A few things I care about …
▪ The personality of post-Patriot Tom Brady continues to emerge.
And it continues to entertain.
The latest chapter of Brady Unplugged comes from an upcoming episode of the HBO talk show, “The Shop: Uninterrupted.” A promo clip released Tuesday shows how much Brady still holds a grudge against a (so far) unnamed team that bailed on him late in free agency last year.
“One of the teams, they weren’t interested at the very end,” Brady mused, eyes twinkling. “I was thinking, ‘You’re sticking with that [expletive]?’ “
No surprise that the initial firestorm centered around the most obvious and salacious question: Whom is he talking about? That conversation pinged around the country like one of those satellite maps cops show when they’re tracking a cell phone signal on a TV procedural. From New Orleans to Chicago to Los Angeles to San Francisco. Was he talking about Drew Brees? Or Mitch Trubisky? Or Jared Goff? Or (the guess in these parts) Jimmy Garoppolo?
No word whether Friday night’s airing will give us an answer, and no doubt that would spawn a new round of headlines if it does. But if that’s the lead, there are plenty of subplots that are just as fascinating.
First among those, to me, is the continuing freedom Brady displays with his thoughts and feelings. No longer in the shadow of Bill Belichick’s zipped-lip, team-first, say-nothing environment, it’s as if Brady’s inner monologue has been unleashed, with him more open than he was across two decades in New England.
Maybe it’s a simple function of age — that at 43, Brady has fewer cares left to give about what people think of him. Or maybe it’s a simple function of accomplishment, with a seventh Super Bowl victory and 10th career appearance in his first season with the Bucs emboldening him beyond even what another championship in New England would have. He operates from a position of ultimate power, one for which he deserves every ounce of credit for creating.
Because we know it’s not a new phenomenon for Brady to hold a grudge. His entire career is built on the NFL’s original sin of ignoring him until the 199th pick of the 2000 draft. From that first dramatic Super Bowl run in his sophomore campaign to capping the insult of his Deflategate suspension with a fifth Super Bowl title in the 2016 season, he consistently and repeatedly proved how wrong all those teams were to pass on him.
He left the Patriots when Belichick made it obvious he was ready to move on, and he won on his own.
He led the once joke-of-a-franchise Bucs to a Super Bowl. And he heads into the 2021 season with all 22 starters back. He’s riding high, able to set off days of frenzied conversation with one 30-second clip. We’re here for all of it.
▪ On the subject of Belichick and all of the winning he has done in his Patriots tenure, I was fascinated to hear how much that may affect other teams in the market. Consider the words of Tuukka Rask after the Bruins lost Game 6 of their second-round playoff series. With the goalie’s future in some doubt because of injury (he needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip), he was asked about the pride he feels for his entire body of work, even if it shows an inability to win a Stanley Cup as a starting goalie.
“The Patriots definitely haven’t helped anybody in that regard because they won championships every year, it seems like,” Rask said. “This city all recognizes champions as their heroes. Obviously, as an athlete, you want to win. You want to have a chance to win every year, and I think we’ve been very close a few times.
“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t reached that goal yet and I haven’t won the Cup as a playing goalie, but I feel like I’ve played good hockey and given us a chance.
“It’s tough to win. There’s very few guys who win it. It’s not easy. We’ve definitely tried, and I just haven’t been able to close the deal, and that’s the way it is. You just have to deal with it. Maybe it will happen. Who knows?”
Honesty like that makes it even clearer how rare Brady is.
▪ Building the Islanders team that bounced the Bruins from the playoffs was good enough to win Lou Lamoriello a second straight NHL General Manager of the Year award, making him the first two-time winner of the honor named for Jim Gregory. Lamoriello, the architect of three Stanley Cup titles in New Jersey, remains one of the best front office people of his generation.
▪ Love the fact that Carl Nassib’s jersey shot to the top of sales lists in the hours after he came out. Here’s to his honesty, courage, and inspiration. As I’ve written many times, representation matters. And for Nassib to be a trail blazer as the first active NFL player open about being gay, he takes on that role. The public reaction, at least as measured in popularity, is a heartening sign of progress and acceptance.
▪ I get that Philadelphia fans are done with Ben Simmons. But no matter how frustrating it must be to watch him, it can be heartbreaking too. Passing up an open dunk, not taking a shot in the fourth quarter of the Sixers’ meltdown against Atlanta, and knowing Simmons’s history of struggling in clutch situations, it was hard to watch. And listen to.
I’m not sure how else Joel Embiid could have answered a question about where the turning point of the Sixers’ Game 7 loss was, but hearing him drive that bus over Simmons has to spell change in the City of Brotherly Love.
▪ In another Game 7 for the ages, Kevin Durant’s shoe size may have cost the Nets an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals. Durant reportedly wears a size 18 for games rather than his actual size 17 for street shoes, preferring the shoes feel loose while he’s on the court. That’s just about how much of Durant’s foot was over the 3-point line when he sent Game 7 against Milwaukee to overtime with a game-tying jumper rather than a game-winning three.