This column appeared in the March 2008 issue of The American Spectator.
A few days before last month’s Giants-Patriots Super Bowl, Rush Limbaugh’s football pal “Hutch” told a not so funny joke on Rush’s show. Seems three top quarterbacks dropped in on God. He asked them, “What do you believe?” Peyton Manning and Brett Favre each replied they believe in family, winning, and making the best of their opportunities. God rewarded them by inviting the former to take the seat on His right, the latter the seat on His left. That’s when Tom Brady gave God his answer: “I believe you’re in my seat.”
A laughing Rush reacted, “So you think he’s big-headed going into this game?”
Unfortunately, it seems a great many Americans seriously did think just that, a view of a piece with the unprecedented loathing directed at Brady’s New England Patriots this past season. The closer they came to perfection, the more contempt they inspired. Their coach is already regarded as creepier and more indictable than the late Richard Nixon. By the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, most every part of the U.S. outside of New England was pulling hard for the New York Giants. The Patriots would end their season 18-1. But America was quite content to prefer the team that finished 14-6.
I’m not saying the Giants don’t deserve unabashed praise for accomplishing what they did. Anyone who’s followed my local (and lately woeful) Washington Redskins knows very well that the Giants franchise is as formidable as any when it comes to hard-nosed, clutch play. But I am saying that it’s disheartening that a team as focused and successful as Tom Brady’s should be treated so dismissively at the pinnacle of its achievement. And once a golden boy like Brady himself becomes the subject of disdain, all bets are off.
Not long ago he was rising from obscurity to become a three-time Super Bowl winner in his first five seasons. What’s more, besides being the consummate team player, he looked great on the field, a quarterback sculpted by Michelangelo. Had he been a major league pitcher, he would have displayed all the style and form of Jim Palmer. Had he been in the NBA, he would have shown the floor command and intelligence of Larry Bird. He’s that good. Even in his non-Super Bowl years, he kept his teams in playoff contention, knocking off superior opponents such as San Diego last year in memorable performances.
Then came this past season, in which he found himself with more receiving talent than he’d ever enjoyed. He carved up opponents with an unstoppable passing game, and by midseason it was clear he was in position to break many records and his team a good bet to go undefeated. Now the fun really began, as the Patriots, having clinched its number one seed for the playoffs, became the prey, hunted week after week by opponents with nothing to lose.
This later part of the season revealed the team’s Achilles’ heel: a defense, however well schooled, that was hardly as physically dominant as the offense. Yet week after final week Brady always found ways to outscore the other guys. That is, until the Super Bowl, when the Giants’ defense went on the offensive. Though even then, Brady managed one last time to put his team ahead in the final minutes. He came that close to a perfect season. Hard to imagine anyone will ever again come closer.