Several hours later, and I still don't know what to do with my hands.
I've been waiting decades for a Tom Brady-less New England Patriots outfit to take the field in front of thousands of drunken fans, 50% more drunk than they were the previous year, as Bill Belichick and his hubris tried to prove he could do it all over again with Andy Dalton, Jarrett Stidham or Nathan Peterman. I wake up every morning from a lucid dream where I'm in the stands talking to a 25-year-old Bostonian, trying to convince him it's OK to lose, and that it actually happens to most other people most of the time.
But now, the day is here. Bill Belichick has moved on, making it perfectly clear Brady chose to leave HIM first, even though it was almost assuredly at least 50-50. Robert Kraft has called Brady his "son" and graciously allowed him to go study abroad, even though he has zero right to control and complain after Brady spent a decade taking sweetheart deals so he and his cabal could have 36 offensive weapons too many.
And, like every wide receiver Brady's ever thrown to, the AFC East is now WIDE open.
Even as a longtime despiser, I have to admit that Brady taking the reins and saying farewell to his 20-year home before they had a chance to launch a Boston smear campaign ahead of time is the coolest thing he's ever done. Of course, the state-run media otherwise known as the Boston Globe is owned by the Red Sox, not the Pats, but I'm sure they would've found a way to get a story to 'em.
I also must give Brady credit -- the circumstances of his departure maximized the depression for his Beantown Faithful as cleanly as he possibly could.
No matter how tired you were of Brady's blithering, "Let's GO!" or his 100% successful QB sneaks, the bottom line is he was always there. You hated him because you couldn't get rid of him. You hated him because you would check the clock, check the score, and realize any feat was still possible. In order to beat Brady's Pats, you seemingly also had to beat the crowd, the refs, and 35 invisible forces creating the improbable at every turn.
I hated him, as a New York Giants fan, even though my team seemed to have no issue dispatching him. In fact, with a little bit of increased pressure in the pocket, Brady looked a lot more like the below SNL sketch.
It should be mentioned that it's not just the winning with Brady, of course. I will still hate him, no matter where he goes. With the well-placed MAGA hat, pseudo-science, and eggplant shaming, it's remained easy to hate the individual.
And even though my team had plenty of personal success against Brady's bunch (two head-to-head Super Bowl wins, in case that wasn't clear), that didn't cloud my ability to hate his success. Like most fans, I was able to empathize with the rest of the league. When the "We're Still Here" Patriots of 2018, arguably the worst team he ever led before '19, defeated the Chiefs on the road in the AFC Championship thanks in part to a light tap on the helmet becoming an embarrassing Roughing the Passer, the depressing deja vu left me ripping my hair out. Elderly KC fans are passing away without ever reaching football's promised land, and I'm supposed to be happy that Brady was able to persevere and win an excessive sixth ring?
Now, the hatred isn't over. I still hate the infrastructure. I hate that the media pretends Bill Belichick's unnecessarily curt press conferences, where he doesn't allow the media to do its job, are still charming. I hate that Robert Kraft, who ditched his team on the morning of the AFC Title Game to get an illicit massage in another state, still pretends to be a warm and loving father figure. Most of all, I hate the machine. I hate the guaranteed success. I hate the ruthless efficiency that allows every fourth down to seem yards shorter, and every third-and-10 to be a wide open cinnamon sugar parade to the first down marker.
So as Tom Brady departs, my hatred for him will be lessened. Outside of a Patriots uniform, it's very likely he isn't magical anymore. He's now a 42-year-old QB entering an entirely fresh start. Without Pat Patriot clouding my vision, I can finally see clearly that things aren't going to go well for him.
The question remains: Will the uniform hold the same unbeatable mystique without him in it? And is there any chance I can get Jarrett Stidham to kiss his son on the mouth or something before the season starts? It would help clarify my feelings a lot.