Reimer: Tom Brady's apparent changing view towards football is evident at end of 'Tom vs. Time'

Alex Reimer
March 13, 2018 - 11:23 am

Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

It’s entirely possible we are reading too deeply into the ominous ending of “Tom vs. Time.” The final episode of Tom Brady’s Facebook Watch series was shot shortly after the Patriots’ gut-wrenching loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. Brady’s cryptic words may reflect his disappointment at the outcome of the season, rather than the first hint that retirement is creeping into the forefront of his mind. 

But in comparison to the way Brady describes his relationship with football earlier in the series, the tone of his last comments are striking. 

At the start of Episode 1, Brady affirms his commitment to football in almost a maniacal manner. “In the end, my life is focused around football,” he says. “It always has been and it always will be –– as long as I’m playing. I’ve given my body, my everything –– every bit of energy for 18 years to it. So if you’re going to compete against me, you better be willing to give up your life, because I’m giving up mine.”

That does not sound like a man who is equivocating about his future. In the first five episodes, which were shot from last April through the regular season, Brady talks about football like it’s an extension of himself. This message is highlighted most strongly in Episode 5, when Brady and Gisele Bundchen are discussing his football mortality in a picturesque Costa Rican villa. 

“It’s effortless, because it’s just so synonymous with my being,” Brady narrates over footage of him training in the tropical oasis. “When I’m out on the field in front of 70,000 people, I can really be who I am –– with my raw emotion and energy. If I want to scream at somebody, I can scream at somebody. That’s why I probably love football so much, because It allows me to be who I am in a really authentic way that it’s hard for me to be when I walk off the field.”

Those words make it seem as if Brady would struggle to exist without football. In other words, it’s the opposite of his message at the end of Episode 6, when he appears to question whether there’s deeper meaning to life outside of the gridiron.

“I’m sitting here, laying here three days after the year getting my Achilles worked on and my thumb, and you go, ‘What are we doing this for? Who are we doing this for? Why are we doing this?,’” Brady asks rhetorically. “You got to have the answers to those questions, and they have to be with a lot of conviction. When you lose your conviction, then you probably should be doing something else.”

Months earlier, Brady was extolling the sacrifices he’s made for football. Now, he’s questioning the meaning of his existence. While the feeling might be fleeting, the difference is stark. 

Bundchen’s words are also worth mentioning. She’s been open about her desire to see Brady retire from football. But in Episode 5, while they’re sitting side-by-side on the sofa in Costa Rica, she stresses football’s importance in her husband’s life. 

“Football, as far as I’m concerned, is his first love,” she says. “I mean, it really is. I think it’s his main love, really, quite frankly. It’s true.”

It’s apparent Bundchen is deeply invested in Brady’s career. Her clout was cemented last year, when she revealed Brady played through a concussion the previous season, and he did not deny it. That’s why it’s worth listening whenever she speaks publicly about his experiences or mindset. Towards the end of Episode 6, Bundchen hints Brady is tiring of the atmosphere around the Patriots. “These last two years have been very challenging for him, in so many ways. I think he tells me, ‘I love it so much and I just want to go to work and feel appreciated and have fun.’”

Those remarks seemingly refer to the reported rift between Brady and Bill Belichick. Last season, Belichick curtailed Alex Guerrero’s access to the team, forcing him to work on Brady away from the locker room. In Episodes 5 and 6, Guerrero is shown massaging Brady in a Gillette Stadium suit. Keep in mind, Brady had editorial control for the series. He wants those images out there.

The meaning of Brady’s end-of-series introspection can be debated. He will return next season with Bill Belichick, and as we have seen, a lot can change in one year. Just look at “Tom vs. Time.” Over images of Brady throwing in Costa Rica, well before the Guerrero banishment, busted hand and Seth Wickersham, he says he feels like he’s still in the “first half” of his career. 

In the finale, Brady says he realizes he’s “a lot closer to the end than I am the beginning.” 

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