.
But until then we should just enjoy watching a master at work while we still can. We’re not likely to see another Tom Brady for a long time.
(Feb. 6, 2021)
He can also be found on seacoastonline.com