Patriots

Patriots

A beeee-YOOOOOOO-teeefullllll Sunday morning in May. Sun busting loose with a welcome intensity.

Pandemic or not, this was a day to get outside, keep everyone out of your six-foot orbit or throw on a mask if you couldn’t. It was a day to wallow in Vitamin D, smell a tulip, wash the car.

To my surprise, many, many people — many of the best and smartest people, biggest brains we have, to be honest — were also willing to cross swords on social media about Tom Brady on Sunday morning.

How do I know? BECAUSE I ASKED!!!!

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Sunday morning, I tapped out a Twitter poll to gauge people’s post-Brady sentiments. I knew they were not only varied but also passionately held but I just wanted to get a read on where the majority of my 136,000 Twitter followers stood.

The poll got 30,911 votes and 330 replies. That is by far the most engagement I’ve ever gotten on a Twitter poll and I’ve done a bunch of them.

Here’s the poll:

The most surprising result to me is that nearly 1 in 5 (18.4 percent) feel greater allegiance to Brady than the Patriots.

That 68 percent of people remain very supportive of Brady and that most people (49.4 percent) back the Patriots first is, to me, evidence that this was as close to a no-fault divorce as the Patriots could have hoped.

The 32 percent of people who don’t really want to talk about TB12 any more doesn’t surprise me much. We rode the Brady End of Days story like a mule for the past few years.

 

There are few angles left unexplored and — in the absence of new events like actual training camp practices or preseason games — we’re really just walking around the smoking rubble of the relationship looking at artifacts.

And, in fact, that’s what this column and that poll are about. Which isn’t a bad thing.

The Brady Era is historic. Getting down “how it felt” and what people thought when it ended is worthwhile if only for the sake of closure. Michael Jordan’s "The Last Dance" documentary is a clear demonstration that the nostalgic pull of a player or a team from a certain period isn’t just a chance to look back on them, but it’s also a chance to look back on ourselves and the period when things happened.

Where were we? How did we feel then? What did we think the future was going to look like? How close were we to right? How dead wrong did we end up being?

In the fall of 2001, we were reeling and regrouping after 9/11 as the Patriots and Brady stunned the NFL. In the spring of 2020, we are isolated, quarantined, masked-up and anxious as Brady exits.

Brady’s reign as Patriots quarterback was bookended by the two of the most jarring events in modern American history. Coincidence. But still weird. And a twist of fate that promises to make our ability to recollect the time of Brady’s departure with great detail.

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It will be interesting for all of us to look back at some point and see just how dug in we were on our points of view.

And it’s clear that people are very much dug in.

There were those whose allegiance to Brady is undying:

@MrsLW: As my t-shirt says, "If loving Tom Brady is wrong, I don't want to be right." With apologies to Homer Banks. #stax

@Comedyguy6: I’m Brady first honestly... hate to say it but I am. I don’t blindly support a team because I’m from here when they were lucky to have him and then let him walk out... I get his age but Bill was dead wrong in 2014...

The vast majority who put the Patriots ahead of their beloved Tom (but barely):

@BobbiPortnoy: A revenge story is nice sometimes and Brady is a great hero to lead it, that’s what it feels like. I’m rooting for that, but also want Pats to win the SB every year. It’s rough.

 

@SteveU_52: I voted choice 2 (1 and 1A) but the only difference is that I won't really listen to anything he says off the field until he's retired... I will root for him 110% unless there was a meeting in a SB against the Patriots.
 
The “I will survive” crew:

@96SubaruSVX: Watching Belichick move on from players so easily has rubbed off on me. I'm over it.
 
And the “dead to me” crowd:

@Russ_Goldman: Tom, I have made this known on my podcast. He is dead to me until he retires. I am a fan of the New England Patriots and not the New England Bradys. #GoPats

Some of which drew amusing blowback.

@jmGreekwedding: What a child

@bmvwood: Tom Brady gave New England too many amazing years for him to ever be dead to us! Pats first, nothing but love for Tom. #gopats 

@Russ_Goldman: I named my son Brady after him my friend. I have done my part and I look forward to the day he retires. I don’t feel I need to watch him play this season.

Others of which were just not having it.

@lerias1968: I’m actually hoping he learns a lesson in Tampa Bay, goes 8-8 and has forgettable seasons there. I know it will grind his gears to retire with only pedestrian seasons w/out coach BB. He could have gone out a spotless legend, but Tampa Bay will be a turd on his statue.

@amityfranksilva: He’s #1 Boston sports traitor of all time .....
 
And there were a fair share of people wondering why we just keeping kicking at the hornet’s nest.

@brody_ts: Tom, he is gone, move on. I realize there is no sports to discuss but this cringe worthy constant Brady talk by the local media is like the Ned Ryerson scene in Groundhog Day.  Am I right or am I right?

 

To which I replied …

Bottom line, people’s sentiments are raw and they want to share them.

There are some parallels to the various ways people react to the ending of real-life relationships. Some people will pine. Some people will wish the departed well and check to see how things are going. Some people believe "out of sight, out of mind." Some are "Screw him, he was no good anyway."

This poll and the comments tells us a lot about fandom and the different flavors it comes in.

And it tells us about the unique relationship with Brady because he was the centerpiece of — quite likely — many of the greatest moments in people's sports-watching lives. And if sports is a unifier — and we know that for some it is — he and the Patriots were the sun around which a valued portion of many, many people's lives have revolved.

I keep trying to come up with an equivalent to Brady leaving. We’ve been so blessed in this town with legend after legend going back to Ted Williams.

But nobody else hit the heights Brady and stayed there as long.

I guess Yaz if he’d ever gone elsewhere at the end? He was the only one who was here longer than Brady and at his best, he was sublime. But he never won a championship and — while beloved — he wasn’t exactly a warm figure.

Russell? Cousy? Havlicek? Kind of? Maybe? But the 1960s and '70s NBA was a B-grade attraction. Were people naming their dogs “Cooz?” Getting “Hondo” tattoos? They averaged more than 9,000 fans per game at the Garden just once in the '60s.   

Ted Williams? Again, singular brilliance and a personality unlike anything we can imagine ever seeing again. But it was a different time and people’s passions were different is my guess.

Ray Bourque wanted to go win a Cup and the Bruins let him. Bobby Orr’s departure was probably close but his knees were hamburger by the time he left.

Carlton Fisk — who was a native New Englander and as iconic as you could really get when he left the Sox to go to Chicago in 1981 — is the closest comp in my lifetime but he’s the equivalent of maybe Wes Welker? Clemens?

Loathed by many before he left. Loathed by more after.

Maybe only David Ortiz or Larry Bird. Had either wanted to stay but been semi-chased away to the point they opted to finish their career elsewhere, then you might have an equivalent to the Brady departure.

No, this Brady thing is different. As we’ve been told often over the last two months, we are living in UNPRECEDENTED TIMES!!!!!

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