You’ve probably seen me (A-Rob) bitching and moaning about Tom Brady-related stuff on the Junkies Twitter account at times this NFL postseason. Now that he has indeed won his 4th Super Bowl, probably cementing his legacy as the greatest QB ever, I’ll try to articulate why I’m as frustrated as I am.
First and foremost, it’s a pure college sports fandom issue. I am a Notre Dame fan. To this point, Joe Montana was considered by many (though not all) to be the best QB of all time, largely on the strength of his 4-0 record in the Super Bowl. (Terry Bradshaw was 4-0 too, but it’s widely accepted that his defense was the strength of that team.) Tom Brady played for Michigan, the sports team I hate more than any other (even more than St. Louis baseball). The idea of a Michigan guy being considered the best ever makes me mad. It just does. It’s not logical.
Secondly, and probably more annoying though less important, is the cult of people I know that openly root for Brady. I have no less than five friends with no connection whatsoever to Michigan or the New England Patriots that have chosen Brady as their sports cause du jour. They root for Brady just as vocally (and more often than not, in my opinion, more emotionally) as they do their own chosen team.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, I guess. People can do what they want and it’s not really any of my business. It’s just annoying to me, because no athlete in my lifetime has drawn even one person to root for them outside the confines of being a team’s fan other than Brady. There are those that root for LeBron James, I suppose, and maybe I don’t notice those people as much or just don’t know them. But, to me, it seems like sports are about your teams — with the sole and apparent exception of Tom F. Brady.
This is probably in part envy. Since I hit puberty, I have never rooted for a championship team. I’ve only ever really come close once — the 2003 Panthers, who of course lost to Brady’s Patriots in a Super Bowl, in part because our damn kicker couldn’t keep a kickoff in bounds in the final minutes of the game. I have one friend (coincidentally, he’s one of the Brady-backers mentioned above) who is an all-Cleveland fan and is in my boat, but literally every other sports fan I know has seen a championship team post-age 11, and it drives me insane if I think about it too much.
As far as I’m concerned, titles don’t really count for a fan unless you: a) followed the team day to day or week to week and b) are old enough to appreciate it. (This is why I don’t count any of the Detroit Red Wings’ titles as ‘mine’. While I enjoy watching hockey, I don’t care enough about the Red Wings, or the sport itself for that matter, to fully follow them like I do my other teams.)
The Chicago Bulls’ titles, won when I was pretty much only ever watching the Finals and had no concept of how rare titles were, don’t count as far as I’m concerned. In a way, rooting for teams that have won previously but before you could appreciate it (for me, the Bulls and Notre Dame football fall under this camp) is even worse than rooting for teams that have never won. At least in the case of the latter, you don’t have to deal with people that hate your team, in part, because of winning you never got to see.
Anyway, I digress.
I have no real choice now but to admit Brady is the all-time best QB. Montana’s trump card was always his four rings. And while he is still and will likely always be the best QB of all time if you only count Super Bowl performances (after all, dude was 4-0, never threw a pick and directed the biggest blowout in SB history), there’s more to football than just the Super Bowl. Brady has 4 titles, but he also went 16-0 once and has been among the best QBs in the league now for over a decade. He gets credit for longevity (with an assist from the league making it illegal to touch QBs, but still, he does).
Yes, all 4 of his SB wins were essentially coin flip games, but his 2 losses were too. That’s the way it works in football and especially in the NFL. Parity is such that it’s damn near impossible to kill a team in the playoffs anymore. The games will often come down to the final possession. In Brady’s case, it came up heads 4 times (with help from a pick-6 in SB 36, a reprehensible kickoff in SB 38, a dominant D in SB 39, and an unbelievably stupid play call in SB 49). But it also came up tails twice (with help from spectacular catches by Giants’ receivers in SB 42 and SB 46). And last night’s insane catch by Jermaine Kearse almost flipped that 6th coin over to tails too. The important part is that each time, his team was in position to win, and four times they did.
Anyway, I still feel like Bill Belichick doesn’t get enough credit for this run in the rush to slurp Brady (Matt Cassel, who piloted the Chiefs to the #1 pick, went 11-5 with a Belichick team). And Brady has had a better supporting cast than anyone wants to admit (Corey Dillon was a stud when NE got him for nothing, Rob Gronkowski is the single most unstoppable weapon in the history of the league when healthy, and they’ve had various guys like Edelman, Welker, Murderer Hernandez, LeGarrette Blount [another guy they got for nothing and probably tampered to get him], etc. that have filled the roles they’re expected to play extremely well). But these are mostly complaints of envy and frustration. You play the cards you’re dealt. Ultimately, just like St. Louis baseball fans can just say ‘Scoreboard’ every time I bitch about them, so too can the people who have cast their lot with the Golden Boy.
I’m not too stubborn to admit when something I don’t like is true. I just wish I didn’t have to.