March 18, 2020
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Appreciation, pain as Brady leaves the Patriots

Charles Krupa | AP
Charles Krupa | AP
A bouquet of flowers and a sign thanking former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who announced he was leaving the football team, rest on the sidewalk outside the TB12 training center in Boston, Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Maine is in a state of emergency. Officials at all levels of government are scrambling to respond to and, if possible, get ahead of the coronavirus and its already seismic impact on the country.

Amidst this worrying backdrop, it’s critically important to stay up to date and informed about the coronavirus, and to listen to the public health experts. It’s also important to strive to maintain a sense of normalcy when possible, even if that means Patriots fans giving themselves time to be sad about quarterback Tom Brady leaving and to reflect on the remarkable accomplishments and moments he shared with New England fans over the past 20 years.

Six Super Bowl championships. Three NFL Most Valuable Player awards. Seventeen AFC East titles. Four Super Bowl MVP trophies. The list goes on and on.

“Nothing about the end of Tom’s Patriots career changes how unfathomably spectacular it was,” Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said in a statement on Tuesday, after Brady announced on social media that he would not be returning to the team.

The current atmosphere in which this announcement was made doesn’t change those accomplishments, either, and shouldn’t stand in the way of appreciating what Brady has meant to New England.

“I had hoped this day would never come, but rather that Tom would end his remarkable career in a Patriots uniform after yet another Super Bowl championship,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement Tuesday. “While sad today, the overwhelming feeling I have is appreciation for his countless contributions to our team and community.”

As communities across the country deal with closings, quarantines, dispution, and the hardships and anxieties that come with them, we must also hold fast to the everyday joys — and disappointments — that came before and will outlast this temporary time of uncertainty.

The pain of losing Brady is very real. The fact that it doesn’t have the life and death consequences that come with a global pandemic doesn’t erase that pain, even if it does put it in perspective.

Sports, at their most basic level, are games. And games can sometimes feel trivial, particularly in difficult times. But the sporting world can also have a very serious impact on the world around us, and bring us together in ways we don’t always anticipate.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world… it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have professional leagues or college sports to help entertain, distract, calm, excite, engage and even disappoint us on a daily basis during this outbreak. But suspending seasons and tournaments was the responsible thing to do, and the power of sports to bring people together hasn’t been completely put on hold along with the games.

The end of Brady’s time with the Patriots, for all its disappointment, is strangely almost a pleasant reminder of the binding power of sports and what it means to be a fan. In both the appreciation for what Brady has accomplished, and the frustration that he is leaving, people across New England are connected. That’s worth something, especially during a moment of social distancing and isolation, which can cause people to feel disconnected from one another.

New England fans have strong feelings for Brady, as he clearly does for the fans.“ You opened your heart to me, and I opened my heart to you. And Pats Nation will always be a part of me,” Brady said in his message to fans on Tuesday.

Brady won’t cease being a part of New England. He deserves our enduring gratitude. But to borrow from the Patriots’ outlook under Coach Belichick — who notably isn’t going anywhere — it’s on to the next challenge. That’s an attitude worth applying to the current situation America and the world are in right now, as well.


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