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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Under the Lights: Brady's ballad

“Tom Brady’s revenge tour underway as Patriots spank winless Browns,” read USA Today's headline hours after the New England Patriots’ 33-13 victory over the hapless Cleveland Browns.

Narratives like this are already being tossed around after Brady scorched the Browns on Sunday with a 406-yard, three-touchdown performance. If it was a “normal” game, the 4-1 Patriots dismantling the 0-5 Browns wouldn’t have made a dent on the national radar.

To the eyes of the world, though, this was no ordinary game. This was Brady’s triumphant return to glory after his four-game suspension for his role in the silliest use of the suffix “-gate” of all time: Deflategate. Yes, Deflategate, when Brady allegedly conspired with his ballboys to take extra air out of some of his footballs and was suspended for four games in the aftermath by the closest thing America has to an acting dictatorNFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The scandal was ridiculous, and the subsequent coverage demonstrated the sports universe at its worst. This was because, for everything the Brady-saga lacked in actual substance, it had the one thing sportswriters and casual fans love more than anything: implicit narrative. So when Brady went out and won the Super Bowl two weeks after the Deflategate saga began, he was doing it not for himself or his team but to spite the rest of the league. When Brady fist-pumped after throwing one of his three touchdown passes Sunday, it wasn’t out of competitiveness but out of anger towards the league office.

Such contrived storylines are no better than the overdone celebrity tabloid stories lining grocery checkout lines. They come from a place of laziness and take away from the accomplishments of the athletes.

Isn’t it possible, just maybe, that one of the best quarterbacks of all time had a remarkable game against a porous, perpetually-awful Browns defense? Must we assign all this meaning, this narrative, to a player, game and story that can be chalked up with so much more ease to factors that actually have basis in reality?

We should be spending less time caught up in the silliness of petty narratives like Brady's and more time examining the things that actually affect the game and the players who play it. Why not look into Brady's historical statistical dominance or the fact that the Browns keep trudging out practice-squad-level talent on their game-day roster? Real causes that have real effects are there if we spend a little more time and use a little more rational thinking.

We also don’t have to make these stories up because players like Brady deny them every time, and at a certain point, we’re just going to have to start believing the players.

“I’m just happy we won,” Brady said after Sunday’s game in the same story that procured the headline at the beginning of this column. “The last four weeks, none of it matters.”

That’s it. “None of it matters.” On Sunday afternoon, Tom Brady did what he’s done his whole life. He just played football.