- There’s so little left to say about Brady and the Patriots that we just can’t stop talking about them.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Super Bowl festivities began with the news that the Patriots are here again. Right up until the last minute, millions of Americans were hoping New England would skip the game, or at least have their flight delayed due to mechanical issues. What would that genius Bill Belichick do then, huh? FIX THE PLANE HIMSELF? (Probably.)
The media is no better. We’re not just tired of writing about the Patriots. We’re tired of writing that we’re tired of writing about the Patriots. In a bizarre way, this is the ultimate compliment for the Patriots: They have been so great for so long that we’re scrambling for anything intelligent to say about them. We did, however, get this bit of insight from Tom Brady at Monday’s Super Bowl LII Opening Night Spectacular:
“I just love the sport.”
Do you really, Tom? Please, tell us more!
“I love competition.”
In the grand tradition of idiocy on media day, Brady was asked if he would rather battle a duck the size of a horse or a hundred horses the size of a duck, which was a stupid question: OF COURSE you would rather battle the duck the size of the horse. That was Brady’s choice, but of course he didn’t say what he would do to the duck, since the Patriots don’t share game plans.
Brady has had a fascinating American life, and not just because he has won so many football games. He is, in the ways that matter most to his profession, the same person he was as a senior in college: relentlessly competitive, determined to prove something, willing to work to do it and with a natural ability to give the proper answer almost all the time.
He has always handled these press conferences before big games deftly. Before his final game at Michigan, the Orange Bowl against Alabama, he talked about his battle with Drew Henson, and he managed to say the right thing without saying too much. Before his first AFC title game, in Pittsburgh, he politely objected when he was asked about his team’s quick rise: “Too much, too fast? I don't think that's the case at all. I want it as fast as I can get it.”
Brady is the same guy now, as he enters his eighth Super Bowl, this one against the Eagles. Sure, he’s a lot richer, he is married, he is a father, and he has some scars and triumphs, and those all change you … but they have not changed how he approaches his job, which is the reason we pay attention to him. He is the same, almost two decades into this.
We just don’t see him the same way. Brady has gone from the underrated backup to the beloved phenomenon (during his first three Super Bowl runs) to a polarizing figure (through Spygate and Deflategate) to … well, what can we say anymore? Nobody questions his greatness. There was a moment three years ago, during the height of Deflategate insanity, where it was all so hard to sort it out, and people questioned the legitimacy of his accomplishments. Three Super Bowl appearances and at least two championships later, that seems silly.
We have so little left to say, yet we can’t stop talking about him. You see this with the athletes who are the best of their generation—they are in their own media orbit. This past weekend, Tiger Woods’s return to golf was dissected in a way that would be inconceivable for, say, Phil Mickelson. There is exponentially more interest in LeBron James than in Kevin Durant or Steph Curry, his closest peers. Any hockey story is three times as big when it involves Sidney Crosby.
And that is Brady now: He first surpassed and then outlasted Peyton Manning as the premier player of his generation, and now he is almost a sport unto himself. We cover him that way. Monday, Brady first cut off a paid radio interview because one of the station’s personalities called him a pissant, then said Monday night that he does not want this radio host fired for calling his daughter a pissant. Once in a while, he causes his own controversy. Mostly, we keep yanking him into our ocean of idiocy and he keeps walking back to the beach.
Brady could throw six interceptions Sunday and it won’t change his place in history. Belichick could punt on every first down and he will still be the greatest coach of the last 50 years. They can’t win like this forever, of course. At some point Belichick will walk away and Brady will decline; it’s just a question of when, and which happens first. Until then, we get the same Tom Brady we have always gotten, even if we see him differently.