He came out of the tunnel, wearing his familiar number 12. In a blue jersey, not a red and gold jersey.
The crowd roared. He waved to the crowd. Then he sprinted down to the south end of the field. When he got to the end zone, he screamed his familiar “Let’s go!!!!!” with perhaps a few colorful words thrown in. He then ran back to the podium at the north end zone, hugged his three children, and the ceremony began.
Tom Brady came back home after three years. Finally.
Brady spent the first half in Bob Kraft’s luxury box, along with Jonathan, and his mom Galynn and dad Tom Sr. For the ceremony, Bob was the emcee. He began by saying that Brady would be back at Gillette Stadium next June to be inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, foregoing the mandatory four-year wait. He then handed the mike to Brady, and he addressed the crowd.
In a nutshell, he waxed poetic over his time in New England, his relationship with his fellow players, and his love for his fan base. He punctuated the speech with a strident declaration that he is “a Patriot for life!” That one phrase elicited the biggest ovation from the crowd, and seemed to put some salve on the hurt the fan base felt seeing him in a Tampa Bay uniform, and especially winning the Super Bowl in his first season in Buccaneer Nation.
Tampa Bay fans can dream and wax poetic themselves over these three gift years of a player they are not accustomed to having. The Bucs won their Super Bowl, the Lightning won a Stanley Cup, and the Rays made it to the 2020 bubble World Series, losing to the Dodgers in six games.
But nobody in that part of Florida should have any delusions over who Brady belongs to. Brady is a New England institution. He was born in California and educated in Michigan, but he belongs to the northeast corner of the USA. The greatest of the greats came from places like San Diego, the Dominican Republic, Oakland, French Lick, Indiana and Parry Sound, Ontario. Add San Mateo, California to that list. They come from all over, but they belong to New England.
All that is left is to try and ascertain where Brady belongs in the long history of Boston/New England sports.
Some years ago, we came up with a Mount Rushmore of Boston/New England sports icons. The names we came up with were Brady, Ted Williams, Bill Russell and Bobby Orr. Does that still hold up today?
The Patriots are waiving the waiting period for their Hall of Fame for Brady. (PHOTO: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)
Brady and Orr are solid. There are no other players on either team that could challenge them to be sculpted on some mountain in New Hampshire (although the Old Man in the Mountain did eventually succumb to years of weathering and erosion, but there must be some granite cliff somewhere). Going further, both Brady and Orr are in the discussion for being the greatest player ever in their entire sport.
We still like Russell as the Celtic representative, but some folks like Larry Bird. It’s hard to speak out against Bird in any capacity; his rivalry with Magic Johnson in the 1980s is thought of by many as the zenith in the entire history of the NBA. Bird won three titles and three MVP awards. But Russell played 13 seasons and won titles in 11 of them including 8 in a row. Russell ignited the Celtic dynasty and set up the team’s legacy as it is today. Russell was also a force in the civil rights movement, and was right there with Jim Brown, Jackie Robinson, Cassius Clay (later Muhammed Ali) and Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) when he was needed at any events which advanced the cause of African-Americans nationwide.
The Red Sox are the toughest. It’s really between two people: Williams and David Ortiz.
Big Papi dominated the Boston sports scene just like Brady, but in different ways. Ortiz, along with Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, brought the Hispanic population into the mainstream of Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park. On the field, his clutch hits were of legend, as was his postseason play. Over the years, he became a voice for the entire region. He is the only person anywhere who can get away with dropping an F-bomb on live television and get away with it. His impassioned speech at Fenway following the Boston Marathon bombings was instantly classic, if R-rated, but nobody complained.
Williams is still our choice for the mountain. He really was the greatest hitter who ever lived. Baseball researchers and number crunchers have postulated what Williams would have done if he hadn’t lost five of his prime years to two wars (WWII, Korea). Many have said that Williams would have challenged Babe Ruth for most career home runs, and he may have had another .400 season in him. Williams actually was more proud of his military career than he was his baseball career, and loved serving his country. If there was ever a real life personification for the legendary actor John Wayne, Williams was it.
Which brings us back to Brady. Was he the best of the best?
Brady won six Super Bowls here, and re-wrote the Super Bowl record book for passing records. He was a transcendent athlete. He re-defined the aging process and made good on his promise to play until age 45. He was one of those players whom you really will never see their like again.
Williams, Russell and Orr also have a lot of those attributes. The best way to reconcile this is to declare it a four-way tie. They are all the greatest of the greats. Brady is simply the most recent and the freshest in all our memories. Williams left in 1960, Russell in 1969 and Orr in 1976. These men live on thanks to the history books and word of mouth. But Brady is still part of the present tense.
Welcome back home, TB12. Go Blue. Let’s go. Laser focus. I need the best half of your life. All words to live by and to help you fall asleep happy every night.
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Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Tom Brady