Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Three Buffalo Bills fans walk into a bar and shout “Go Chiefs!”
This encounter happened one week after the perennially underachieving (or perhaps aptly achieving) Bills had just lost to the Chiefs, the team they’re suddenly rooting for, and one week before the Chiefs were scheduled to play Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. It is no coincidence that the Chiefs will be playing against the Bills’ once and former nemesis, Tom Brady. I suppose that explains the hostility.
In their defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Bills fan with anything complimentary to say about the Buccaneers current quarterback. All Tom Brady did as a member of the New England Patriots was deny the Bills glory time and time again. To uncover the explanation of this unrequited bitterness, I did a little research and discovered Tom Brady has an unfathomable 32-3 record against his former AFC East rival.
That’s a lot of heartbreak, even for Bills fans.
It wasn’t until the one they call the G.O.A.T. headed south for the winter that I noticed the palpable hatred for all things Brady had relocated south alongside him. I suppose by some twisted, associative property of the NFL fandom, if you ever hated Tom Brady, you now hate the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sorry for your luck.
“I’m just happy my team’s in the Super Bowl,” I replied courteously, reminding myself I was still serving these customers and trying ever so hard to show these forlorn Bills fans a good time. “The fact that Tom Brady’s our quarterback is just the icing on the cake.”
That provided no remorse, perhaps even stirring the pot a little more. Far be it from me to ever do something like that. Besides, they started it. Who am I not to celebrate a long-awaited Super Bowl berth alongside my Buccaneer brethren and why should I apologize for my team finally making an effort to win?
It is no understatement whatsoever to say that all of Tampa Bay is still pinching itself for A) the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup B) the Rays making the World Series C) the Bucs reaching the Super Bowl which will be held D) in our own home town after E) three straight, playoff road wins and F) (which stands for finally) the fact that Tom Brady is now our quarterback.
Call it dumb luck. Sorry not sorry, bitter Bills fans and Brady-haters alike. While our drought may not be Billsian, that does not mean we are not worthy. Root for the Chiefs all you want. I get it. Just prepare yourselves for more potential heartbreak.
Not long afterwards, on that very same evening, another younger lady came in. She hailed from New England and noticed I was wearing my gift-given, Buccaneers Tom Brady jersey to celebrate the times. How could she not? I’ve been wearing it for eight straight shifts.
Before ordering a drink, she half-drunkenly shouted “What did you think of Tom Brady before this? Your tip depends on it!”
All I wanted to do before serving this woman was A) serve her requested cocktail, albeit with a giddy, how-ya-like-me-now smile on my face B) complete the transaction and C) come up with an appeasing answer to her question, as I’ve tried to do every woman in my life, sometimes successfully, more often not.
If the fact that my Buccaneers happen to be in the Super Bowl with her former quarterback rubbed her the wrong way, that was just more icing on the cake. Meet Bills fans. They went thatta way.
I replied that I had always respected Brady’s work, which I earnestly believe I have. Media scandals or not, deflated footballs or not, it’s hard to objectively argue with the guy’s resume without bitterness… unless of course, you’re a Bills fan.
Right or wrong, it’s far too simplistic to characterize Brady’s resume with one word – cheater – yet if you’ve never liked the guy, that’s what it boils down to. He’s the most despised and revered athlete this side of LeBron James, who not so coincidentally has cast a looming shadow over his respective sport the last two decades as well. These guys are better at their craft than you. Get over it.
The bottom line is, whether you like him or not, Tom Brady is taking a long-suffering Buccaneers franchise into Super Bowl LV. This Bowl will be his tenth, this time with an entirely new team with and a considerably more favorable climate.
“Can I say hi to my son? Love you, kiddo!” said Brady as he asked permission from security from the sidelines, moments after beating the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field. This moment came one week after he was seen throwing passes post-game to Drew Brees’ children. This was a Brady you don’t see, a man still associated with a former team’s scandal, a 43-year-old man who felt he still had football left in him, a man who breathed life into a franchise that so desperately needed it, a man whose past and present teammates believe in him unconditionally until the last whistle and beyond.
As infinitely unpredictable as this outcome could have been one calendar year ago, Tom Brady has his Tampa Bay Buccaneers one big win away from a Lombardi Trophy.
Whether you like it or not, Tom Brady is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. As a Buccaneers fan, I will gladly take it.