Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. Tom Brady. Greatest of all time. The G.O.A.T.
In 2007, my son Chandler joined his first flag football league. He was just 5 years old when he fell in love with the game of football and Tom Brady. It was a good year to fall in love with the San Mateo native, who completed 398 of 578 passes for a 68.8 completion percentage. On Sundays, Chandler would find the Patriots game on TV, grab his plastic Patriots helmet from the closet and run around the house imitating Randy Moss receiving touchdowns from the future hall of famer. Looking back, I was Tom Brady, throwing Nerf footballs from the kitchen while Chandler would run a slant route starting at the kitchen table, dashing into the family room and diving for the catch, landing on a beanbag chair as his makeshift end zone.
As time went on, his Tom Brady jersey collection expanded from a child’s small to a youth large. A giant Fathead of Brady in a Patriots uniform likely throwing a completion still hangs on one wall of his bedroom. The Home Depot even carried the official NFL Patriots paint color of New Century Silver, which serves as the canvas for his larger than life favorite QB. He’s 18 now.
As a student of Notre Dame School in Chico, Chandler had a fascination with Tom Brady, priests, and football. Our first-grade teacher’s husband was a classmate of Tom Brady’s at Junipero Serra High School, class of 1995 (In case you’re wondering, he was just an average, humble high school kid). Chandler’s career goal in 2008 was to become a football player priest. Today, he plans to major in economics. Coincidentally, Brady served an internship at Merrill Lynch while playing for the University of Michigan.
In 2016, Chandler finally had the house and his parents to himself as both sisters were out of state, studying. His dream to see Tom Brady play live in Foxborough came true on Jan. 22, 2017 as New England took on the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC championship.
Football in New England is glorious. To put this into perspective, my dad was a sports editor when I was a young kid so we were dragged to every major sporting event in northern California – baseball, hockey, WWF wrestling, football. New England fans are friendly and more passionate than even Oakland/Las Vegas Raider fans. My husband and I were just getting to know some Bostonians over a cocktail when Chandler urged us to leave the tailgate and head to the stadium. He had to watch Brady come out to examine the field, analyze the players’ warm up techniques, and take in the nooks and crannies of Gillette Stadium in the pouring rain. This was Chandler’s day and we were there for him, rain gear and all.
It would take an entire column to describe the atmosphere but it was nothing less than electric. An injured Rob Gronkowski did not play this night. He was up in the owner’s suite with Jon Bon Jovi and Robert Kraft when music exploded from the loudspeaker. Suddenly, Bon Jovi took a microphone and began singing the lyrics:
“Tommy used to work on the docks, unions been on strike
“He’s down on his luck, it’s tough, so tough.”
Just then, Bon Jovi and Gronk pointed to all of us – union workers and fisherman and us native Californians in the pre-Covid packed stadium. Together, we belted out:
“Woah, we’re halfway there,
“Whoa, livin’ on a prayer.”
The stadium went wild. And just like that, Tom Brady and the Patriots were headed to their eighth Super Bowl.
On Sunday, Tom Brady appeared in his tenth Super Bowl. My son thinks his humble personality and unparalleled success is what drives many fans to hate this amazing athlete. I’m not sure what makes people hate greatness. But I don’t much care. I am just glad there are people in this world who inspire kids to dream big and ignore their critics.
Shanna Long is a fourth generation journalist and former editor of the Corning Daily Observer. She and her husband reside in Corning and farm almonds, walnuts and prunes. She can be reached at email@example.com, instagram @sjolong.