I have a bit of a confession today. And please — no judgment. I’m simply being transparent. And remember transparency doesn’t mean sharing all about all. It means communicating in such a way that what’s behind what we articulate can be distinctly seen. So…
Truth: for years I couldn’t stand Tom Brady.
I know, I know…
He’s the so-called “G.O.A.T.” — the “Greatest of All Time”… the man who guided his team to 7 Super Bowl wins — 6 with the Patriots and 1 with Tampa Bay; no player has won more than 5. He’s the NFL career leader in both passing yards and touchdown passes. He was named the league MVP 3 times and Super Bowl MVP 5 times. Suffice it to say, that in his profession, that of being an NFL quarterback, the resume of no one is comparable to that of Mr. Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. He is, unquestionably, the “G.O.A.T.”
But as one who didn’t like him, let me also add this:
I couldn’t see how good he was.
I disliked him so much, I compromised my assessment of his greatness.
Allow me a bit of a brief back story, if you will. (Note: backstories always matter.)
Growing up, I didn’t possess a hometown football team until the Baltimore Colts cryptically crept into the Midwest one midnight in March. Their first seasons in Indianapolis were rather dismal, almost as if they were destined to pay for their blatant disloyalty to Johnny Unitas and the entire state of Maryland.
The Colts were soon resuscitated by none other than Peyton Manning, who endured a year of learning the pace and profession of an NFL QB, but would soon become the great hope (and passing arm) of the franchise. He would do very well… very well! However, each year, every year, the team that stood most between the Colts and the Super Bowl was the New England Patriots. The player that stood most between Peyton Manning and the Super Bowl was Tom Brady.
In the 17 times the two played against one another, Brady won 11 times. Hence, call Brady our opponent. Call him our nemesis. Call him whatever you want. Call him the source of my annual, dreaded angst… the one I rooted against like crazy. But whatever you do, do not — I repeat, do not — call him the “G.O.A.T.” He was good, sure. But he wasn’t Peyton.
A funny thing then happened. After 20 seasons in New England, Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This occurred ahead of the 2020 season.
Then something else fascinatingly happened. Often stoic and tight-lipped in his tenure with the Patriots, when Brady came to Florida, there was something different about him. He seemed a little more jolly. A little more at ease. It was easy to tell he was having fun playing the game — something not always visible to those of us watching him in the Northeast. But he began to exhibit a personality that seemed increasingly more attractive to be around.
One more thing, of course, had also happened. With Manning’s previous retirement, the two never again faced each other on the field. Neither stood in the way of the other in their most prized pursuit.
Interestingly — and here is where I will once more argue this is not really a sports post — this is where the keen learning comes in.
There is no question that I couldn’t see either how good or how great Tom Brady was. I knew he had gifts, but I negated the entirety of his skill set. Not only did I negate his skill set, I diminished his character. I even poked holes in it. I intelligently also argued with others as to why their glowing perspective was completely untrue.
That’s the zillion dollar question. Why?
Because he was in competition with something I wanted.
Friends, I couldn’t see Tom Brady for the person he was because I let other things get in the way. My perspective was skewed. Not because of Tom Brady. But because of me.
There’s the learning. Where else do we do that? Who else do we do that to?
It’s amazing how much our perspective changes. It’s equally insightful how much it needs to change, recognizing how so much unknowingly skews what is good and right and true.