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So long, Tom

Tom Brady nails his retirement announcement: A hater's take

February 01, 2023

The happiest moment of my sports life came when the New York Giants stunned the living bejesus out of the undefeated New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLII, on the strength of a goofy quarterback and a miracle catch and the obvious backing of every god that has ever existed. I had just turned 25, my professional and romantic life was a wreck, and as you might imagine, this took on a deeper and perhaps even psychotic meaning to me at that particular spot in life. For a literal month afterward, like a lunatic, I would watch the replay of the last few minutes from a torrented copy on my laptop, feeling the same goosebumps every single time. It was a complete regression—moving backward into that state children occupy when they watch the same movie 800 times in a row and never get sick of it.

This obsession was about me, and it was about the Giants, but it was also very much about who they had defeated. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were patently evil, and patently awesome, and to beat them was, to borrow a phrase from Radiohead's Thom Yorke, like jackknifing a juggernaut. I was, in some respect, born again, albeit in the saddest, most parasocial, and least sustainable way imaginable.

By the time they did it again a few years later, life was better and sports meant less to me, but it was still amazing. And by the time Tom Brady won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers, I started to realize that deep down, I had always loathed Belichick—a true embodiment of everything that is impersonal and hostile and entitled about modern sports—more than Brady, who was just a very talented and hard-working person existing in someone's system. Nevertheless, once a hater, always a hater, and I duly rolled my eyes at his cliche-ridden retirement announcement last year, which included sentences like "There are no shortcuts to success on the field or in life." $*%& you, Brady.

This sentiment was validated when, after less than two months, he un-retired, reportedly contributing to his subsequent divorce. I have absolutely no thoughts or judgments on another person's marriage, and if I were a human deity like Tom Brady I would try to play until I was 74, but maybeeeee be careful about referencing time with your family if there's a chance you might pull the plug after a few weeks.

Anyway, that brings us to today, and Tom Brady's retirement announcement. It's a Twitter video, less than a minute long, and it's... well, crap, it's perfect. Watch:

The text is brief enough to fit in a short paragraph:

"Good morning guys. I'll get to the point right away. I'm retiring for good. I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning, I figured I'd just press record and let you guys know first. I won't be longwinded. You only get one super emotional retirement essay, and I used mine up last year, so really thank you guys so much to every single one of you for supporting me. My family, my friends, my teammates, my competitors, I could go on forever; there's too many. Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn't change a thing. Love you all."

It's not just the words—it's the emotion that was clearly brimming beneath the surface as he spoke. You could tell the reality of what was happening, the finality of his career coming to an end, was hitting him even as he spoke. If I'm wrong about what I say next, you can mock me ruthlessly next year, but it felt like he knew it was real this time. And he had the good sense to know his moment had to be brief—probably the best line in the entire thing was the recognition that he'd already used up all his fanfare. This was quiet, emotional, and authentic.

Look, Tom Brady is the greatest to ever play the game, and if there was ever any doubt about that, it ended the minute he won a super bowl with the Bucs. This fact is indisputable, but it does not mean I have to like him. For many years, I did not. That softened, because I became less of a partisan idiot and understood context and, well, grew up. But now, after this video, I have to say, I think I actually l-

I actually li-

I li-

Lik-

Li-

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Nope, can't do it. But you understand what I'm getting at. Nice job, Tom. You nailed it.