A message from a fan: Thanks Tom

Nick "Fitzy" Stevens
March 18, 2020 - 9:35 am
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Shortly following Tom Brady posting his letter saying he was moving on from the Patriots after 20 years (and a couple of trips to the bathroom, and a few breakfast beers), I received this text from a good friend: “I probably have Tom Brady to thank for our friendship when you think about it. So that’s pretty cool.”

We became buddies through Patriots twitter, something I don’t imagine we’re exclusive to. Now we talk almost every day. About the Pats, politics, our kids, the usual 40-something dad talk. There are several people I consider good friends now thanks to our shared appreciation of the greatest quarterback of all-time, not to mention the countless Pats fans I’ve met in cities all over America who I’ve enjoyed a tailgate, game or 25-point Super Bowl comeback all-night celebration with. These are just some of the positives I’m focusing on during a day that is depressing for so many (and fantastic for some, but hey, Jets fans need a win once every twenty years, right?) 

Sure, it sucks that it’s over. (I chose sucks over stinks because Brady loves that word.) I’d always hoped Brady would retire in the only pro uniform he’d worn. Playing the blame game won’t do anyone any good. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but ... it is what it is. There’s just too much great that came from his time in New England to be more than mad for a second, sad for the day. It’s impossible to say this and not sound schmaltzy or even a little ridiculous. (When have I been afraid of that before.) But Tom Brady has meant everything to me -- not to mention New England, the team, its fans and our sports landscape -- for two decades. I mean it. I’ll own it. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Given all the memories and Super Bowl champion merch you own I bet you wouldn’t either.

end game. he changed a team, shaped a league, and is one of the few athletes i can say has inspired me in my adulthood - all while handling himself with class and humility. for the past 20 years... #ThankYouTom - - - - #tombrady #patriotsnation #gopats #pats #newenglandpatriots #patsnation #patriots #football #nfl #sportsposters #sports #designer #graphicdesign #instaart #ab #boston #igersboston #gronk #igboston #bostonusa #iheartboston #massachusetts #igersmass #igersnewengland #newengland

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On the field Brady made the most impossible of situations winnable. Off the field, for us fans, he made the most impossible of situations winnable, too.

Think about all the work meetings, dinner parties and holidays where being able to talk sports, especially Brady, bailed you out.

Think about all the conversations you’ve had about Brady, the Pats, last night’s game, their chances in the Super Bowl, something you were comfortable doing in September, largely because of Tom Brady.

Sports is the ultimate emotional connective tissue among family and friends. And nothing beat talking Brady. He gave us relevance, excitement, hope, heart and joy that was unparalleled in New England sports. And we’ve had more than our fair share of legends over the past fifty years. With Brady on the Pats, there was always something to talk about, and usually something positive. Something to defend. Remember when “Free Brady” was the “Roll Tide!” of New England? “New England vs. Everyone” became a point of pride for all fans, with Tom Brady the face of the resistance. New England might be the most sarcastic, critical, too often negative place on Earth (just listen to sports radio). And Tom Brady made it perhaps the most positive place in the world for two decades. This, perhaps, above all others, may be his greatest accomplishment.

And he loves you too, Philly.

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“The Brady Effect” could be felt in so many other ways.

His work ethic, Pick No. 199 attitude and “refuse to lose” mentality changed not only the culture of his own team, and fans, but all of New England sports. Following their improbable Super Bowl 36 win, which began their dynasty, the bar was raised for all Boston sports. Once the Patriots won Super Bowl 38, a dynasty was in bloom and all the other teams were on notice. A city that had seen greatness in decades past was in need of a boost. Enter Brady. Starting with the Sox in 2004 Boston became the new Titletown, with an unthinkable twelve championships over two decades. We developed a duck boat addiction, and now anything less than the best is unacceptable. Some may say that’s to our detriment, that our expectations became impossibly, that Brady’s dominance changed us from Tiitletown to Entitled Town. Maybe so. And his departure will be the ultimate humble pie and market correction. But there’s no denying all the Boston teams will forever strive to be better, even the one he no longer plays for, because of him.

Personally, I can thank Brady enough.

Obviously for the thrills, cheers, hangovers and immeasurable joy his play brought. For all the aforementioned effects. And, personally, for what Brady being Brady did for my career (or whatever you call what I do). A schtick I started on YouTube almost 14 years ago, just for s**ts and giggles, to pay homage to and satirize the fans I love and grew up with, caught on and changed my life. I never intended, for better or worse, to become a recognizable Pats fan, as a voice of passion or comfort (hated every webcast I had to make after a Super Bowl defeat but if it brought any comfort well then I had to do my job). People looked to me for pre-game hype or post-defeat solace. Which was great, and also difficult because I hurt like they did.

Seeing Tom lose big games was the WORST. And yes, I know, we Pats fans have had the best first world football problems for decades. But being a notable Pats fan was an opportunity and responsibility that I could have never foreseen. I started doing Fitzy routines on stage before the 2001 playoffs, shortly after Brady took over as QB of the NEP. And in his time with the Pats, the videos I made, with my brother and friends, allowed me to work with the people I love most, talking about the team and athlete I love most. And that became my job! Hooting and hollering about Brady and the Pats is what I did with my off-time as is. But that my Pats passion and awkward fan-love for Brady would create opportunities for me at several networks (present home included), get me in the good graces of my favorite football team and one day land me as MC of a Super Bowl sendoff and riding on a duck boat at a Super Bowl parade? Get outta here with that nonsense. 

But Pats fans have grown tired of this...

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If I could go back and tell chubby 13-year-old me that all of that would one day happen? Once I got over the fact that I time traveled, 13-year-old me wouldn’t believe it. But hey, thanks to Brady, you never count anything out. Even a kid from the South Shore cheering for a football player and then one day interviewing him on the radio.

Back to the texts.

Friends and family know I love the Pats and Brady. Maybe a bit too much. Last time I received as many text messages as I’ve received today, it was after Super Bowl 51. That was about the highest high I ever felt as a Pats fan. And today is one of the lowest lows. It happens. Tom’s dad warned us it wouldn’t end pretty one day. (Quick aside - I had the pleasure of meeting his dad once, who recognized me! And of course, I was wearing a shirt...with his son on it.)

You’re supposed to be bummed today, whether you saw it coming or not. It’s the end of one of the great eras in sports, and in your life. Mine for sure. Brady’s greatness in New England meant everything to me personally and professionally. Brady’s twenty years represents 45 percent of my life! Not to mention I named a kid after him! But for everything Brady for us, for the team, for the region, instead of being angry at the Pats, wondering why Brady left, I’m choosing to look on the bright side of it all. Because, well, life’s a little heavy for all of us right now. We could all use a little extra joy, and learning of his departure isn’t necessarily it. But with all the touchdowns, comebacks, late-game heroics, wins, championships and joy. That’s the way it should be in the post-Brady Pats Nation. And how I imagine Tom would want us to see it, too.

Long live the King! My how he reigned. His watch is over. Ours is not. And what a watch it was.

Thanks, Tom.

GOAT.