Tom Brady is the worst man in sports, and I'm not even going to lead this column with a reluctant acknowledgment of the fact that he's the greatest QB ever and has somehow—via weird stretching regimens, koala diets, and alien-crafted sleep chambers—managed to maintain his excellence into his 40s. Unless I just did. Whatever. The point is, his success is infuriating to me, based partly on where he plays (Boston should be quarantined), partly on his general smugness, and partly on the fact that he and his insufferable coach have spent their entire careers bending and breaking the rules of the sport in an attempt to gain the most minute advantages over their opponents...often with great success.
Even the fact that MY team beat Tom Brady twice in the Super Bowl, led by a hilariously uninspiring and half-dopey quarterback, doesn't mitigate my rage. Last year's victory against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship finally broke my brain—I have full-fledged Brady Derangement Syndrome, and I'll never reach the stage of grudging respect that even some of Derek Jeter's most bitter haters granted him at the end.
With that in mind, and on behalf of my fellow Brady loathers, it's time to ask a tough question: From our perspective, is it better if he retires, or sticks around? Let's do the pros and cons of Brady hanging up the cleats.
1. If he retires now, his last pass in the NFL was a pick-six, which is wonderful. Every time some awful Pats fan shouts about his six Super Bowls, I can just say, "yeahhhh...but did you see that last pass? Kinda taints everything else, doesn't it?" Look how deliciously sad this is:
2. Retirement now assures that we'll never have another Brady Super Bowl. Ironclad. That's a really hard guarantee for a hater to leave on the table. Can we really pretend that if he and Belichick somehow get the band back together, even for two years, that we won't spend those years terrified that they'll win again? It's gotten to the point that even after the Patriots lose, as they did against the Titans, I spend an hour convinced that it's not real, and that Belichick has a plan. I want this to end.
3. It will deprive Brady of the chance to be the greatest old man athlete of all time. He's close already—extremely close—but the likes of Gordie Howe, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Ichiro, and Jaromir Jagr all either tie or best him in that department. But if Brady plays until he's 45, with any success—and especially if he wins another Super Bowl—he's probably the g.o.a.t. (greatest old athlete, truly). Doesn't this guy have enough accolades?
1. If he retires now, we never got a chance to laugh at him. He was terrifying right until the end, to the final drive, and that's not fair. I want two or three humiliating Brady years, where he's clearly washed up and the terror is gone.
2. It would be funny to see him play for the San Diego Chargers, or some other second-tier team. If he retires now, he finishes his career where he started it, and that kind of longevity and loyalty annoys me. Make him play for the Carolina Panthers and pretend to like NASCAR before it's all over.
3. Related, it would be great to see a Brady-Belichick rift. If the Pats won't re-sign Brady, there may be bad blood between the evil empire, and it would be wonderful to see his career end that way, with snipes going back and forth as they both floundered without each other.
So, as you see, it's tough. You risk it all by invoking his return, but if he leaves now, it's at least partly unsatisfying. What's a hater to do???
Tragic Team of the Century, Early Contender: The Buffalo Bills
There are endless, tedious debates about the city or team that has suffered the most in American sports, but for the entirety of the 1900s, it's hard not to give the nod to the Buffalo Bills, who lost a Super Bowl in the most brutal fashion with a missed field goal and then went on to lose three more. They won a couple AFL championships back in the '60s, but in classic Buffalo fashion, their two best teams played in the two years just before the Super Bowl started. Then the century turned, and literally eight days after the calendar switched to 2000, this happened:
What clearer message could there be from the football gods that life wasn't going to get any better in the new millennium? It's been two decades of futility since then, which brings us to Saturday when they led 16-0 in the second half against the Titans and seemed to be a lock for their first playoff win since 1995. Then some godawful coaching happened, Josh Allen panic mode kicked into high gear at the wrong time, and DeShaun Watson did stuff like this:
Amazingly, the Bills blew it again. There's a lot of century left, but they've already staked their claim for the spot of early favorites—this team is really, really tragic.
Humiliated Team of the Week, Winner: Everton
Let's keep the negative energy going! After losing match after match to rival Liverpool, Everton came into Sunday's F.A. Cup round of 32 match with a great chance to restore at least a little balance to the Merseyside Derby (context: both teams are in the city of Liverpool, Mersey is the river, "derby" is British for rivalry). Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp prioritizes the EPL and the Champions League, so he decided to trot out a lineup of youngsters and subs, one as young as 16, for the F.A. Cup match. Everton came with their best lineup, or close to it, and even though the match was at Liverpool, it seemed like the visiting side had a great chance.
And then...well, this:
Everton couldn't equalize, which means their starters got beat by a bunch of kids, and the announcers spent the last ten minutes emphasizing how humiliating the loss was and how distraught their fans must be. Congrats Everton! You're the Buffalo Bills of England.
Average Joe Hero of the Week: Tom Pope
Tom Pope is a low-level English soccer player who tweeted this last summer:
Pope could be confident he'd never have to back it up, since he's on a much lower level than Stones, and the chance of their teams meeting was slim to none. Then the F.A. Cup happened, and sure enough, Port Vale advanced to play Manchester City. The Pope-Stones match-up was on, against the odds, and he did this:
Hysterical. He scored against John Stones' team! Finally, to make it even better, he doubled down on Twitter:
Make this man the actual pope.