Teardrops On My Tom Brady Jersey: A Taylor Swift Playlist For Breaking Up With The GOAT

On the list of ever-shifting, ever-growing global concerns right now, I get that Tom Brady choosing to leave the New England Patriots probably doesn’t rank in the top thousand. We are living in bizarre and often frightening times as COVID-19 has quietly upended the way we do almost everything, and most people will be grateful for the return to normalcy that a 2020 NFL season would herald at all, no matter what jersey The Greatest Quarterback Who Ever Lived might be wearing. 

I understand all of that, on an intellectual level. Getting my dumb, frivolous heart on board is another story.     

Ten years ago psychologist Dan Gilbert published The Peculiar Longevity of Things Not So Bad” in which he describes a paradox where people often recover more quickly from intense pain than they do from less distressing experiences. Our greatest traumas demand a proportionate large-scale psychological defense, while relatively smaller infractions trigger no such response and thus we feel them to an almost excessive degree. This is why someone can break a bone and maintain their composure but feel their soul darken with a murderous rage when they stub their toe. 

When the news broke yesterday morning that Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. would not be returning to New England after twenty years, six Super Bowls, seventeen division titles and countless other accolades, it was a little akin to stubbing all my toes. A minor injury in the grand chaotic scheme of things but oh, did it hurt

Image result for sad patriots fan gif

For the magnitude of my personal loss to be properly understood, I must first explain how much I love Tom Brady, and in order to do this, I must first tell you that my parents hail from The North. Since I’m Canadian, you might be thinking yeah, and so do you, but anyone who is truly from The North will tell you that Toronto is not really The North at all, no matter how convincing the ad campaigns from their professional basketball team might be. 

Image result for we the north tumblr

No, The North, as I have been told authoritatively by multiple sources, begins roughly around a town called Parry Sound, Ontario and stretches longitudinally from there. When I was a kid, we made the trip up quite often, to visit my grandparents and to celebrate certain holidays, most notably Christmas which you’ll recall occurs in the depths of December, a famously perilous time to venture into The North.   

Snow Squalls. Blizzard conditions. Whiteouts. These were routine backdrops for our festive family road trips. To hear my mother tell it, there were times when the only guiding light came from the tail of a Greyhound bus, and the only way to keep calm was with white knuckles and prayer. Meanwhile, me? Sound asleep in the back, under my Lion King blanket and pillow, entirely unafraid. Because my dad was driving. As far as I was concerned, nothing bad could happen when my dad was at the wheel. 

And that’s more or less how it’s felt these past two decades, having Tom Brady as the quarterback on my favorite football team. Nothing bad could happen. Tom would never allow it. He’d make the perfect pass at the most critical time. He’d orchestrate heroic, game-winning drives as seconds dwindled on the clock. He’d find Edelman on third down, throw it deep to Randy Moss, or somehow hit a double-covered Gronk right on the numbers. Down ten twice to a historic defense during Super Bowl 49 didn’t matter. 28-3 didn’t matter. Brady was under center and no deficit was insurmountable, no win was out of reach. 

Image result for tom brady gif

He’s gone now, and with him goes that feeling of safety, that child-like certainty. Nobody has any sympathy for Pats fans, I’m well aware, but still I ask you to only give your eyes the gentlest of rolls as you read about how I am managing my broken heart. 

You see, for a certain type of person (daydreamy, introspective, prone to bouts of melodrama) who also belongs to a certain demographic (species: white girl, genus: basic; came of age during an era of fringe boots and Gossip Girl) there is only one way to deal with heartbreak of any kind, and that is with the music and lyrics of one Taylor Swift. 

Image result for taylor swift new england patriots

Taylor’s 1989 record was prefaced with the message “These songs were once about my life. Now they are about yours.” I’m not one hundred percent sure that she meant for this to extend to crises of faith encountered by abandoned football fans, but I’m here to tell you that much of her songwriting does apply and that listening to her work has brought me somewhat closer to resolution for my sports sadness.

To wit, I present this annotated playlist of the Taylor Swift songs that most precisely reflect the experience of being a fan of the New England Patriots during Tom Brady’s tenure. I accept that there might not be a ton of people who choose to squeeze inside this incredibly specific Venn diagram with me, but Taylor has made an artform of turning the personal into the universal and I must humbly, clumsily follow her example. 

We Are Never Ever Ever Winning Another Super Bowl Together

  1. Fearless (The Snowbowl)

& I don’t know why but with you I’d dance, in a storm in my best dress, fearless 

I know “The Snowbowl” is not everyone’s preferred nomenclature when it comes to this infamous game but it sure is mine. This is the moment everything changed for the Patriots, when decades of bad luck and missed opportunities somehow flipped in an instant and became nothing but fodder for the unprecedented dominance that followed. Was Tom Brady’s hand going in a forward, passing motion? Who can really say, tbh! Instead of “the tuck rule” I like to remember the thick snowflakes that blanketed the field and gave the whole game something of a playground feel, the indomitable Adam Vinateri coming out first to tie and then win the game, and all the fans in the stands, bundled up in their Nor’easter finery, entirely unaware of the origin story they were witnessing.  

  1. State of Grace (Super Bowl 36, 38 & 39)

This is the golden age of something good and right and real

Image result for tom brady first super bowl gif

It’s nearly impossible to imagine now, but there was a time when people didn’t hate the Patriots on principle, when they were plucky underdogs taking on Kurt Warner’s “Greatest Show On Turf”, and Tom Brady was young and unproven, having been taken 199th in his draft. I can only assume that began to change somewhere between the second and third Super Bowl won in four short years, but I was too young to pay attention to sports media narratives at the time and Twitter wasn’t around yet, so uncomplicated joy was still a thing that could exist.   

  1. I Did Something Bad (“spygate” and the 16-0 season)

They say I did something bad, then why’s it feel so good? Most fun I’ve ever had, and I’d do it over and over and over again if I could.

After the so-called spygate scandal, which I do not care to relitigate, the Patriots were now comfortably America’s villains and honestly seemed to relish the new role. With their innovative, prolific, fearsome offense, they weren’t content just to win games this season, but eagerly sought out any chance to step on their opponents’ throats, winning multiple games by more than 40 points. If you were betting against them it was foolish and terrifying. If you were dripping queso on your Wes Welker jersey it was an unparalleled, exhilarating rush.   

  1. All Too Well (the Tyree catch)

I might be okay but I’m not fine at all … I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here, ‘cause I remember it all too well


The NFL continues to rank this eyesore at or near the top of their list of Greatest Super Bowl Moments, which is how I know the NFL is waging a personal vendetta against me. What more is there to say? It’s an absurd, cursed, borderline profane catch and it has hurt me deeply over the years.  

  1.  Starlight (Malcolm Butler Interception)

Don’t you see the starlight? Don’t you dream impossible things? 

“Play clock at five, and the pass is INTERCEPTED AT THE GOAL LINE by Malcolm Butler.” Moments before Al Michaels narrated this transcendent moment a nearly-equal but opposite miracle catch had been made by Seattle to put them in position to win Super Bowl 49. This would have made for three championship losses in a row for New England, all by dint of ludicrus circus catches. I believe my exact words to my viewing companions at the time were “perhaps God really does hate the Patriots.” And then this happened. The distance between utter despondence and complete euphoria had never been covered more quickly.    

  1. Call It What You Want (“deflategate” & Tom’s suspension)

All the liars are calling me one. Nobody’s heard from me for months. I’m doing better than I ever was.

Image result for new england surviving witch hunts since

You hear about people who become radicalized on the Internet and you never imagine that one day that will mean you, studying up on the Ideal Gas Law, familiarizing yourself with Nobel Prize winning physicists, clamoring for proof that discrepancies in ball pressure make any material difference to a game at all. I won’t make you suffer through a many-thousand word rant on why Tom Brady’s suspension was unjust, but know that I absolutely could. To this day, I still bear grudges against one particularly trigger-happy reporter and several members of the Indianapolis Colts organization. When I think back to when this controversy was unfolding I feel much like a hippie remembering Woodstock– times were wild

  1. Long Live (28-3) 

You held your head like a hero on a history book page… I was screaming, long live all the magic we made and bring on all the pretenders, one day we will be remembered  

Image result for super bowl 51 gif

Super Bowl 51, the greatest comeback in history, and one unlikely to be supplanted anytime soon. This game is the purest example of that “Tom Brady take the wheel” feeling I described earlier, where no matter how improbable a victory might seem, I could never doubt that with 12, it was still possible. When things looked their bleakest, only my grandfather, myself and one of my cousins continued to watch this game with any sort of optimism. As the Patriots steadily cut into the Atlanta Falcons’ lead, others in our party slowly trickled back towards the TV, and though I could have rebuked them all for their non-believing ways, I was instead impressively magnanimous, and together we all watched history.  

  1. Blank Space (Seth Wickersham’s article) 

So it’s gonna be forever or it’s gonna go down in flames

Image result for belichick vs brady

Sports media figures have speculated about the end of the Patriots’ dynasty plenty of times over the years, and there have always been the palace intrigue whispers, the rumors of a divide between Brady and Coach Belichick. Something felt materially different when Seth Wickersham published this piece during the 2018 playoffs, which seemed well-sourced and had an uncomfortable veneer of truth to it. Obviously at the time I dismissed it out of hand with a brash, unearned confidence, something that was easy to do because it was in the middle of a run of three consecutive Super Bowl appearances which included two victories. Nevertheless, this article felt like the beginning of something different. I just didn’t realize it was the beginning of the end. 

  1. Stay Beautiful (Now) 

& when you’ve found everything you looked for, I hope your life leads you back to my door, oh but if it don’t, stay beautiful 

It might not seem like it, between the hyperbole, the superlatives, the appalling sentimentality, but I’m actually handling Tom Brady’s departure with relative equanimity. Maybe it’s because of this extremely sobering time we’re all in, that I’ve finally developed a proper sense of perspective. Maybe it’s because part of me has been preparing for this blow for months, since the murmurs of Tom’s discontent crescendoed into a cacophony even I couldn’t ignore. 

Or maybe it’s just the realization that this man gave all he could give to a sport and a team that I love; and that after twenty years of games big and small, of passes long and short, and of tears happy and sad, the only thing I can possibly feel is gratitude. There is no trauma for me to process, no pain to recover from. Tom Brady may no longer be behind the wheel for my beloved New England Patriots but man, what a ride. 

2 thoughts on “Teardrops On My Tom Brady Jersey: A Taylor Swift Playlist For Breaking Up With The GOAT

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s