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Rooting for Tom Brady is un-American and un-Buffalonian — but here I go anyway

Author: Erik Brady

I am rooting for Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.

There, I said it. Worse, I wrote it — for all the world to see.

Look, I understand that such a sentiment will not be well received in these parts, where Brady is Public Enemy No. 1. Rooting for Brady in Buffalo is a sacrilege akin to ordering your wings with ranch.

Jason Wolf offered reasons in The Buffalo News the other day on why rooting for Brady should be OK — and maybe even fun — for Bills Mafia this time around. What follows are my own highly personal reasons for doing so.

I don’t expect you, dear reader, to be swayed. By all means, feel free to keep hating on Brady. I did it for years myself, when he was going 32-3 against the Bills. But it was always more than that. The bill of particulars against Brady goes something like this:

  • He’s too good.
  • He’s too handsome.
  • He’s married to a supermodel.
  • He’s a cheater.

All of which are true — the first three inarguable and the fourth according to the official NFL investigation of Deflate-gate. (Though, to be fair, a new documentary suggests that the inquiry may have been about as solid as the air inside a football.)

Western New Yorkers are hardly alone in their feelings. The other night, on “Saturday Night Live,” Kate McKinnon played a talk-show host interviewing Brady, played by John Krasinski. The host suggested that Brady is the only thing in America that still works: “So I guess everybody must be rooting for you, right?”

His answer — “almost no one” — delivered the sketch’s biggest laugh. (It’s funny because it’s true.)

These days, of course, haters have yet another reason to hate: No one should be this good when they are this old. The man is 43! Heck, in Buffalo we love Roy Hobbs for his old-guy derring-do — and he was 34 when he hit the cover off the ball in Bernard Malamud’s novel, “The Natural.” Robert Redford, who played Hobbs in the movie, was 47 when it was filmed, in 1983, at War Memorial Stadium — which was itself then only 46.

Ol’ Robert aged better than Old Rockpile, but nobody ages better than Brady, which gets to the crux of why I am rooting for him. There’s a time-honored rule in sportswriting: No cheering in the press box. But it’s fair game to root for the story. And what Brady is doing now is one of the great stories in American sports.

Perhaps we are missing that in the moment because we are too close to it to appreciate its magnitude.

Perhaps we are missing that in the moment because we are too close to it to appreciate its magnitude. Brady’s numbers are such that we forget to be awed. His 33 career playoff wins are more than twice as many as the next-best quarterback, Joe Montana, with 16. And Brady’s soon-to-be 10 Super Bowl appearances are twice as many as John Elway’s next-best five.

Look, before this season we could pretend that Brady got lucky to be paired with Bill Belichick to forge the diabolical dynasty known as the Patriots. But that’s the beauty of Brady’s current run in Tampa Bay. He is doing it in a new city in a new conference in a new climate with new teammates and new coaches — from New England to new everything.

And for me, there’s this: My surname is Brady, too. Some of the people I love most in the world carry that old Irish name — though not my wife, who said when we got married there was no chance she was going to be Carol Brady. If you are of a certain age, you know the reference. “The Brady Bunch” debuted in 1969 — and yet somehow is still available any time of the day or night on streaming services. Why hate Tom Brady when you can hate the whole Bunch?

And I do. For decades, when I checked into hotels, desk clerks asked if I was from the Brady Bunch, and I would smile through gritted teeth. In recent decades, they have asked instead if I’m related to Tom Brady. And I’m pretty sure they weren’t talking about the Tom who is my dear cousin.

Brady’s first Super Bowl followed the 2001 season. The dominant storyline that week was whether he would even play, given that Drew Bledsoe had led the Pats to victory in the AFC championship game after Brady suffered a sprained ankle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. When at last he got the gig, USA Today declared: “Patriots Pin Hopes on Brady.”

We scotch-taped that headline all over the house, because our son, Steve, was then playing high school basketball in Arlington, Va. — for the Yorktown Patriots. So I told friends I always root for teams called Patriots with a Brady wearing No. 12. 

Tom Brady led the Pats to an upset win, 20-17, against the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. I suspect lots of football fans rooted for him in that one — Bills fans included — as this was before they found out how much they hated him.

Brady was a young gun then. Now that role belongs to Patrick Mahomes, who is younger and faster and better than Brady. The team around Mahomes is better, too, and his Kansas City Chiefs probably deserve to be more than the 3-point favorites they are. You know what the proverb says: Youth will be served.

But I’m going to go with James Thurber on this one. In his “Fables for Our Time,” Thurber offers this amended moral: “Youth will be served, frequently stuffed with chestnuts.” 

So there it is. I am Buffalo by birth — and rooting for Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. My reasons are many, but they boil down to this:

Old man. New uniform. Same surname.

Let the game begin.

Erik Brady was sports columnist at the Courier-Express when it folded in 1982. He retired in 2019 after 36 years as a sports reporter at USA Today.

Photo credit: All-Pro Reels | License | The photo has been cropped from the original

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