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Football fans were transported back to precedented times Sunday night, with Tom Brady once again showing that his greatness on the field remains a constant even during a season defined by change.
Like so much else from this past year of trying to tackle COVID-19, the NFL season was full of new challenges, adaptations, failures and, yes, some great victories. We’ve been conditioned during months of pandemic life to almost expect disappointing outcomes, but Brady delivered a storybook ending in Super Bowl 55. He’s left little doubt about his status as the greatest player in league history.
What’s less certain is how we feel after his latest triumph, given that it didn’t happen in a Patriots uniform. We’ve yet to stumble on a word or phrase in the English language (maybe the Germans have come up with something?) that fully conveys our sense of awe and thrill for Brady’s accomplishment, mixed with the admittedly selfish disappointment that he won’t be bringing this Lombardi Trophy back to New England. Bittersweet doesn’t begin to cover it.
Some things just aren’t quantifiable. Others are — like the 43-year-old Brady winning a record seventh Super Bowl in 10 appearances, for example. Or Brady rightfully hauling in his fifth Super Bowl MVP award. It all feels impossible and inevitable at the same time.
After the victory, Brady was asked where it ranks among his many other achievements.
“I’m not making any comparisons,” Brady responded. “Being down here and experiencing it with this group of guys — every year is amazing. And this team is world champions forever, you can’t take it away from us.”
Time and again, Brady has shown up and proven his greatness on the football field. We’d be remiss, however, to discuss Sunday’s Super Bowl without mentioning some off-the-field greatness as well.
One of the most compelling stories from Sunday’s gridiron battle between Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs is an athlete who didn’t play a single snap in the Super Bowl or the entire season.
It wasn’t an injury that kept Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on the sidelines this year. It was an ability, and a desire to use that ability to help others.
Duvernay-Tardif also has a medical degree, and he made the decision to leave the offensive line in order to help on the front lines of battling COVID-19. According to the Kansas City Star, he says his mindset became, “How can I help? And how can I be part of the solution?” The 29-year-old Canadian national opted out of the NFL season and has been working in a long-term care facility for older residents outside of Montreal.
“If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients,” he said on social media in July.
Even right before the Super Bowl, as he prepared to watch from home while his team tried to win its second consecutive championship, he was confident in the difficult decision he made.
“It’s tough. I miss the game, I miss the locker room, I miss being with the guys,” Duvernay-Tardif told “Good Morning America” late last week. “But I’m in peace with my decision. I do think I made the right choice.”
He didn’t throw for over 200 yards and three touchdown passes like Brady did Sunday night. But he has spent months taking care of people during a deadly pandemic. That may not show up on an NFL stat sheet, but it’s good enough for an honorary MVP award in our book.