Tom Brady is either the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) or just a goat, depending on your geography, NFL team affiliation, or political persuasion (the guy reportedly had a MAGA hat in his locker). Like many superstars, he’s a polarizing figure. You love him or you hate him. Or, if you’re a longtime Patriots fan, you may toggle back and forth between those two emotional extremes.

Tom Brady traded his red, white and blue Patriots’ garb for the pewter, red and black of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One thing didn’t change: another Super Bowl victory. AP photo/Elise Amendola

Brady left the Pats last year to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and to add insult to injury he led the Bucs to a Super Bowl win in his first season there. It was his seventh Super Bowl victory.

My wife and I spend a few months each winter in St. Petersburg, in the Tampa Bay area. Last year it was funny being down there (as diehard Patriot fans) during the build up to the big game. “Go Bucs” fandom stands popped up on every other street corner, like invasive weeds after a wet winter, sprouting garish red, black and pewter flowers (the team’s colors) in the form of T-shirts, hats and banners.

On my walks downtown I’d overhear the locals – known as Tampanians (sounds like an alien race in a Kurt Vonnegut novel) – discussing their newfound bounty. “We’ve got that famous quarterback now. I can’t remember where he comes from. Somewhere up north. He’s kind of old, but he’s still pretty good, I guess.” I wanted to shout at them: “That’s Tom Brady you fools! He played for the New England Patriots and won six Super Bowls! And I’m from Maine, so you can damn well thank me for sending him your way!”

As a guest in the Sunshine State, I held my tongue. But I figured I’d get my revenge. Florida, like Maine, has a large elderly population. Lots of geezers down there. St. Petersburg, our home base, has long been dubbed “God’s Waiting Room.” That means a lot of old, weak hearts. I figured the stress of winning a hometown Super Bowl, while trying to keep it from becoming the Covid Bowl, would send half the state’s population into cardiac rest. That obviously didn’t happen. More likely unhappy Patriots fans in Maine choked on their beer and pretzels.

Now it’s Brady’s second season “down there,” and his team just played a lackluster (OK, boring) game against the Pats in their home stadium. Neither team could mount much offense, and the final score of 19-17 reflected what a snooze fest it was.

I don’t begrudge Tampanians their rise to Titletown, much like Boston has been for decades. Tampa Bay recently pulled off a rare professional sports hat trick. The Tampa Bay Rays, who hadn’t earned a trip to the World Series since 2008, beat the Yankees in the 2020 division series and fell just short of besting the Dodgers to win the baseball championship. The area’s hockey team – the Lightning (affectionately called The Bolts) – captured the coveted Stanley Cup a couple years ago.

I say more power to them. Being so spoiled for so long with New England’s professional sports dominance, it’s fun to see another region get their due, especially during these deeply troubled times when our country seems poised on the cusp of recovery or ruin.

Now the Patriots have a new, rookie quarterback, and he’s good. Damn good, in fact. Though there’ll probably never be another Tom Brady, Mac Jones could well become a premier NFL quarterback and return the Pats to the prominence we New England fans have come to expect.

So, as much as I loved the Brady years in New England, when we’re down in Florida I find myself caught up in the fan excitement and cheer right along with the Tampanians: “Go Bucs! Go Brady!” Does that make me a Sunshine Patriot? Maybe. But I’m a geezer too, so while my heart can take only so much excitement, I reserve the right to be a two-team football fan.

Steven Price is a Kennebunkport resident. He can be reached at [email protected]

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