NEW ORLEANS - He was on the cover of a Wheaties box before the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory was an hour old. He’s already emerged as every mother’s favorite would-be son-in-law. The man who never throws the bomb now is the bomb.
In Boston professional sports, there never has been anything like The Tom Brady Story. We’ve had our share of Hall of Famers, franchise players, and unwashed phenoms, but Brady takes the cake. He also takes the Cadillac Escalade (Super Bowl MVP car), the trip to the Pro Bowl, and he’ll probably take your kid sister to the prom if you ask him nicely.
What’s left? People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive? A stint with the Chicago White Sox? Lighting the Olympic torch in Salt Lake City? The ceremonial first pitch for the Red Sox home opener?
This debate raged in the Big Easy last week when reporters got a good, long look at Brady in daily press conferences ... Damon or DiCaprio?
By the end of Super Bowl XXXVI, the question was ... Marino or Montana?
We’ve been blessed with greater talents. Certainly no one would equate Brady’s skills with those of Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, or Larry Bird. Fred Lynn had an equally impressive rookie year (and never mind the technicality, this was Brady’s rookie year). But those stars came with impressive resumes and accompanying expectations. Brady came needing ID to get into the stadium.
That’s what’s so amazing. A year ago, Brady was on the roster, but even Patriot fans who were dissatisfied with Drew Bledsoe spent their time talking about Michael Bishop. Brady was a sixth-round draft pick. Old No. 199. He was a kid who played in one game in 2000-01, throwing three passes against the Detroit Lions, completing one.
And now Brady is the It Guy. In one magical season, he did something Teddy Ballgame and Ray Bourque never did in our town: He won a championship. Helped by a clever, low-risk offensive game plan, Brady rarely makes mistakes that cost games.
You watch him and you listen and it’s hard to tell if he understands how great and unbelievable this is. It’s as if he expected nothing less ... you get a chance to play, you win the Super Bowl. Simple.
Princes of Main Street, Kings of New England, the World Champion Patriots will be feted today in Boston’s first championship celebration in 16 years. Brady no doubt will say a few words and they’ll be the right words.
He knows nothing of curses and the sky-is-falling mentality that pollutes our sports landscape. He dares to wear a Red Sox cap, sometimes backward. He’s quick to talk about his parents and his sisters. He’s respectful of his teammates.
And he’s clutch. Like Montana. Already.
Remember the blizzard playoff game against the Raiders? Brady completed 32 of 52 passes in those impossible conditions. At one point, he connected on nine straight.
He’s also lucky. The whole world knows he fumbled that ball against Oakland, but he was saved by a technicality and the luck of the clock (the Patriots had used up their challenges and the play was reviewed only because less than two minutes remained).
Sunday night in New Orleans, Brady’s numbers were quite ordinary and you could have voted for Ty Law or Adam Vinatieri as MVP, but Brady’s the one who moved the Patriots 53 yards in the final 1:21 without the benefit of any timeouts (while John Madden was saying he should take a knee and go for overtime). Brady completed five passes in the winning drive. Then he hugged Drew Bledsoe. Then he thanked his parents. Then he signed the Wheaties box for Troy Brown, saying, ‘’Put 53 guys on this box.’’ Then he did a million television interviews.
He held up the Lombardi Trophy and said, ‘’There’s a lot of fingerprints on this.’’
Then he told us he fell asleep before the game. He was napping when Sir Paul McCartney (who recorded an album entitled ‘’Ram,’’ by the way) was singing ‘’Freedom.’’
Brady is good. He is confident. He gets it. He has been sent from Central Casting. Joe Hardy in shoulder pads. He is too good to be true.
He was a delight in the tedious media sessions in New Orleans. When two reporters asked a question at the same time, he motioned toward the one who looked like Miss Brazil, smiled, and said, ‘’I’d rather answer her question.’’ Later, when a 10-year-old boy asked about the Ram defense, Brady said, ‘’Way to stand up there and ask your question, little man.’’
Now what? What can you do for an encore when you are 24 years old and you have already been MVP of the Super Bowl?
’’I’ve got to prove it for a lot of years,’’ Brady said. ‘’I’ve got a long ways to go. I think there’s a lot of football left.’’