underdog hero, villain, retired legend

underdog hero, villain, retired legend

To borrow from a bat: The GOAT has lived long enough to see himself becoming the villain.

You loved him. Really, you did. Then you hated it. Your feelings today are probably somewhere between these two poles, but you have strong feelings.

However, you remember Tom Brady – as the greatest underdog story of all time; as the most boring winner ever; as a champion of champions or the weirdest of eaters – you’re right. Until yesterday, Brady refused to step out of our lives, which meant he was evolving before our eyes. We have seen the worst. We have seen the best. We saw every moment, which makes this moment the most shocking.

For one last time as a player, Brady allowed fans into his world, his oddly full brunette hair blowing in the breeze on a beach as he announced, “I’m retiring. For real.”

Thus ended a 23-season career that began when the Twin Towers still existed. A person who existed then as a glimmer in the eye of a future parent can legally drink today. Just about everything has changed – Brady included – but his presence in our lives has not.

Brady entered the NFL on April 16, 2000, when the Patriots spent a sixth-round pick on a flabby quarterback who couldn’t upstage Drew Henson at Michigan. He took over for the Patriots on September 23, 2001, when Mo Lewis nearly split Drew Bledsoe in half, and he became one of the sport’s most endearing figures.

Before he was Tom Brady™, and before you were intrigued or alienated by TB12, he was the ultimate little guy. A 199th overall pick, with a grand total of 14 NFL starts, went against The Greatest Show on Turf as two-touchdown underdogs in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots did the impossible and beat Kurt Warner’s Rams behind an undamaged Brady, who threw for 145 yards and a touchdown and mostly didn’t get picked.

Tom Brady’s Super Bowl XXXVI victory over the Rams closed a chapter in an all-time great underdog story.Boston Globe via Getty Images

The image that will forever remain from the game is champion Brady, with a backwards hat, a big smile and hands on his head, shaking his head in disbelief. Even he couldn’t believe his luck and fortune. The Patriots had unearthed a franchise quarterback and America had found a new darling.

Somewhere on the way to a seven-man Super Bowl ring, a fiery David became an insufferable Goliath. He led the league in touchdowns the following season. He beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl after the 2003 season and the Eagles the following season. He established himself as the best player in the game, threw for 50 stupid touchdowns in 2007 before losing to Eli Manning’s Giants, then tore his ACL in 2008. He bounced back and basically wrote a second career at the Hall of fame. He lost again to the Giants and started adding to his ring collection with a win over the Seahawks after the 2014 season.

Derek Jeter has the Flip. Michael Jordan has the step back (and push from) Bryon Russell. Perhaps the Patriots’ 28-3 comeback at the Falcons in Super Bowl LI stands out, but the guess here is that there isn’t a Brady feat from this game that’s imprinted on your mind. Brady doesn’t have a defining moment. What defined it was the amount of moments.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and their six Super Bowls together, seemed like the perfect marriage. Then it all happened.Boston Globe via Getty Images

He kept winning. His seven Super Bowl rings are more than the Jets, Chargers, Titans, Cardinals, Bengals, Panthers, Falcons, Vikings, Bills, Seahawks, Rams, Eagles, Bears and Saints put together.

His character kept changing. The confidence of the quiet rookie has become the arrogance of a veteran. A pristine image was tarnished during Deflategate, when the NFL itself branded him a cheater. We know far too much about his personal life and his romances with Bridget Moynahan and Gisele Bündchen, none of which lasted. Her marriage to Bill Belichick also fell apart. Brady landed with the Bucs, with whom he seemed completely removed from the shadow of The Patriots Way. He started swearing a lot more in interviews. He has become many things, including human ones. His pivot, as a brand, to the relatable didn’t extend to his face, which became more chiseled, or his diet, which never included strawberries. With each successive year of excellence, TB12 became the playbook, and every aging star athlete (LeBron James, Max Scherzer, Lionel Messi) had a new role model.

With every quarterback — really, every athlete — it ends up coming to an end. Father Time wins. But Brady never became Willie Mays, on his last legs at Shea Stadium. After leaving Belichick and setting aside New England’s undying goodwill, he won a Super Bowl at age 43. The 45-year-old threw for 4,694 yards with the Bucs last season, which would be the Jets record of nearly 700 yards.

Tom Brady’s personal life impacted the quarterback and overshadowed his final season in the NFL.Getty Images

Certainly, he does not completely leave our lives. His arm is finished, but his mouth is not. He can move to Fox Sports as a high-paying broadcaster. He will be here.

But for the first time since Bill Clinton took office, Brady won’t be on an NFL roster next season. Whether you hate him or love him, Brady’s departure is surprising in its finality. We never thought he would truly retire – for the last time, at least – until he did.

Today’s last page

New York Post

Read more:

🏈 How Tom Brady’s retirement affects the crowded quarterback market

🏈 Where are things at with Giants and Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley

🏀 Nets overwhelmed by Celtics in lopsided loss

Breanna Stewart and the WNBA Super Team Era

If you’ve been paying attention to Breanna Stewart’s intriguing, never-ending free agency, that seems to have been part of the problem. One of the WNBA’s superstars is bringing attention to the league and bringing his talents to where that attention can be maximized: here.

The former league MVP will sign with the Liberty, she announced yesterday, and join All-Star point guard Sabrina Ionescu and former MVP Jonquel Jones in what amounts to a super team. Maybe the WNBA needs its version of the Big Three Heat — or the UConn women — to reach a wider audience.

WNBA superstar Breanna Stewart’s free agency has ended with the creation of a super team in New York.NBAE via Getty Images

“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for sure, and I decided to go to New York because I want to keep being great,” Stewart said on “SportsCenter.” “I want to go where I can continue to help this league improve, to continue to raise the bar.

“I wonder why not go to the biggest market in all of sports, and I’m really excited to go after their first championship.”

The Liberty chose to charter the team’s flights for part of the 2021 season, which resulted in Joe Tsai (also owner of the Nets) being fined $500,000. It’s probably no coincidence that Stewart is joining a franchise poised to pioneer the best accommodations for WNBA players.

Stewart joining the biggest market and a franchise that wants the best for its players seems like best for the WNBA.

Fight the good fight

Read this story about Howie Rose’s cancer battle.

Baseball broadcasters are a part of fans’ lives like few others. For 162 games per season, you allow them into your living room, another background voice on dinner plates. Radio presenters such as Rose, in particular, are valued for having the time, in a slow sport, to weave stories between pitches. For millions of Mets fans, Rose is part of the family.

Howie Rose’s voice has become a familiar backdrop for Mets fans and their families. MLB Photos via Getty Images

Rose’s own family are privately dealing with her diagnosis of bladder cancer, which led to surgery, followed by a hernia, followed by another operation.

By making the battle public, Rose can help others. That’s what the family does.

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