I’m a long-time Steelers fan.
If you want me to break out the credentials and impress you with my resume, let me just say that I’ve been cheering for this team since before the space shuttle’s first launch.
I should probably be the general manager.
Anyway, since I am a fan of the Steelers, an AFC team that resides in Pittsburgh, I could care less about the Buccaneers, an NFC franchise located in Tampa Bay, right? I used to nothing the Buccaneers, that is until Tom Brady, the greatest anything that’s ever done anything, signed with them prior to the 2020 season.
I thought it was cute and all that Tampa landed Brady, but I didn’t think it would amount to much. I mean, the Buccaneers, a team that had only managed to get out of its own way once since its inception way back in 1976—and had to employ both Jon Gruden and Warren Sapp in order to make it happen—actually taking full advantage of signing Brady? Yeah, right.
Obviously, Tampa did take full advantage, as Brady and the Bucs trounced the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.
Suddenly, the Buccaneers were world champions. Not only that but they were feared world champions. They were legit because they had Brady, the greatest anything that’s ever done anything.
OK, what Brady really is is the greatest quarterback of all time. And if you don’t agree with that, there’s no arguing that he’s the greatest quarterback at winning Super Bowls. Tampa’s victory over Kansas City last year gave Brady seven rings for his career—including six as a member of the New England Patriots.
You would think that this power Brady had over me—as the title says, he spent many years living rent-free in my head while also knocking over lamps, having loud parties and repeatedly ruining the Steelers’ Super Bowl hopes—would have vanished the second he left New England.
Nope, which is why the title is written in the present tense.
And that brings me to this past Sunday’s NFC Divisional Round Playoff Game between the Buccaneers and Rams at Raymond James Stadium. I went over to a friend’s house to watch this matchup. He, like me, appeared to be all-in on Matthew Stafford and the team from Los Angeles (this Brady fella sure does get around in the free-living department).
We relished every point the Rams scored on the way to a 20-3 first-half lead. We both felt very uneasy after running back Cam Akers fumbled near the goal line right when it looked like the Rams would take a commanding 27-3 lead just before halftime.
After receiver Cooper Kupp fumbled late in the third quarter and gave the Buccaneers, who were down 27-6 at the time, new life, I began to feel REALLY uncomfortable, a feeling only made worse moments later when running back Leonard Fournette pounded his way into the end zone for a one-yard score to pull Tampa to within two touchdowns.
And don’t even get me started on how I felt late in the fourth quarter when Rams kicker Matt Gay came up short on a 47-yard field goal that would have given the visitors a 17-point lead with 6:36 left in regulation. I mean, who misses short on a 47-yard field goal these days? Did Frank Corral steal Gay’s uniform?
It was at that point that I wanted to take to Facebook—always a platform for rational thought—and type in all caps that THE GAME WAS RIGGED SO THAT BRADY COULD WIN!!!!!!!!!
This urge was intensified moments later following another Rams fumble that allowed the Buccaneers to tie the score with 42 seconds left.
I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the end. Nope, instead, I left for my bowling match. That whole 28-3 fiasco from Super Bowl LI had secretly convinced me that Brady would bring his team all the way back to win (the Rams ultimately did up their lead to 27-3 which felt like Deju Vu all over again), and after Tampa tied things up, I didn’t even bother to listen to the rest of the game on the radio as I was driving to my match.
To make a long story a little longer, I was actually relieved when I soon got a text from my bowling buddy informing me that the Rams had managed to win the game in regulation.
I felt like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life and wanted to run down the street screaming, “Merry Christmas!” to anyone I saw.
I woke up on Monday morning still smiling from ear to ear...I just don’t know why.
To repeat, the power that Brady had over me should have disappeared the moment he left the Patriots. What do I care if he wins a few more Super Bowls with the Buccaneers? He’s just one player—not a whole team. I could see if I was an NFC South neighbor. I could understand why residents of that division, one that has included quarterbacks named Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan over the past decade, would be upset by Brady moving in and buying up all of the Super Bowl property.
But why would a Steelers fan care? Why do I repeatedly catch myself saying things like, “They always get those calls” whenever I’m watching a game involving Tampa Bay these days? As I alluded to earlier, the Buccaneers have never ALWAYS done anything except lose a lot.
Oh well, I guess you could say Brady will always occupy a space inside my head—and it appears he has more power over me than even the Patriots do—and the only way he’ll ever officially move out is if he retires from the NFL.
That should be any day, now, right?
It’s great that Tom Brady got eliminated, but I can’t put myself through this again next postseason.