SAN MATEO, CA- Tom Brady might watch the Super Bowl. He might not. Those things don’t mean as much as they used to, according to Brady, out of the NFL for more than ten years and enjoying life out of the spotlight.
I say “enjoying” because that’s how Brady describes it as we sit in his “film room”, which is actually a partially walled off portion of his unfinished basement. There is a 19-inch TV-VCR combo sitting on a milk crate surrounded by dozens of videotapes of Brady from his days at Michigan. He tells me he watches the tape because he likes to see “football the way it was meant to be played”, an obvious jab at the offensive revolution overtaking the NFL. Brady says he wouldn’t even want to play in today’s league but as he talks you can sense that he feels his career was, or rather, IS, much like his basement… unfinished.
It’s not hard to identify the pivotal moment in Brady’s career: January 19, 2002. Brady’s first playoff game played in a New England snowstorm against the Oakland Raiders. The Patriots had trailed for most of the game, but Brady was in the process of leading a potentially game winning drive when he was sacked by Charles Woodson and fumbled the ball, handing the game to the Raiders and kick starting the John Gruden dynasty that seems to have no end (with Nathan Peterman looking like he could get Gruden another two or three Lombardi Trophies to go with the five he already has.)
Of course, after the season the NFL introduced the “Tuck Rule” based in part on that fateful play, but that was no help to Brady. The following season the Patriots just missed the playoffs and head coach Bill Belichick was fired. While Belichick would go on to become the greatest coach in the history of College Lacrosse, Brady’s path wasn’t quite so rosy.
Not that there weren’t highlights. It’s just that they all seemed to come with a caveat. Brady did get a Super Bowl Ring, but it was as the backup to Eli Manning in his epic battle against Phillip Rivers in SB XLII. The game will go down in history as the greatest Championship game ever, with seventeen lead changes and dramatic swings throughout. The loss was so devastating to Rivers that it sent him on his legendary sex and drug fueled fall from grace.
Brady’s moment in the game is a footnote now, but it could have put him in the discussion for biggest goat of all time. We’ve all had a chuckle at the bobbled extra point snap, as well as the lumbering, stumbling attempt to run, punctuated by Brady falling down, untouched, and landing on the ball so hard that he was unable to return to the game due to testicle swelling. Brady tells me he still has a loss of sensation down there. When he asks me to punch him in the balls to prove it, I politely decline.
The following season Brady was cut from the Giants and announced his retirement saying he had “accomplished everything he had set out to do”. Post career ventures were equally bittersweet. Shortly after retiring Brady had a chance to work with his childhood hero Joe Montana. The two men were given a drive time slot on San Francisco’s top sports radio channel WFRN. The TOJO (pronounced “toe joe”) show was immediately panned. Keith Olbermann called it “equal parts dead air and commentary that makes you miss the dead air.”
Mostly in deference to Montana, the station kept the show on the air for a year, losing most of its listenership, and leading to the eventual format change of WFRN to year round Christmas music. Joe Montana still works for the station.
Brady’s failed comeback attempt in 2010 was followed by his ill-timed partnership with Curt Shilling’s video game company “38 studios.” Brady still insists the major mistake was not calling it “50 studios” (Apparently Brady wore #12 and wanted to add his and Shilling’s numbers but was overruled by everyone).
Since then it’s been mostly quiet for Brady, who is married to former adult film star Jizzy Buns-Chin. He says he got into politics during the 2016 election (he is wearing a MAGA hat) and added that he’s disgusted by athletes and teams who choose not to visit the White House. At this point Brady began to get agitated and starts taking huge gulps from an enormous “protein shake” he has with him at all times. After each gulp, his eyes seem to grow wider and his breathing becomes heavier. He tilts the glass back and finishes the shake, then out of nowhere Tom hops up from his chair and runs to a corner of the “room” where he picks up a jump rope and begins furiously jumping rope. I was taken aback by the intensity of his actions and I honestly must have stood their silently watching him for five minutes. The whole time he never waivered, actually picking up the pace. It went from being impressive to alarming as I watched this 41-year-old man jump rope with the energy of a child. I looked over at the empty glass and it seemed like smoke was rising out of it. Eyebrow raised, I asked Tom if there was anything special about that shake.
That was the last thing I asked him. One second after the question left my lips, Tom Brady Sr. emerged from a darkened portion of the room. He had been there the whole time, silently listening. “Ok, Tommy. Time to watch some tape” he spoke softly to his son, who obediently dropped the rope and walked to the TV, turning it on and popping in a tape. He didn’t speak again. His father thanked me and ushered me up the stairs. It all happened so quickly I didn’t have time to gain my wits. On my way out the door for no reason other than it’s the only thing I could muster I quickly asked Mr. Brady if he would be watching the Super Bowl. “We don’t watch the Super Bowls that we aren’t playing in- so the answer for this year is no”. I watched him say this as he closed the door on me, not realizing the door had closed on he and his son a long time ago.