Tom Brady and David Ortiz really deserve their own columns this morning. Separate, entirely independent columns. And not just on this site, but in general. The fact that they’re sharing a headline above these words should probably be illegal, and punishable by a series of 12-hour lectures from Tim McCarver.
After all, entire books have been written about these two guys, books inspired by stories and accomplishments not so different from what unfolded yesterday at Gillette and last night at Fenway.
Brady’s final drive and last second, game-winning touchdown pass. Ortiz’s two-out, eighth inning, game-tying and season-saving grand slam. Both at home. Both on national TV. Both willing the team to victory after defeat had already been conceded. Just Tom Brady and David Ortiz doing what Tom Brady and David Ortiz are supposed to do. In a classic sense. In an almost mythical sense.
Yet, here they are: Boston’s two most iconic athletes, the day after carving out the latest chapter in their respective legacies . . . going halfsies on 1500 words of Internet? It’s seems unfair, maybe even disrespectful. But hey, it beats a slide show. And ultimately, as deserving as each one is to stand alone on yesterday’s merits, this really is about both of them. It’s about everyone. It’s about Boston. Past, present and future. And a day that played out like the most obvious and cliché Hollywood script, which in real life, makes it so completely unrealistic.
Even if you just take both games on the surface, it was a banner day for Boston. The Patriots beat the undefeated Saints to improve to 5-1. The Red Sox beat the Tigers to even the ALCS. That alone makes for a damn good Sunday. Now throw in the comebacks. Regardless of who led the charge. Let’s say the Pats won it on a 40-yard run by Stevan Ridley and the Sox tied the game on a Xander Bogaerts grand slam (see John, just give him a chance). That right there is a day that you’d never forget.
Now piece the whole story back together, literally slap yourself in the face with a frying pan, and think about how it actually went down.
There was 1:13 left when Brady came out for that final drive. The previous drive had lasted one play, and resulted in a horrible interception. The drive before that lasted four plays, and was highlighted by a four-yard completion to Michael Hoomanawanui and Aaron Dobson’s fourth-down drop. The Pats were out of timeouts and, down 27-23, needed 70 yards and a touchdown to avoid their second straight (and most frustrating) loss of the season.
Ortiz came up with the two outs in the bottom of the eighth, with the Sox down 5-1 and facing a hole the size of Prince Fielder’s belly button. (For reference, Fielder’s belly button reportedly has the circumference of Neptune). Will Middlebrooks, who’d doubled-off Jose Veras, was at third. Jacoby Ellsbury, who’d drawn a walk against Drew Smyly, was at second. Dustin Pedroia, who’d singled off Al Albuerqueque was at first. Did I mention that this inning was insane? And now Joaquin Benoit, Detroit’s closer, and not Phil Coke, Detroit’s lefty specialist, got the call. Ortiz spit on his hands and stepped into the box as Fenway roared louder than it had in five years.
On first down, Brady stepped back and fired a wobbly bullet across midfield to Julian Edelman. Twenty-three yards. And as Brady raced his offense to the line, now with 55 seconds on the clock, it was obvious that a transformation had taken place. Old, disgruntled and overwhelmed Tom Brady had a little hop in his step. When the offense was set, he took a few seconds in the shotgun, just to check out the defense, scream about the “mike” and give the fingers on his throwing hand a quick licking. (DISCLAIMER: There’s no non-awkward way to describe that action, but I admit that I could have made it less awkward.) Brady got the snap, stepped into the pocked and hit Austin Collie across the middle for 15 yards, down to the Saints’ 32.
He then connected with Dobson for six yards to the sideline, barely missed Julian Edelman in the end zone on second down, came up short to Edelman again on third down, and that left New England facing fourth and four at Saints’ 26 with 24 seconds left. One play standing between new life and a week of absolutely brutal Patriots coverage and conversation . . .
Brady to Collie. Nine yards to the 17. Brady spiked the ball with 10 seconds left. The Pats now had two shots at the end zone, but they only needed one. It was a perfect pass to Kenbrell Thompkins, who made a great catch in the back corner of the end zone, slapped both his feet in bounds, and sealed the deal on the 38th game-winning drive of Brady’s career.
Ortiz only needed one shot, too. A first pitch splitter that landed in the Sox bullpen, barely past the reach of a projectile Torii Hunter. Papi’s grand slam only tied the game, but with Koji Uehara on the mound, and the Tigers bullpen already in shambles, it was basically a walk-off. Detroit was done.
And the Legends of Brady and Ortiz ruled the day.
On a related note: Any chance we take these guys for granted?
Before yesterday, the answer was probably "yes." I mean, take the best of anything the world has to offer -- a day on the perfect beach, a slice of the greatest pizza, sex with the woman, man or Cyclopes of your wildest dreams -- take that and enjoy it.
Ah, yes. That’s good Cyclopes.
But do the same thing every day (or even just every week) for a year or five years or an entire decade, and before long, you’ll take it for granted. At least a little bit. Even if you don’t want to. It’s a fight you can’t win. Because like Paul Giamatti says all night, every night on TV: “Aah. . . humans.”
Tom Brady’s human, too. That stinks, but after years of denial, I think we’ve all made peace with it. And by “made peace” I mean “live in constant fear of him retiring without a fourth ring.” But either way, age, a pair of Super Bowl losses and the decomposition of his receiving core has really brought Brady down to earth these last few years. Especially this year. It’s offered more frequent and deeper glimpses into his true personality, the good and bad. It’s opened him up to new criticism, not all of it unwarranted. And with every performance like the one he delivered over the first 58 minutes and 47 seconds of yesterday’s win, it appears that more and more fans are ready to turn on Brady.
David Ortiz knows all about that. Over the last few years, Ortiz and the city of Boston have had the ultimate love/hate relationship. And prior to this year, it was definitely trending towards hate. OK, maybe hate’s too strong. Maybe it was ambivalence? It’s however you want to describe the fact that a lot of fans would have been OK with the team moving on from Ortiz this past offseason. Not everyone, but more than enough people for it to matter. And I’ll admit to being one of them.
My point is that even though yesterday felt like a trip back to the 2004, a lot has changed in nine years. Brady and Ortiz are still beloved figures, but they’re not the indestructible Gods they were back then. They’re two guys in their mid-to-late thirties, still holding onto their primes and fighting like hell for one more ring. They’re putting the finishing touches on two of the most legendary careers this city has ever seen.
And yesterday’s craziness really puts that last part into perspective. Forget for a second the magnitude of what they both (especially Ortiz) accomplished on Sunday, because we really can’t be sure of what the magnitude is. If the Sox end up winning this series, Ortiz’s home run takes on an even bigger legacy. At the same time, if the Patriots defense falls apart and the season goes under, the memory of what Brady did yesterday will fade pretty quickly.
But in the big picture, Sunday was another reminder of who exactly Brady and Ortiz are, what they’ve really meant to this city, how they’ll be remembered throughout history. And that, even though they had to share this column, they’ll definitely get separate statues.