Tom Brady announced Sunday night that he is coming back to football. He is going to play quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He did this 41 days after telling us that he was done with football, after telling us he was done with the Buccaneers.
Brady changed the New England sports universe. He was a champion. He was clutch. He was polite. He was smart and careful. When the game was on the line, he was the greatest performer this side of Bill Russell.
Now he is just annoying. He won’t go away. He is an insatiable, passive-aggressive attention hog.
Please, Tom. Stop.
Sure, we’ll watch. And Brady probably will be great again at the age of 45. He takes care of his body and knows how to protect himself on the field. He plays the quarterback position like a man playing a video game from his couch. Brady can still be great.
But what about dignity? What about all the stuff Tom said about being done and needing time to be with his family? Are we watching the midlife crisis of one of the greatest athletes we have ever seen?
After a Patriot career he conducted with class and good old-fashioned Gary Cooper humility, Brady has morphed into an attention-seeking carnival act on a par with Deion Sanders, Brett Favre, Dennis Rodman, and the manager who couldn’t quit, Billy Martin.
It feels like, somewhere along the line, Brady acquired a neediness gene from his longtime boss, Bob Kraft.
Brady is atop the pantheon of Boston’s all-time sports greats, but none of them went through this identity crisis at the end of their careers. Ted Williams hit a homer in his final at-bat, then announced it was over after the game. Teddy Ballgame’s farewell was covered by John Updike, who has never been compared to Jim Gray.
Russell won his 11th championship in 13 seasons and left without so much as a voicemail or Post-It note. Russell announced his retirement in Sports Illustrated and we never saw him again. Carl Yastrzemski played forever, then went all Garbo on us. Larry Bird returned from Barcelona with his gold medal in the summer of ‘92, quietly walked into Red Auerbach’s office, and said he was done. Larry today is harder to find than Jimmy Hoffa.
Tom is the opposite. Tom just can’t quit us. After 40 days and nights, he has come down from the mountain, Moses-style. He wants you to fawn over him. He wants Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless to argue about him on TV. He has his own high-end production company, bombarding us with tweets, Instagrams, podcasts, and silly staged interviews with suckup Gray. He’s making a movie about himself, for gosh sakes.
It appears to some of us that Tom just couldn’t stand to be out of the spotlight one minute longer. There was just too much talk about Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Maybe Tom was hoping the Bucs would let him out of his deal and allow him a free agent courtship frenzy. Maybe Tampa Bay called his bluff, held him to his contract, and gave him no place else to go, like Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
So instead of “time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention” (part of Brady’s thousand-word “done with football” statement), Tom is back to take care of “unfinished business.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel played. I am out. Done. Won’t get fooled again.
Brady is still the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), but he is also an old goat, the high school hero who’s still living on the glory days while the rest of us have gotten on with our lives. Hope Tom can still go out on top and doesn’t finish with a Willie Mays 1973 World Series, flopping-around-the-outfield moment. Hope Brady is never an over-the-hill Muhammad Ali, getting pummeled by Larry Holmes.
One last thing, while I’m venting.
Is it just me or does it seem as if Brady’s big announcements have been recklessly parsed out, ever-oblivious to other events of the day? Brady is the guy who announced he was leaving the Patriots on March 17, 2020, while we were reeling in America’s first days of the coronavirus crisis. Then, in the throes of the pandemic, Brady allowed his company to sell a product that claims to enhance immunity.
Now we get Tom coming out of his 40-day retirement, on the night the NCAA basketball brackets are announced, on the same day Kevin Garnett’s No. 5 was raised to the rafters in the Garden.
Evidently, when you are Tom Brady, there is no other.
Here’s hoping he remembers to mention the Patriots and the fans of New England next time he retires.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.