This morning, as I'm working my way through the Kubler-Ross-Thornton Stages of Grief, past "Bourbon and Lucky Charms" and "Gently Sobbing in the Rain With My Hand Against the Glass of TB12 Fitness" toward "Acceptance," seeing this post of tom Brady singing his actual contract was sort of hurtful, but therapeutic. Like how when you're sick and you don't want to puke because it's going to feel awful until you actually do puke and then you get to move on from the pukey feeling with an empty stomach. We've been holding this particular one down for months now. So let's flush and spray the air freshener and move on.
But before we do, I heard an interesting take from my buddy Murph that, the more I think about it, the more creedence I give it. We've heard years of talk that Brady wants out of New England because he's sick of Bill Belichick's impossible standards and lack of emotional availability. We've heard he wants out because he's frustrated with the personnel moves they made or didn't make to help him. We've heard he wants out because he resents the Krafts for underpaying him all these years and never making it up to him. Most of it driven by the very people who haven't had the finger pointed at them in all this.
The New England media themselves. How much of #Braxit is on them and the relentless, 20 year news cycle worth of bullshit he's had to put up with?
To be clear: No one is under any obligation to be all positive all the time. Unless you're working for your high school paper or some small college booster club Facebook page, you're not doing your job if you're not critical when criticism is called for. But given Brady's track record of success, the way he's lived his life off the field and the way he's treated people around him all these years, the treatment he's gotten from much of the Boston press in print, digital and terrestrial radio has been galactically out of whack with what he's deserved.
A guy who inherited the starting quarterback's job at a time when Boston was on a 15-year championship drought. When guys like David Justice and others were having clauses written into their contracts saying they couldn't be traded to Boston. When Rick Pitino was bitching about the negativity after having run the Celtics into the ground, the city threw a parade for Ray Bourque winning a Stanley Cup in Colorado, we were seeing this coverage, deservedly so:
Brady took over and changed it all. From a 4th string QB in 2000 behind even Michael Bishop, who was months away from being released by a Canadian team, to becoming the transformative figure this region thought a dozen other guys would be overnight. And for the next 19 years and 249 wins and six banners, while he conducted himself with class and was an exemplary teammate, he took mountain ranges of shit normally reserved for failures, behavior problems, misanthropes and Rick Pitino.
Without getting too hung up on dates, here's a more or less chronological and partial, list:
- From the start, he took crap for the crime of replacing Drew Bledsoe, who "shouldn't lose his job to injury" and "was lied to" by Belichick. Most of that coming from beat writers who were attached to Bledoe's asscheeks like a barnacle. [Nods in Ron Borges' direction.] They labeled Brady as a "caretaker" and later a "system" quarterback who was lucky to have gotten the Tuck Rule call and was carried to championships by his defense. At least for as many years as they could before he started shattering records.
- When Bridgit Moynahan annouced she was pregnant with Brady's baby, suddenly half the columnists in the city were Nathaniel Hawthorne, stitching a Scarlet "A" onto his jersey while the talk show hosts took hours of calls from Doris in Quincy on Line 2 to talk about how disappointed she is and Marie in Revere asking why didn't think of the message this sends to children. A grown man and his even growner ex-girlfriend got pregnant. And much of the region reacted with Oh no, you diidnnn't!!! over their personal business. In 2007.
- Later that year, Spygate. Which was laid on the desk of Belichick mostly, where it belonged, even as laughable and overblown as it was. But it served to call into question everything Brady had accomplished to that point. After all, how were we supposed to think he could read defense's so well? Film study? Hard work? Putting in the hours? Wrong. He knew the calls. And the grand jury increased that charge from felony to capital crime when the fake Herald story came out the day before the 18-0 Pats played in the Super Bowl claiming there was a tape of the Rams walk through in 2002. Again, Belichick was the criminal mastermind, but Brady was an accessory after the fact.
- Another round of tongue clucking came in 2011, when Brady told Pats fans to come ready for a game against the Chargers. ”Yeah, start drinking early, he said. "Get nice and rowdy. 4:15 game, lot of time to get lubed up.” Apparently there are more people in New England still wearing buckles on their hats and who escaped Charles II's England following the Great Ejection than I realized. They're still intolerant of the use of demon rum. Because a backlash from the Puritans caused the team to issue a statement clarifying that Tom just wanted the fans to stay hydrated. This happened in our lifetimes.
- Delfategate. How much more do I need to say about Brady getting absolutely vilified for this? Not only convicted without a trial. But excoriated for his supposedly terrible performance in the infamous press conference.
- The one where everyone was acting under the assumption 11 of the Patriots 12 game balls were under inflated by 2 psi, which was a flat out falsehood. He was mocked, slandered, called a liar, and accused of bribing employees and "destroying" the evidence on his personal phone no one is entitled to. The press - local and national - took the side of an evil corporate empire over one innocent man. He was called selfish for fighting for his rights in a court of law. And even when he dropped his appeal two years later, they said it's because he knew he was guilty. The reason turned out to be that his mother was fighting for her life with chemo treatments. No apology was ever issued by anyone who had him convicted him in the court of public opinion.
- Then there's the little matter of John Henry's Boston Globe accusing him of a little thing like stealing money from the Special Needs Kids he'd raised tens of millions for.
- And then having the unmitigated gall to get pissy when Best Buddies turned their photographer away from their next event.
- Then came the instant classic Seth Wickersham piece that portrayed him as an aloof, entitled, paranoid, ego maniac and lousy teammate who insisted other players call him "Sir," and had him running upstairs to Mr. Kraft demanding Jimmy Garoppolo be traded for being an existential threat to him. The article was loaded with easily debunked factual inaccuracies. And denied by all involved. But was accepted as settled science by the locals who grabbed oversized serving spoons, detached their jaws like anacondas and shoveled it down by the bowlful. They believed it because they wanted to believe it.
- Next, there was his TB12 Fitness empire, which was portrayed as basically a hyrbid dangerous cult/ money laundering operation. When he wasn't taking advantage of his fans by hypnotizing them to purchase his cook book, coffee table book on wellness and $200 ceramic-lined pajamas against their will, he was using his Patriots Place gym as a scam with RKK to circumvent the NFL salary cap. Like the diabolical bastard child of Jimmy Swaggart and 1998 John Elway.
- Let's not forget when he did "Tom vs. Time," a fun, harmless, docu-series to give the public a glimpse into his approach to training and his family life. And got this to thank for it, courtesy of the station on which he did a weekly appearance:
- This might have been the last straw:
- Brady shoots a scene in a green screen studio along with Paul Rudd. Something to do with an ordinary slob cloning himself so he can get more done or something. And at the cloning lab he runs into the genetically prefect guy. Laugh? We nearly did. But the show sits in development hell, unused for years. Until The Tug Rule scandal. Then it goes back into production. And that high tech cloning lab they were going to CGI into the background becomes an Asian massage parlor in a strip mall. Get it?! That's the gag! OMG! ROFL!!! Netflix rushes the completed series onto its platform and it blows up. And Brady, who a long time earlier filmed a fun cameo with America's favorite celebrity Paul Rudd, finds himself unwittingly dragged into a controversy. Now he's listening to questions about why he'd make Asian day spa jokes at a time like this. Why would he go out of his way to humiliate a guy he's supposed to love like a second father? Is it because they didn't get him any weapons? Because they've under paid him? Because they "threw him under the bus" during Deflategate? Is it because he released Antonio Brown years after they shot the scene? Exactly how much does he hate it in Foxboro?
I'm learning to accept the fact Tom Brady left New England. I will never accept the way he got treated by large portions of the media. I hope like hell he feels the same way. Be prepared, Jarrett Stidham. Also, wash your hands.