At 4:25 pm EST on Sunday, the terrible nightmare truly became a reality. Tom Brady ran out of the tunnel at Mercedes-Benz Superdome as a Buccaneer.
I was well past the point of wanting to vomit and more at the point of physical pain. I can describe it to you if you’d like. It’s not a sharp pain, more of an achy feeling. It’s not quite at the heart, but more in the center of the chest, right at the top of the manubrium (I had to look that one up).
My nightmare reference isn’t hyperbole. I legitimately lost sleep this past week thinking about how, for the first time in almost two decades, Tom Brady wasn’t the quarterback of the New England Patriots.
Even so, I think I had still been in some sort of denial. Yes, I’ve seen the training camp videos. I’ve seen the jersey mockups. Those were bad, but it’s not real until it’s official, you know? It’s 2020 after all, so I was thinking the season might not even happen. When he came out in that white and red jersey with the black trim, it hit like a freight train.
I can throw out all the analogies that you can stand, but it’s not going to do much justice. The fact is that you and I have experienced all sorts of ends, whether we are talking about relationships, jobs, or other transitional points of life. I don’t care what anyone says, this was different.
Tom Brady was ours. That’s not to say in the way that you would hold power over someone. It’s more out of a place of love. We loved Tom Brady.
Sure, go ahead and make fun of that. Anyone with an anti-Brady agenda can have a field day with how spoiled Patriots fans need to grow up and stop crying over Brady. Understand that players aren’t there to be loved, they are there to collect a paycheck. You had your time and now it’s over.
But that’s just it. Tom Brady isn’t just some player. His performances were downright heroic. His stats defied logic. He was too good to be true, and he was on our team!
That still doesn’t quite capture it. Let’s dig deeper.
Despite anything you were going through, he was always there. No matter the bullying at school, no matter the rough day at the office, no matter the depression of your week, you got to sit down on Sunday and watch Tom Brady.
I’d like to think we appreciated it in the moment. That over the years, we as Pats fans never took him for granted, but I’m not so sure. You know why? It’s something that’s been nagging me for the past few months. It’s that most of you don’t care anymore.
There is nothing that drives me up the wall quite like the people who say it was just time. When is it ever just time to move on from the greatest player in the history of the sport? Was it just time to let Michael Jordan go be a Wizard? Was it just time for the Oilers to trade Wayne Gretzky? Of course not.
Then there’s the blame game, which I also hate. Frankly, it doesn’t matter which side you’re on.
If you hate Brady now, fine. You think he’s a diva who prioritizes fun over winning, and there’s a lot of truth to that. My skin crawled watching he and Gronk giggle their way through that stupid newlywed’s game. His attitude changed over the last couple of years. No doubt.
If you hate Belichick for being an unrelenting taskmaster who didn’t appreciate his QB, okay. The fact that Bill was unwilling to offer Brady a real contract the last offseason was absurd. His down numbers were a result of a receiving corps with the worst separation in the league. Tom Brady is special, and it was way past time for Bill to put aside his ego and get with that program.
I don’t want to hear which side you’re on. I don’t want to hear your reasons or your excuses. They should have figured this out. They should have kept trying, and kept trying, no matter how deep the rift, until the two saw eye to eye again.
Put me in the minority here if you want, but I would rather stink for another couple years and delay the reset if it meant keeping Brady. I’d rather appreciate the moment as he rides off into the sunset.
Brady deserved that dignity. There is no freaking way he should be in Tampa or anywhere else. We shouldn’t have to share him with any other fanbase, even if it is just a footnote on his Wiki.
Wouldn’t it be better to watch the credits roll on the greatest dynasty in sports instead of hurrying out of the theater? Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but a farewell tour would be much better than the pick-six against Tennessee and a quick exit stage left. All those memories, and just like that, we don’t even get to say goodbye?
A little part of me died when Brady took the field on Sunday. The part of me that booked it inside on a cold winter night to watch Brady vs Manning. The part of me that tailgated in Foxboro parking lots and strained for my first live glimpse of the GOAT from the south end nosebleeds. The part of me that ran around the block in my socks, whipping a TB12 jersey over my head and howling at the moon after 28-3.
2020 has been hell. It’s been the absolute worst year for so many reasons, many of them way too important for this simple blog post. But for a lot of us, the despair tour truly kicked off on the day that Brady announced he wouldn’t be there to comfort us anymore.
I’d like to believe that, even if they don’t want to admit it, a little part of every Pats fan started to fade that day. For me, it disappeared completely on Sunday at 4:25.
Tori Richman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers