Tom Brady has been photographed twice with his supermodel girlfriend this off-season and splashed across news pages because...drum roll...he was wearing a hat. Yes, in the first paparazzi shot, Brady was wearing a Yankees cap, and in the second, one with a Red Sox logo on it. I don't know quite that says about us here in New England: is it that we're that crazy about the Red Sox and Yankees, that crazy about Tom Brady, or both?
I guess I'll put in my vote for the last one, because these days, it always seems to be we get both. Over in Red Sox country, for example, we have both Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon. Here in Patriots territory, we have both Tom Brady and Randy Moss. Both Adalius Thomas and Junior Seau. Both Benjamin Watson and Lawrence Maroney. The list goes on...it's hard to even know where to start, so let me just start with the obvious attention-grabber, Randy Moss.
NESN's SportsDesk had some awkward footage indeed today of our favorite delinquent doing his best to look decorous while still gangsta-rollin' around with a golf club at the Patriots' charity golf tournament. He was also dutifully wearing the Patriots windbreaker and standard issue hat. It's actually kind of funny to see him behaving so well (but still walking with that tiny little hitch in his step--we want him to keep at least some of that attitude out on the field). It's like he's wearing clothes that don't quite fit him, but God love him, he's trying.
Meanwhile, Pats fans have been reminded of the upside to Mr. Moss as mini-camp began, and I'll admit I got a case of the shivers when I read the following on Reiss's Pieces:
Play of the day. In 7 on 7 drills, quarterback Tom Brady fired a high strike under the goalposts that was snared by receiver Randy Moss in a tight spot.
It's hard not to let your mind wander, when you start thinking about something like that.
Bill Simmons wrote an excellent column recently that was on basketball, but applies to any sport (as you can tell by the fact that I read the whole thing, and I am not interested in or knowledgeable about basketball one iota), about how sports memories fade. The most stirring line of the piece concerned the recent comparisons that have been made between Michael Jordan and LeBron James:
We don't want LeBron to be as good as MJ; we need him to be better than MJ. We already did the MJ thing. Who wants to rent the same movie twice? We want LeBron to take us to a place we've never been.
I guess prior to reading that, I had chalked my avarice for more glory for the Red Sox, despite having lived to see them win it all even once (which in the years prior had itself seemed an impossible dream), and for the Patriots, despite their three rings, to simple greed. That piece changed my perspective somewhat, explains why I'm already sick of my Faith Rewarded and Three Games to Glory DVDs, why on off days instead of popping those in, like I used to do for entertainment, I'm glued to the Web, surfing for video and stories on my current teams, the teams who don't have a DVD for themselves yet.
It's been hard, despite the superstitious paranoia innate to the Boston fan's brain, not to envision what this autumn will hold, for both of the hometown entries. The times I've guiltily indulged in considering what the Red Sox are capable of this year after seeing them play for a while, my conclusion has been that it's not just that I want another championship, it's that I want it for this group of guys, this set of characters I've fallen in love with all over again.
That same feeling is already beginning when it comes to the new cast of characters with the Patriots as well. The Brady-Moss combo has the potential to make grown men weep come September. I also can't wait to see the monster our defense has become--with or without Asante Samuel, who frankly can...well, I'm told this is a family blog, so I'll leave it to your imagination what Sant-Sant can do with his whining over his money with absolutely no leverage and after only one good year. I wonder what Deion Branch is thinking, seeing Sant-Sant shoot himself in the foot even more than he did.
Where was I? Oh, right. Adalius Thomas. Donte' Stallworth! I completely forgot about Donte' Stallworth (and his completely extraneous apostrophe). Our defense is going to be a buttery-smooth blend of veteran leadership and fresh young talent, a piquant mix of stabilizing integrity with pit-bull attitude...I mean, I'm gushing here, but look at this team. And they haven't even played a game yet.
That is, of course, why I should probably tone down the excitement a little, because as Bill Lee said, "unfortunately, they play on grass." But you can't help feeling like we're being showered with more than we can even really take in at the moment--from the perspective of a few months deeper into a similarly charmed Sox season, I'm also wondering, for example, who the Patriots' answer to Hideki Okajima will be, who will be the "hero in the dark." Impossible to know at this point.
Well, I guess there's one name you can eliminate: Tom Brady, since it seems almost no aspect of the quarterback's life has yet to be illuminated.
And yet, you know, about that. I still think when you take away all the Access Hollywood noise and even the more famous on-field accomplishments there's still a guy under the public persona that we out here in the fan base only see hints of. Like in passages such as the following, also from Reiss's Pieces:
Tom Brady the teacher. One of the interesting parts of watching a Patriots practice is simply focusing on Brady and the way he works with his receivers, pushing them to do better, while also verbally calling himself out when he doesn’t perform to his own standards. It’s a textbook definition of coach on the field.
A coach on the field. A paparazzi-hounded mega-star off it. And--here's another facet that rarely sees the limelight--the trash-talkinest golf player you ever did see. Just look at the little smile he gave Cassel, after winning the long-drive contest at the Pats' charity golf tournament with a shot measured at 307 freakin' feet.
That's the thing with Brady. He's at the epicenter of this bling-sporting, supermodel-toting festival of awesomeness going on down in Foxboro, and he has a massively stacked team to begin leading to dominance beginning today, but he wasn't content to spend a day golfing without launching a drive into Tiger Woods territory. He's got an embarrassment of riches, and yet part of him seems like it's never satisfied.
That seems to be the way with anyone who truly loves a game, whether it's a regular fan or a Hall of Famer. That's the way with us as fans of a team still in its salad days.
Of all the sports DVDs that have seen me through the last several off-seasons, I used to always consider the most recent one my favorite. Now, to paraphrase a former coach that Brady's been heard to quote, my favorite season-in-review highlight reel is one I haven't even watched yet: the next one.