FOXBOROUGH — A Globe article compared this to the return of Babe Ruth to Fenway Park in 1920.
If you remember that day, you’re perhaps as old as Methuselah. The only thing that ties that day in with Sunday night at Gillette Stadium is that a pandemic was going on back then also. The article also states that Ruth went on to win seven world championships after joining the Yankees, which is how many Tom Brady has at this time.
A better comparison, but still an inferior one, is back in 1981 when Carlton Fisk returned to Fenway for the season opener as a member of the White Sox. Fisk was born in Vermont and played for the Red Sox from 1969 to 1980. He remains the best catcher in Sox history, authored the finest postseason moment in Sox postseason history pre-Papi, is in the Hall of Fame, and had the left field pole named for him. Fisk retired as a Red Sox and got his number retired, and has mended his fences since leaving after a free agent technicality after the 1980 season.
Another inferior comparison might be Bobby Orr coming back to Boston, had it ever happened. He left the Bruins after the 1975-76 season and joined the Chicago Black Hawks as a free agent. He played in 26 games as a Hawk, none of them at the Boston Garden. Knee injuries forced his retirement in 1979. Orr is a Bruin 100 percent, and his Chicago career is almost completely forgotten.
Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Carl Yastrzemski, Larry Bird, all of them played their entire careers in Boston. David Ortiz finished his career in Boston, his Minnesota career is as remembered as Orr’s career in Chicagoland. Many other Celtic greats played their entire careers in Boston, like John Havlicek, Sam Jones and K.C. Jones. Bob Cousy should also belong on this list, except that he came back as a player-coach with the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) in 1969-70 for seven regrettable games as a 41-year-old.
Which brings us to Brady, who is in the same pantheon as Williams, Russell and Orr. There is your New England sports Mount Rushmore right there.
How wrong it looks and feels to see Brady in a visitor uniform. Coming back to a stadium and a fan base he never should have left in the first place. He is literally taking the Patriot legacy and toying with it, winning a Super Bowl last year in his first year with one of the more downtrodden franchises in NFL history and seemingly poised to win one or two more when he finally hangs up his cleats, if that ever happens at all.
It will happen, of course. Father Time is undefeated. But when Brady leaves, then what? What will be left of his Patriot legacy?
A better question would be this: What will happen when Brady gets his call to Canton? How will his speech go as far as the Patriots are concerned?
And: When Brady is also selected for the Patriot Hall of Fame, will he accept it? Will he come back to give a speech? Or are things so bad that this event that should happen might not happen?
All along, you have heard stories about Brady’s forced exodus from New England. Bill Belichick drove him away. Or maybe Bob Kraft did. Maybe the smoking gun here was Alex Guerrero.
The bottom line is that there was literally no way that Brady’s career in New England would end well. You can sit there and place blame all you want, but in the end the Patriots made a team decision, and Brady is proving everyone wrong by playing better than any 44-year-old in NFL history.
Well, almost everyone. The Buccaneers look rather prescient right now.
The Patriots tried to replace Brady years ago with Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady responded with four Super Bowl appearances and three wins. The Patriots decided to finally cut bait with Brady at age 43 and he goes to Tampa Bay and wins a Super Bowl. The Patriots have a capable replacement in Mac Jones, but as long as Brady is still out there slinging it, it looks horrible for the Patriots.
What Brady is doing is not to be believed. How can anyone in any sport be this good in their age 44 season? Brady wanted to play until he was 45. Now he’s teasing everyone about playing until age 50. Everyone not named Gisele finds that cute and funny.
The Patriots cannot be faulted for making a business decision to let Brady walk away as a free agent. He gave the Patriot 20 immortal years. He is the best quarterback in NFL history. His stature in New England should be undoubted and unchallenged.
But as long as he plays in Tampa Bay, it hurts his legacy here. And if he keeps winning in Tampa Bay, it will be worse.
When Brady is enshrined in Canton, you should hear from several factions. You’ll hear about his days as a youth in San Mateo, California. His time at the University of Michigan (and he may not mention the name Drew Henson). A little about Tampa Bay. A bit about his family. The rest should be all Patriots.
He should salute the fans who adore him and claim him as one of their own, who wear him on their shirts like a badge of honor. He should honor Kraft and Belichick for drafting him and developing him, and providing him with the environment to win six championships in 20 years. He should honor all his Patriot teammates who matter the most to him. He should speak of his time in New England as the best years of his life. He should go into the Hall of Fame as a Patriot, and not as a Buccaneer.
Patriot Nation is as much a part of the TB12 brand as anything else Brady holds near and dear to him professionally. Anything he does in Tampa can stay in Tampa. That area has had a nice run, with a Stanley Cup and an AL championship to go along with a Vince. Let the Bucs have their fun for a few years.
But in the long term, Brady is all New England. Seeing him come home as a Buccaneer just plain looks wrong. It’s not pleasing, it’s not endearing, and it’s not something that you the Patriot fan should want to enjoy, even if the Patriots had won the game, coming within a Nick Folk 56-yard doink shot of a win. It is just wrong. Brady is a Patriot, plain and simple.
So let’s hope that Brady can find a way to remain close to the team and fan area that really loves him more than any other. Whatever happened between him and Belichick or him and Kraft is something that someday can be smoothed over. All the other fellows on Mount Rushmore love(d) this area. Brady should also.
The Patriots are now Jones’ team, and Godspeed to him. But Brady should be there for eternity, and his Patriot career should never be tarnished just because he finished it somewhere else.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: New England Patriots Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tom Brady