Apparently, the NFL has scheduled a game in the run-up to Tom Brady’s coronation.
They’re calling it Super Bowl 51, and it might even be entertaining.
But unless the Atlanta Falcons can alter the agenda, a New England Patriots’ win on Sunday will make their quarterback the all-time QB King, the first of his kind to guide a team to five world championships.
Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw each went 4-0 in Super Bowls. While Brady has two losses to quibble about, his fifth win, with a potential fourth Super Bowl MVP honor, will set him apart.
It would be an unprecedented dominion over an extraordinary span (16 seasons from his first Super Bowl to this, his seventh).
All success breeds resentment, and that is true for Brady, and certainly the Patriots in the larger sense. Toss in some scandals and a dash of sanctimony, and it’s hard for many to swallow.
It’s easy to sneer at the deflated-football suspension and the saturation winning, but the most significant of Tom Brady’s crimes against mankind is the insensitive audacity of continuing to be Tom Brady while the rest of us are not.
If this excellence strikes you as insufferable, be prepared. It’s not going away.
Despite missing four games under suspension, Brady, at age 39, passed for 28 touchdowns with only two interceptions in 432 regular-season attempts — an NFL record for lowest interception percentage.
His passer rating (112.2) and completion percentage (67.1) was his best since 2007.
He’s done it most of the season without prime target Rob Gronkowski (out with an injury), aiming the ball at guys such as Chris Hogan, a college lacrosse player who set a Patriots’ postseason record with catches for 180 yards in the AFC championship game against Pittsburgh.
While there are many notable appealing diversions in his life, Brady’s commitment to all aspects of his job, physical and mental, seems ever heightened.
It’s a level of dedication that many players can muster on the way up, but is so hard to sustain upon arrival, let alone to increase well past the point when most are into athletic retirement.
What kind of stainless-steel, internal-drive mechanism must it take to guard against the erosion of complacency after so much success?
It’s at the heart of the reason I have trouble sharing the widespread resentment for Brady. I’ve staffed five of his Super Bowls (all four of his wins), and vividly recall his first one, after the 2001 season against St. Louis in New Orleans.
Brady, in his second season, had replaced injured starter Drew Bledsoe, and the Pats had won 11 of the 14 games he started.
With the Super Bowl tied with little more than a minute remaining, Brady completed five passes to drive the Patriots from their own 17 into position for Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal.
After that win, Brady, like a frantic Labrador puppy, started jumping all over Bledsoe, who had the look of someone who realized he’d just been rendered redundant.
Although he passed for only 145 yards, Brady was perfection on the final drive, managing the clock like a cool veteran, and was named the game’s MVP.
This emerging star made for a natural column topic, and as I walked past him toward the interview room, he was hugging his parents — joyfully and tearfully — in the hallway. It was a memorably poignant moment.
Here’s the relevance some 16 seasons later: The sound of Brady’s voice that night so many years ago was the same as the quarterback who is still unreservedly in love with the game.
On his conference call with us before the Seahawks visited the Patriots in November, Brady faced the inevitable questions about his age and longevity.
“I still feel like I have a lot to give and to play for,” he said. “I just think I’m so engaged in what I’m doing and I love doing, I just want to keep doing my part — showing up every day just like everybody else, trying to do what’s best for the team.”
But it’s obvious that Brady is not just like everybody else. In fact, he’s like nobody else.
And that’s why you should watch this Super Bowl whether you like Brady and the Patriots or despise them.
It will be an experience you can take with you through time, and use to measure against every other quarterback who comes along.
It will be a chance to once again see an example of true football greatness displayed by a quarterback whose competitive will simply can’t allow him to diminish with age.