Tom Brady vs. Patriots Biggest Game in Boston Sports History? – New England Patriots Blog

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – With regard to the rich history of Boston sports, where does the return of Tom Brady take place?

The legendary quarterback won six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, then signed as a free agent in March 2020 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and won a seventh.

Many, but not all, agree that Sunday’s game between the Brady-coached Buccaneers and Bill Belichick-coached Patriots (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC) tops the list.

“This one’s the only one,” said Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe columnist, whose first year at the newspaper was 1981. “The six Super Bowls, then the circumstances of leaving, there’s no comparison for that. in America. It just doesn’t exist.

“It would be like [Boston Celtics legend] Larry Bird came back with Sacramento, or something. It is unthinkable. It is what it is.”

Shaughnessy, 68, who grew up in Groton, Massachusetts, makes an important distinction.

“This is the biggest regular season game in Boston sporting history without the accumulation of pennant races and the aftermath of the playoffs. So we have to take that out of it, because it’s not that,” he said, before pointing out why the Boston Red Sox could be No. 1 looking through that lens.

“The last days of 1967 – Saturday and Sunday – you have to be old enough to remember that. The ‘Cardiac Kids’ was epic, and there was a summer build-up to it. They have a game. behind the Twins with two to play and they have to win them both. There was no other way to do it. For me that stands out. “

The same is true on October 2, 1978, when the Red Sox and their rivals New York Yankees – both with 99 wins – played in a playoff game for the American League East Division crown at Fenway Park. This is the day Bucky Dent got a “new” middle name in Boston.

“Obviously the consequences were just huge; it was winning or coming home. There was no wild card. It was just that. So I think you have to take them out of there,” he said. Shaughnessy said.

In doing so, Michael Holley, the former Globe columnist who now co-hosts a Boston-based nighttime sports show on NBC Sports Boston, agrees that nothing beats Brady’s return due to the rare circumstances surrounding it.

“It’s an active situation. There are a lot of new injuries there. A lot of nerves. I don’t feel embarrassed to say this is the biggest regular season game in the history of the sport. in Boston, ”he says.

Holley, 51, remembers the ‘Tuna Bowl’ buzz in 1997 – when Bill Parcells returned as head coach of the hated New York Jets after four years at the helm of the Patriots – but says it never happened. not compare because it was not. involve a player or a league.

He’s also considering two baseball games involving former Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens – in July 1997, when he made his first return to Fenway Park as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, then in May 2000 as a New York Yankee vs. Boston’s Pedro Martinez. .

“But it was more animosity towards Clemens,” he said, a reference to the pitcher having said he wanted to play closer to home in Texas before signing with Toronto.

Steve Buckley, longtime Boston Herald columnist who now writes for The Athletic, points to the early November 2007 game between the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts (Brady vs. Peyton Manning) as a strong contender, while citing Clemens when ‘he examines some of the greatest memorable games of the regular season.

The 97 game when Clemens returned as Blue Jay was remembered by many for his 16 strikeouts, but also Clemens’ dark gaze to the area where Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette stood. seated when leaving the pitcher’s mound.

Clemens’ return, which was different from Brady’s in that it wasn’t known he would pitch at Fenway days before the game, didn’t have the same flavor as in 1981 when wide receiver Carlton Fisk was returned as a member. of the Chicago White Sox.

“On opening day, 1981, it was pretty big,” says Buckley, 65. “The Sox screwed up sending his contract late. He went to arbitration, he was declared a free agent and he quickly signed a deal with the White Sox. Hit a home run against Bob Stanley [and the White Sox won 5-3]. “

At the time, Buckley was working in Biddeford, Maine alongside former ESPN.com reporter Jerry Crasnick. They went to the game together and “I remember Jerry saying, ‘You can see why the fans were hooting. “”

Former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri heard boos on his return to the Colts in 2006, as did former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon as New York Yankee the same year after playing a major role in helping Boston to win its first World Series in 86 years in 2004.

“Vinatieri and Damon’s boos have always hit me badly,” Shaughnessy says. “Not that it was unanimous, but just having a voice like that was stupid. These guys did a great service and left because someone else wanted more. . “

Few would expect there to be more than cheers for Brady on Sunday night, although Holley said with a hint of humor: “There are still Patriots fans who say, ‘He doesn’t. had not to leave. “And not only did you not have to leave, you didn’t have to leave on St. Patrick’s Day!”

If there had been a hockey equivalent, it could have been Boston Bruins great and Hall of Fame member Bobby Orr, and how he ended his career with the Chicago Blackhawks. But Orr’s only game against the Bruins was in Chicago.

Another hockey twist came with Hall of Fame member Raymond Bourque, the beloved defenseman who played for the Bruins from 1979 to 2000. Seeking a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the first time, he asked. a trade in the later years of his career, the Bruins tuned it in with class and he won the Cup with the Colorado Avalanche. Bourque’s achievement was celebrated with a rally in Boston attended by nearly 20,000 people.

As for the Celtics, they were known to keep their players too long under the guidance of championship architect Red Auerbach.

“Once you did a favor for him, he was very loyal. That was one of the reasons he wasn’t like Belichick, he had a soft spot,” Shaughnessy says.

So while the Celtics have had many memorable games in the regular season, nothing comes close to the dynamic surrounding Brady’s return. And that’s where Upton Bell, the former Patriots general manager whose father, Bert, served as NFL commissioner, offers a contrasting perspective on Sunday’s game as the greatest regular-season game in history. sports in Boston.

“As someone who has been watching games since 1946, I would say this: I think what happened here is basically the controversy and all the homecoming of someone who should never have been let go. C ‘There is water under the dam now, ”he said. .

“Realizing that this is the greatest player since Babe Ruth was unleashed, I urge the media for this, especially the talk shows. If you ask me, I think this has all escalated as this is just a football game. “

This is where Bell, 84, thinks many miss the mark.

“The real passion of this game is the way it is played, and for me that is where the focus should be – two of the greatest minds that have ever been involved in this game will go head to head, the one with superior talent [the Buccaneers], and the other is like the [Muhammad] Ali ‘rope-a-dope’. Belichick is on the ropes and he has to find a way for his not-so-good team to beat the greatest quarterback of all time. “

Measuring what’s to come on Sunday, Bell will admit that it could ultimately be considered a big game. At the moment, however, he doesn’t see it that way.

“The biggest thing about the sport is its unpredictability,” he says. “But if you want to be realistic, and I’ve seen many of the greatest regular season games of all time in over 70 years, you haven’t.”

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