I have not wrote about football in quite awhile, but Tom Brady is about to start in his 14th conference championship game. Only four NFL franchises have been to more Conference Championship games than Tom Brady, please note I wrote “franchises”. There are only four NFL franchises that have more playoff wins than Tom Brady. The Patriots have 37, The Cowboys have 35, The Steelers have 35, The Packers which is a 100 year old franchise, have 34, and Tom Brady an individual player has 32. The next best player behind him? Joe Montana with 16 postseason victories.
Anyone who knows me, knows I share no love for Tom Brady. I am and have always been, a sports grudge keeper. I do not believe in holding grudges in general… except in SPORTS 😉 I have been known to hold these grudges for years, even decades. These grudges against players and or teams date back to my middle school days. When I begrudged the Broncos for stealing a conference Championship victory from the Raiders with the help of the officials in 1977. This keeping the Raiders from a repeat trip to the Super Bowl. I had to root for Dallas in that Super Bowl, yech! I didn’t actually hate the Cowboys at that point in my life, that would come a year later. And Brady, a man not even born yet when I first began my NFL grudges, would find himself in my crosshairs one day.
The longest grudge I hold is now well over 40 years. To this very day I hold a grudge against the Dallas Cowboys. This grudge is not due to any one game, any one player, or coach. No I hold a grudge against the Cowboys because in 1978 they produced a highlight film in which they presented themselves as “America’s Team.” That single act of pomposity alone wasn’t really what got under my skin, in fact I don’t think I ever saw the film. It was the fact that the sports media and eventually the mainstream media perpetuated the name giving it a semblance of truth. The Dallas Cowboys were a great team in the 1970s, but they were not America’s team, they were not my team, for nearly every one outside of Texas, they were the other team. Every time I heard them presented as “America’s Team” I wanted to throw my shoe through TV screen. And I still do 42 years later.
What does all of this really have to do with Brady and the Patriots? Well context is important so read on. Back in 1997 John Elway finally found himself on a Broncos team that had some depth to the roster and some weapons on offense. As a life long Raiders fan, the Broncos don’t garner my affection. But in January of 1998 John Elway and the Denver Broncos found themselves in another Super Bowl. This would be John’s 4th trip to the big game following three losing efforts years earlier against the Giants, Redskins, and 49ers. I held onto to that grudge from the conclusion of the AFC Championship game in January of 1978 for a full two decades. I’d like to think my grudge played a role in keeping the Lombardi trophy out of Denver, but I don’t think I’m quite that powerful 😉 That did not stop me from publicly lifting the grudge in an article published right here in the old paper version of this blog. On Monday, January 19th, 1998 I wrote an article titled: “After 2 Decades, I Finally Forgive.” I go on to recount the events of that fateful day in 1978 and discuss why a lifelong Raiders fan would forgive the Broncos. Well in short, the Broncos are still a hated rival, but the sports media seem to feel quarterbacks need to win Super Bowls as a prerequisite for being among the best to play. I think this is a bullshit premise on it’s face. Fran Tarkenton never won a Super Bowl, neither did Dan Marino. Both of those guys are still among the best to ever play the game, frankly both of them were better than four time Super Bowl Champ, Terry Bradshaw. I did not want a QB that had dealt so much devastation to my Raiders to go down as a “pretty good QB” I wanted him to be remembered as a guy that won games, was pretty clutch, and could throw a football through a brick wall. That way I could feel a little better about all of Elway’s wins against my beloved team. Now with Rod Sager’s grudge released, Elway went on to win back to back Super Bowls, punching his ticket to a first ballot entry to Canton in 2004. Gee, maybe I am that powerful 😉
So now we are getting to the Brady part of this tale. There are two reasons I hold a grudge against Tom Brady. First is “The Tuck” one of many legendary plays involving the Raiders over the decades. This time the play went against Oakland and just about everyone in the football universe knows the Raiders were royally screwed by the officials on that play. As it ended up: instead of a game ending fumble it was an opportunity for Brady and company to steal a win in the snow. Those Raiders almost certainly would have won the Super Bowl; that team was stacked! Tom’s solid play in relief of injured Drew Bledsoe, led coach Belichick to replace Bledsoe as the permanent starter. Bledsoe was one of my favorite players. Now that’s two reasons to hate on Brady! As the years went on and Brady continued to pour on victories and championships I started to hate more on Belichick especially with the scandals of spying on the Jets and deflate-gate. The Patriots quickly replaced the Cowboys as my most hated franchise. Well clearly my grudges are not that powerful anymore, because Brady has six Super Bowl rings. That guy is on his way to needing Super Bowl thumb rings.
This weekend Tom Brady will lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that went 7-9 last year with solid QB Jameis Winston, to the NFC Championship game against the Packers at Lambeau and Aaron Rodgers at QB. I like Rodgers he is one of my favorite players, but deep down, I am rooting for Tom Brady. How is this even a thing? ‘Tuck’it Tommy B’ can’t get no love from me! It’s a little like what happened with Elway. Now you might be thinking, Brady has the rings, he doesn’t need any more, right? Well, yes… sort of.
Brady is already being crowned by the sports media as the G.O.A.T. which as you probably know in our acronym heavy world, means: greatest of all time. I don’t think so, not yet. If I have to listen to the Brady sycophants chanting: GOAT, GOAT, GOAT, for the rest of my effing life, I’d like to at least believe it… a little.
Look at this 2020 season. The Patriots sans the ‘Tuckster’, went 7-9 this season and missed the playoffs after a 12 win season with Brady last year. It’s not like they had a chump behind the center this year. They had the excellent Cam Newton back there. Jeez, that guy led the Panthers to a Super Bowl recently! In all fairness, I’m not convinced Newton is a good fit for a Belichick team, but he is a damn good player. So maybe Tom is the “real deal” and Belichick is the pretender. Maybe Bill will need to dig into the cheat bag to pull off a winning season without Tuck boy on the roster.
What is up with Brady? How can he still be so good after 20 seasons? I think he made a deal with the devil. Seriously, he still has movie star good looks, a super model wife, and the real possibility of running out of ring fingers. He is on a quest to wipe out every passing record on the books. He threw 40 TDs this year on a team that went 7-9 last year. He was tied for 2nd in the league for TD passes and third for yardage. This man is 43 years old! If Tom Brady can lead this Tampa Bay team to a Super Bowl in his first year on the roster, it becomes nigh impossible to deny him some G.O.A.T. action. So here I am some 19 years after the Tuck play, releasing my grudge against Tom Brady, and refocusing it entirely on Bill Belichick and the Patriots 😉
I am looking forward to Sunday’s matchup because I really can’t lose in this game. If Rodgers wins I’m happy because I like Aaron, If Brady wins I’m OK with all the GOAT talk. Win / Win.