“I want to feel what I feel. What’s mine. Even if it’s not happiness, whatever that means. Because you’re all you’ve got.” ~ Toni Morrison
When something good comes to an end, we are told “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” As I recently celebrated my 13th Canada-versary and reflected on what had made my life so special until this point, I decided to claim my right (and yours) to do both. Cry because that good thing is over AND smile because it happened. What’s that good thing I am referring to, you ask? It’s not my life, here in Toronto, I can assure you. Not yet, at least. Maybe when law school calls and I have to relocate. 😁
So, what is that good thing I am talking about? It’s not just good, actually, it’s great. In fact, it’s the greatest. The greatest of all time. The man, Tom Brady, left the arena, after 22 seasons, 7 rings and too many records to list. At 44, it made sense for him to be considering retirement. I told myself when I heard the rumors, toward the end of the season, that, if this was it, it would be well deserved and he would finally be able to spend time with the family he loves so much, who had sacrificed so much for his career. I told myself that he was one of the very few who would get to step away from the game on his own terms, while still being at the top of his game.
Although his last game was a lost divisional playoff round game against the Los Angeles Rams (who went on to win Super Bowl 56), it was a treat. After trailing 3-27 halfway through the 3rd quarter, Tom Brady did what Tom Brady does. He led his Tampa Bay Buccaneers all the way back to tie the game. The Rams ultimately won on a field goal, as time expired, to punch their ticket to the NFC Championship game in their own stadium. For me, and for so many others, it was all about Tom mounting another improbable comeback reminiscent of the one he and my New England Patriots had to overcome to win Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons. The Pats were down 3-28 midway through the 3rd quarter as well and won 34-28 in overtime. His poise, his confidence and ability to make things happen, made us believe that it’s never over until it’s over. An incredible life lesson that informs how I move into this world. That’s one of the reasons I go after my goals and dreams the way I do, and regardless of how impossible they appear to be, I always believe there is a chance. I watched that last playoff game and, when it ended, I thought to myself, if this was it for his career, he spoiled us until the end. I told myself that when/if the announcement came, I would be ready. A rookie mistake for the seasoned veteran that I am.
When the report of his retirement first broke on CNN, on a late January Saturday afternoon, I was on the phone with my mother and not only did my heart stop but I almost dropped the phone. My sweet mom told me to turn the sound on, watch and call her back afterward so that I didn’t miss anything. I declined because the last thing I wanted to do was make this news real by fully tuning in.
The physical response I had to this news report, though, was a reminder that, in matters of the heart, it’s useless to try to trick your brain. Those who know me consider me rational – I checked – and I believe I am, in most situations. With football, when it comes to my Patriots and Tom, rationality goes out the window. It’s not as much about my alter ego who takes over when I attend games than about the intensity of the emotions the sport, and Tom especially, have elicited from me these past two decades. The chills I get every time he runs out of the tunnel to Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” and ends his field-long run with a fist bump and a “Let’s go!!!” that makes you want to run through a wall. The smile on my face every time he makes a nice play. The tears streaming down my face every time he wins a Super Bowl, no matter how many times I have watched each game on replay. The victory speeches on the podium I can recite verbatim. The knots in my stomach when the score is tight.
The pain I felt when Tom himself eventually announced his retirement a few days after the initial reports, putting an end to all the speculation. I was devastated and it took me a few hours to get to a place of gratitude for all he had given me, and feel genuinely happy for Tom and his family. Part of me was also furious at the insiders and their sources who rushed to break the news, robbing Tom of the opportunity to announce it when and how he truly wanted to do it.
The tears of joy and excitement of these past 22 years, and the sadness of these past few weeks all come down to gratitude. As absurd as it may sound to some, I cherish all of it and I make no apologies for any of it. I own it all.
I was planning to end this piece by telling you that not being able to watch him on Sundays anymore would be like losing a first love. There would be other loves, some that may last even longer, but they would be different. There is nothing like the first love, as they say. I was planning to tell you that Football Sunday would not be the same without Tom and it would really hit home for me when next season would kick off, in September, and my favorite number 12 would not be on the field. I was planning to tell you all of that… And then Tom did the unexpected: on Sunday, March 13th, he announced he was coming back for a 23rd season. “What?!” That’s what I screamed at nobody in my living room, as the news was officially reported on the NFL Network, in Tom’s own words. My heart started racing, the smile on my face got really big, chills ran down my spine and a tear fell down the corner of my eye. He was back and so were all of those raw emotions some might call irrational.
To me, it’s Tom. To you, it might be something else. Whatever or whomever it is. If something brings you the types of emotions I have described, treasure it, even if nobody else gets it. You don’t have to explain or justify it. It’s yours. Indulge in it. I have come to understand how important these things are, no matter how old you are.
Here’s to Tom coming back, here’s to feelin’ it (all of it!) and here’s to my 13th Canada-versary!
Let me know in the comments, your thoughts about the topic and share, if you wish what moves you. Let’s talk!