Yours truly representing at last year’s regular season opener. Hoffer photo.

Roughly three weeks after I became the full-time sportswriter for The Forecaster, Tom Brady took his first snap as the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots.

Last summer, I got married. On Tom Brady’s birthday.

And there, the connection ends.

While I’ve been fortunate enough to hold a job I love for nearly 20 years, my great passion/escape from reality during that time has been living and dying with the Patriots.

Let’s face it, we’ve been extraordinarily spoiled and blessed in these parts with the Patriots contributing six of the region’s dozen championships since February, 2002.

I’d argue the Patriots should have won at least six other titles, but I’m willing to “settle” for our current bounty.

From laughingstock to juggernaut, the Patriots’ journey over the last two decades has been anything but boring and for that, we can all be grateful.

Of course, one player stood alone, winning games, selling jerseys, setting trends and making news on and off the field, and Tom Brady will long stand atop New England’s sports’ Mt. Olympus (Bill Russell was awesome, but played under completely different, less competitive circumstances).

Everyone has a favorite Brady memory. I’ll share five of mine momentarily, but in reality, there were way too many to count.

It was clear from the get-go that Brady was special. Poised. A terrific leader. Perhaps a “game manager” at first, but it wasn’t long until he proved he could sling it as well as, if not better, than the likes of Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

From the “Snow Bowl,” to the Super Bowl upset of the Rams, to two more titles over the Panthers and Eagles, through nine years of heartache/near misses most franchises would kill for, to finally three more championships, including a pair which came in improbable fashion, Tom Brady came up huge time and time again and we were transfixed.

Last week’s news that he’s leaving the Patriots and heading to the pigskin backwater of Tampa was stunning, but frankly not that surprising if you’re familiar with Coach Bill Belichick’s history of no player being bigger than the team.

Still, seeing Brady in a Buccaneers’ uniform will be strange and a bit disturbing.

I don’t have any personal anecdotes of dealing with the greatest Patriot of all. Just riding the emotional roller-coaster from my sofa, my recliner or on five occasions last season, from Gillette Stadium.

The ending wasn’t always victorious, but the ride was magical and I know that nothing the rest of the my life as a sports fan will ever approach the joy and excitement of the past two decades.

Tom Brady will be missed but never forgotten and while I can probably bring myself to cheer for his individual success in Tampa Bay, my loyalty stays in Foxboro.

What a ride it’s been!

Thanks, Tom!

Thank you.

My top five Brady moments/memories

5) Third-and-10. Thrice
The 2018 AFC Championship Game was one for the ages, one that appeared won, then lost on multiple occasions. The contest went to overtime, where, thankfully, the Patriots won the coin toss and possession (had Kansas City won it, there’s no doubt in my mind Patrick Mahomes would have led the Chiefs to a TD) and three times, Brady faced third-and-10. Three times, he converted for the first down and drive culminated with Rex Burkhead’s rushing touchdown. Two weeks later, Brady won his sixth and final Super Bowl in far less dramatic fashion versus the Los Angeles Rams.

4) “Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out”
Patriots 35 Ravens 31. The 2014 AFC Divisional Round playoff game is my favorite non-Super Bowl victory. Baltimore had been a thorn in New England’s side after the 2009 and 2012 seasons and appeared like it was going to deny the Patriots again when it twice took two-touchdown leads, but Brady brought his team back and after using an unorthodox but illegal formation to spark a comeback (leading to complaints from the Ravens and Brady’s above quote), Julian Edelman threw a magical TD pass to Danny Amendola, then Brady completed the comeback with a gorgeous strike to Brandon LaFell. I was hoarse for days after this one.

3) Tom Cool
John Madden said the Pats should have played for OT in Super Bowl 36. I didn’t agree and thankfully, Belichick didn’t either. Brady got to prove he knew how to run a two-minute drill, clinically leading his team down the field before killing the clock with a spike (the ball calmly bounced off the Superdome turf and right back into Brady’s outstretched hand). That set the stage for Adam Vinatieri’s moment of immortality, a 48-yard field goal and a 20-17 victory over the St. Louise Rams and the first championship. There were five more to come.

2) Jumping for joy
Super Bowl 49 was degenerating into the same old agonizing story. A fourth quarter lead was about to go by the wayside after an improbable catch by an opposing wide receiver. Seattle was one yard from ripping out the Patriots’ heart before Malcolm Butler made the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history. Who can forget Brady jumping up and down on the sidelines in exhilaration and relief, whooping it up like an excited child. A decade in the title-less wilderness had come to an end.

1) “We’re bringing this sucker home!”
Super Bowl 51. The comeback from 28-3, the perfect passes in OT and the outpouring of emotion in the postgame ceremony, as Brady at last could put the insipdry of the Deflategate witch hunt behind him and celebrate the most delicious of titles.

Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.