There have been few happier moments in my young life than the one I got to experience last night, VCR clicker brandished, recording feverishly, as the WORLD CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX paid a visit on the field to the WORLD CHAMPION NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS. And I could have asked for no more touching a sight than Curt Schilling, first borne along royally by a golf cart, and then hobbling the last few steps on crutches, his famous right ankle swathed in bandages, finally stopping near the 20-yard line to hold up the World Series trophy. While wearing a Tom Brady jersey. While the actual Tom Brady cheered from the sidelines. Dear God. I was in my own personal heaven.
Once the exultation in the World Series win (may it never end) died down, the Patriots then commenced kicking ass and taking names as usual. Show me a person who claims this isn't a Golden Age in Boston sports, and I'll show you a bitter Celtics fan.
Football teams often remind me of something other than what they are. Sometimes pieces on a chess board. Sometimes a kaleidoscope spinning through its colors. Last night the Patriots, to me, were like a symphony orchestra, moving together, now highlighted by Messrs. Vinatieri (tenor) and Brady (baritone) as soloists, now swelling together with huge brass fanfares, and against the hapless Bills, they were performing thunderous Tchaikovsky.
Two moments from last night's game stand out in my mind. The first came with the Patriots facing a third and seven on Buffalo's 42. Brady spread three wide, took the snap, dropped back, and with a phalanx of offensive linemen holding white-shirted invaders out, sat back to read the field as if perusing the Sunday Times. Finally, his eyes catching on something downfield, Brady cocked back his arm, and fired a bullet twenty yards, where David Givens, cutting back in toward the middle of the field from an outside slot, left his feet and caught the ball, back arching in midair.
Think of the complexity. Think of the number of moving parts. Brady calls the play. He takes a snap. He drops back, a meticulously executed maneuver in and of itself, one you can watch him practicing, long legs scissoring, if you get to a game early enough. FOX's new feature that tracks a quarterback's time in the pocket also showed an interesting comparison between Brady's and Bledsoe's methods in the backfield: while Brady was consistently topping out at just over four seconds, Drew Bledsoe had approximately 3.1 seconds to get the ball out of his hand, or he was in trouble; even 3.5 seconds meant a sack or an interception more often than not.
Most of reason Brady could take such a leisurely pace was the wall of blue jerseys around him at each snap, an offensive line that last night took on all comers. Not just once or twice, but consistently, the men up front held off several tons' worth of defense until Brady could make his assessment, judge the distance, and throw.
Meanwhile, snaking out from the formation into any number of slippery routes were the wide receivers and tight ends. Some would encounter a defender to block, and others, like Givens, would find their way between the onrushing defensive front and the fanned-out secondary, streaking toward the middle of the field untouched. The routes are planned, of course, but like the best laid plans of mice and men, go aft agley.
Brady, hanging back, had four seconds to find out whether his receivers have run the correct route. Four seconds to assess who was chasing him, who was chasing his targets, and who he could connect with via the ball. Four seconds, while relatively luxurious, is still only four seconds.
Compare it to a baseball game. While there may be men on base, there are three endless, interminable outs, and inside each of them three strikes or four balls, depending, that may or may not set a runner in motion. From ball's flight to point scored may be a journey of half an hour. In football? Four seconds for possibilities to unfold, for patterns to arrange themselves, and for a lithe figure in silver and blue to hurl a missile not toward his man downfield, but toward where that man will be.
And that, not even the speed with which he can survey his options, sliding unperturbed away from blitzing opponents, but that ability to throw the ball so accurately that it lands quietly in the hands of his receiver while the receiver remains in stride, is what truly takes my breath away about Tom Brady.
It's hard to put my finger on--whether it's his poise or his accuracy or his quick eyes--but there's something about Tom Brady that is finer than the rest. He is Brie where others are American. Godiva where others are Hershey's. Aged in a bottle where others come in boxes or with screwcaps. There is something fine--something of rare and high quality--about Tom Brady.
I love the Patriots because they're my home team. I'd watch them even if, God forbid, they still had Ole Drew fumbling around under center. But Tom Brady makes the experience transcendent.
The second moment from last night's game that remains vivid in my mind also has Brady involved. Somewhere in the late going (late third or early fourth quarter, I can't remember which), Brady delivered a pass downfield, and, as is often the case, was subsumed by the defense shortly thereafter. He always seems to find that tiniest of moments just before he'll be overtaken before making his throw, but the price of this precision is that being hit is just as often unavoidable.
And so here came Sam Adams, 335 pounds of jiggling stomach and rubbery rump, arms outstretched, wrapping his impossibly-sized frame around Brady, and landing--all 335 pounds--on top of the willowy quarterback.
Tom Brady is a beautiful man. He's beautiful the way Cary Grant or the young Marlon Brando were beautiful: luminous, a timeless face, a glowing presence. Classic features, cutting a hot hormonal swath across female demographics young and old, across races and tax brackets. Tom Brady is a man to whom women, regardless of their background, respond. And so the easy misconception, looking at his perfect even features, his gleaming row of flawless, white teeth, down to the tiny detail of dimpled chin, is that since he is so pretty, he must also be delicate.
But now after the throw, Adams bowls him over, letting his full weight fall, crushing Brady's knees, hips, ribs, spine, neck, face into the dirt, merciless, enough to make you wince, and indeed it does take a few long moments before Brady pulls himself to his feet.
As he jogs off the field, though, the camera peers in through the bars of his facemask, where a soft auburn beard is sprouting along his square jaw, where his pure blue eyes are flashing, and Brady, you can see, has pried himself from the dirt with a wry smile on his face.
It's tough to find too many things more gorgeous than that.