Happy Retirement, Tom Brady
It was Sunday, February 3, 2002, twenty years ago almost to the day. It wasn’t an ordinary Sunday, it was Super Bowl Sunday. And it wasn’t an ordinary Super Bowl Sunday, it was the New England Patriots (0-2 in Super Bowl appearances to date, both games decided well before the final seconds ticked away) versus the the St. Louis Rams, Super Bowl winners just two years earlier. It seemed like another championship match in which we would be overmatched, ending with the red, white, and blue balloon of hope popping a third time.
But even so, Super Bowl Sunday is a party day and, as every year, I had options in terms of where and with whom to watch the big game. Different friends in different places had invited me to watch with them, but I decided I would watch the game with my father. My father, after all, had brought me to Patriots games starting when I was just eight years old. Back then, I had a t-shirt that said “Boston Patriots” with the old Pat Patriot logo on the front and “I gave the Pats a pat on the back” on the reverse. They were never a great team, but they were my team. When they moved into their own stadium in Foxboro in 1971, changing their name to the New England Patriots, my father bought season tickets and I went to most home games for most of the decade. I also went to the first home playoff game the original stadium hosted, against the Houston Oilers in 1978, which they lost 31-14.
Being a Patriots fan meant accepting losing. Even their best seasons ended in failure. In their previous Super Bowl appearances, they were whipped 46-10 by the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX, and fell to the Green Bay Packers 35-21 (it wasn’t even that close) in Super Bowl XXXI. With the St. Louis Rams boasting what was called “The greatest show on turf” and the Patriots featuring a quarterback in his first season as a starter (and not even a complete season), there was no reason to believe that Super Bowl XXXVI would be any different.
That was one reason why I decided to watch the game with my father—there wasn’t much chance I would miss a big celebration with my partying friends. Also, I wanted to recognize and show gratitude to him for making me a Patriots fan in the first place many years before. Finally, my mother had died two-and-a-half years earlier, and I didn’t want him to have to watch the game by himself. So I went over to his house, sat with him on the couch, drank Scotch, and watched the first chapter of The Legend of Tom Brady get sealed forever in The Book of Football Life.
When Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights, thanks to Tom Brady’s game-winning drive, I leaped off the couch and screamed with joy at the impossible having come true. My father, in his typically stoic way, just smiled. We had a final toast to their victory, then I raced home to watch hours of local post-game coverage. Over the next two decades, Tom Brady delivered a total of six Super Bowl victories with the Patriots (nine Super Bowl appearances in all) and I rooted him on when he won his seventh with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which happened just two-and-a-half weeks after my father died.
Other than my daughters, no one else has brought me so much joy—so many heart-stopping thrills—for so many years as Tom Brady has. I proudly wear his jersey and am grateful for his years of selfless service to the fans of New England. He has given Patriots fans everything we ever dreamed of and more. He owes us nothing.
Tom Brady is unquestionably the GOAT—the greatest of all time. I wish him a happy retirement.