Tom Brady may go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history (so far), asterisks and all. His numbers certainly put him at the forefront of that conversation, as much as it begrudges me to say that.
Let’s ignore any conversation of whether he is a product of coach Bill Belichick’s system, or vice versa. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, anyway.
Let’s ignore the scandals for which he, and the entire Patriots organization, have been at the epicenter.
The reality is, it’s a huge deal when any NFL player is still on the field at 40 years old. Exceedingly few have done it, especially at a level as high as Brady’s. Let’s give credit where it’s due. Barring a disastrous, pre-season injury, he will be the 20th quarterback to play a regular-season game beyond his 40th birthday.
ESPN, which already usually feels like a network dedicated, 24/7, to Brady during football season, pretty much blew off even the slightest pretense of caring about anything else on Thursday, August 4, 2017, the day Brady flipped the calendar over to begin his 41st year on Earth. It was basically a day-long worship service at the Altar of Brady’s Jock Strap. Rumor has it they tried to stretch it across the front of the SportsCenter anchor desk, but it snapped by the time it reached halfway. That’s probably why we heard so much about Brady’s “miraculous” diet for 97 consecutive minutes around noon: it just keeps him so darned svelt.
Even NFL.com got in on the act, and looked like Diply or BuzzFeed for a day, replete as it was with innumerable “40 Somethings About Tom Brady For His 40th Birthday” countdown-list slideshows.
By the end of the day, no one reading the NFL.com Web site could count higher than 40. It was like it became a rule, in all its Monty Python-esque glory: Then shalt thou count to forty. No more, no less. Forty shall be the number thou shall count, and the number of the counting shall be forty. Forty-one shalt thou not count, neither count thou thirty-nine, excepting that thou then proceed to forty. Forty-two is right out.
Sour grapes for Yours Truly? Perhaps. But not because of my thinly veiled (if even that) disdain for Brady. Instead, if I harbor any ill will about this, it’s because I know this in my heart: James Harrison will not receive anything resembling this level of fanfare on May 4, 2018, when he turns 40, himself. Not that he’d want it, or would participate in it. Instead, he’d probably be pushing Heinz Field through “dahntahn” Pittsburgh on a weighted sled. That’s what he does.
Maybe it’s all for the best, anyway. What would either network offer as coverage?
James Harrison’s 40 Most Recent Pee Tests This Week? Nah. His 40th birthday falls on a Friday; we’d have to go well over 40 just to get back to Wednesday morning, at the rate the league tests him now. Honestly, I think Commissioner Roger Goodell is secretly selling vials of Harrison’s urine as some sort of miracle health potion, and needs to use the tests as a cover to be able to collect enough to stay in business.
James Harrison’s 40 Greatest Hits? Really, in a league that is trying to push football as a kinder, gentler sport, showing some of the then-legal smackdowns Harrison laid on opposing players prior to all this (necessary) concussion awareness would probably be viewed as being in poor taste. However, it does conjure to mind quite a grand set of mental images. Most of them involve the Cleveland Browns.
James Harrison’s 40 Greatest Staredowns? By the time they got to the third image, Chuck Norris would be calling in, begging for mercy.
James Harrison’s 40 Greatest Sacks Despite Uncalled Offensive Holding Fouls? Who has time to whittle this list down to 40?
So, perhaps it will all be for the best when Harrison’s 40th birthday goes unheralded, despite that only two other linebackers in the history of the NFL (Clay Matthews and Junior Seau) have ever played into their 40s.
The fans would be all for it. I just don’t think there would be room in ESPN’s Brady-Love schedule to squeeze it in.
James would be too busy bench-pressing a county to watch, anyway.