It’s only three days till Super Bowl Sunday — one of the best events on the face of the earth and the one day you don’t mind sitting through 10 minutes of ads to watch five minutes of football. And with the New England Patriots playing in the Big Game once again, it’s also time for 99 percent of the NFL’s fan base to rip on one Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
As someone who lived outside of the United States until attending high school in New England, it truly shocked me to see the amount of vitriol people hurled at Brady and Bill Belichick when I arrived in Los Angeles. Sure, I knew they wouldn’t be the borderline deities they are inside Patriots Nation (I had a friend who seriously considered swapping his presidential vote from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump after Belichick unofficially endorsed the latter), but I at least expected begrudging respect — the same kind you are forced to give to the Golden State Warriors or any other organization that breaks the sport because it’s just too damn good. Alas, all I hear outside of New England are calls of “cheater” and constant reminders of Spygate and Deflategate.
I feel sorry for those who are too blinded by hate to appreciate Brady’s play. The fact is that if the Patriots emerge victorious on Sunday, Brady will be the greatest quarterback in football history (if he isn’t already). No ifs, ands or buts. By almost every metric, be it passing stats or rings or MVP awards, Brady will have surpassed the likes of Joe Montana and John Elway. He’s already played in the most Super Bowls ever, with two undeserved flukes as losses — and this is coming from a Giants fan who deliriously cheered on Eli Manning in the heart of Patriots territory in 2012. If Asante Samuel doesn’t drop a gimme interception late in Super Bowl XLII, if either Wes Welker or Aaron Hernandez doesn’t drop a game-clinching first down in Super Bowl XLVI, we’d be watching Brady play for his seventh championship.
Yet people remain hung up on crucifying the quarterback for … what, exactly? Deflating footballs (allegedly)? His friendship with President Trump? There have been far too many heinous offenses committed by NFL players over the years, ranging from domestic violence to straight-up murder, and somehow Brady, a man who hasn’t been the culprit in any of those crimes, remains one of the most hated players in the league.
Let’s just say that Brady was guilty to the maximum extent in all Patriot controversies during his career for the sake of argument. Let’s say he conspired with the referees to get the ball back in 2001’s Tuck Rule Game; let’s say he masterminded Spygate in 2007 with Belichick and then decided not to send the tapes to the NFL in the subsequent investigation; let’s say he deflated New England’s footballs to his advantage before the 2015 AFC Championship Game.
Forgetting that the first two hypotheticals are laughably far-fetched, where would this leave Brady’s legacy? He’d be a serial cheater — which isn’t good — but even then, would that mean he deserves more criticism than, say, Peyton Manning? Manning was a universally adored figure throughout his career, even though he was accused of sexually harassing a trainer while playing college football at Tennessee and dealt with allegations of human growth hormone use in the last year of his career. What about rising Kansas City superstar Tyreek Hill, who has electrified the NFL after getting expelled from Oklahoma State for choking his pregnant girlfriend?
Say what you want about Brady’s alleged on-field transgressions, but at least they were indeed on the field. And when you restrict the conversation to the gridiron, none of Brady’s controversies did anything to hurt his football legacy: The Tuck Rule was a bad rule that was correctly called (New England had actually fallen victim to it earlier that season against the New York Jets), the Patriots lost in the 2008 Super Bowl and Deflategate was a moot point in a 45-7 blowout. Not to mention that Brady’s story is a sports-movie-like underdog story, rising from a scrawny late-round pick and failed baseball prospect to the greatest quarterback of all time. Seriously, what is there to hate about this dude?
Perhaps it all boils down to jealousy. To borrow a Trumpism, Brady is winning, winning, winning — winning so much that people are tired of him winning. He has the best coach, the best endorsement deals and the best family. We can’t relate to his rocket arm, transcendent football IQ, dashing looks or supermodel wife.
But I urge all haters to reconsider their views: Brady isn’t greatness in the making — he is greatness personified. Before he’s gone, take the time to appreciate his journey to where he is today and his surgical precision from the pocket, the likes of which we will never see again. Because when the confetti rains down on Brady in Houston on Sunday, it would be nice to give the GOAT a salute rather than the finger. He deserves that much.
Ollie Jung is a junior studying print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Jung Money,” runs on Thursdays.