They’re coming for you. Do you know that? And the football world is cheering them on. They have the cuddly, gruff Wilford Brimley-looking head coach. They have the quarterback who's caused so many jaw drops he’s left permanent chest indentations.
They have the fanbase that -- while not quite the wholesome, BBQ-snacking, yessir, no ma’am horde we may have thought they were four years ago -- still isn’t you.
They don’t have the insufferable celebrity fans or media moguls or beat-reporters who attached themselves like remoras to the Great White Shark of success and have feasted for 20 years.
You know it. I know it. After two decades of The Patriot Way, the football planet feels like it’s almost out of the darkness. All it needs to make the changing of the guard official is a win by the Chiefs in Super Bowl 55.
All that’s left standing between them and the true start of their dynasty?
Tom Brady. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
Roll your eyes at the dramatization if you want but it’s true. If Kansas City knocks off Tampa next Sunday, they become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since the Patriots of 2003-2004.
In the ensuing rush to anoint the Chiefs, Dee Ford lining up offsides in the 2018 playoffs will be cited as a mere technicality that veils the real truth. The next thing you know, people are contorting themselves to claim Kansas City’s won three straight. Which is something the Patriots never did.
And where will that leave us? Futilely waving our research at them.
The Patriots could have won 10! If everyone didn’t have the flu in 2006! If they called the hold on Seymour before the Tyree catch! If Welker caught it in SB46! If Malcolm played!
No one’s gonna care. The embrace of the Chiefs won’t be just because of Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and the inevitability of brilliance their offense oozes. The embrace will be even tighter because this team is NOT THE PATRIOTS.
“Give us Barabbas!”
This conversation, of course, has nothing to do with actual football and everything to do with ephemeral bragging rights and legacies. On one hand, all this stuff is “eye of the beholder” fodder anyway.
On the other hand, what is pro football and the NFL anyway if not role-playing entertainment replete with hagiography, myth, heroes, villains? Essentially, it’s a game where men try to knock other men down before they get over a white line with a ball. The only reason it’s en route to being a $20B-a-year industry is because of the importance we infuse it with.
It’s all mythologizing. But Achilles had nothing on Tom Brady. That this impossible-to-script story has come back around AGAIN is mind-blowing.
In 2016, I wrote about Brady as the embodiment of a man on The Hero’s Journey.
At that point, Brady had satisfied all the steps put forth by the brilliant professor Joseph Campbell who espoused a theory of the path the archetypal hero must walk. If you like stories, I can’t recommend familiarizing yourself with Campbell strongly enough.
Anyway, Brady’s at a step that Campbell didn’t allow for.
He’s been cast out, reborn somewhere else and left to defend the honor and legacy of the king and kingdom from which he was vanquished against the usurpers? Your results may vary depending on your view of the draft and salary cap, but play along.
Tom Brady. Tampa Bay Buccaneer. The last line of defense against the Chiefs.
You cannot make this stuff up.