Opinion, Sports

Thank you, Tom: a first hand account (PIERCE)

"Tom Brady runs out on the field at Gillette Stadium at halftime on Sunday, Sept. 10" (Associated Press)

Going to Gillette Stadium to see Tom Brady was a pretty normal occurrence for two decades. However, this instance was unique and unprecedented. Tom’s visit “home” for the first time since his retirement was wholly satisfying and nostalgic, but also a stark reality check that he will never drop back and throw a pass in the NFL ever again.

Before kickoff I was on my way to my seat in section 303 row 24, which happens to be as far away from the field as one can get. I was navigating my way through other soaking-wet fans with a cup that had more rainwater than beer in it at that point. I was one row away from the end of my journey when suddenly, the public-address announcer caught my ear. He announced Brady’s name as he stood atop the stadium’s new lighthouse. I missed this pregame festivity, but the part I saw definitely got me excited for what was to come. Brady rang the bell to rally the fans, which seems to be the Patriots’ attempt at the Vikings’ Skol horn or the Chiefs’ drum. Typically I find these types of pregame events cheesy, but it worked on Sunday. We’ll see how I feel about it when Chris Hogan is up there in Week 13 of 2026.

The Patriots played about as lousy a first quarter as they possibly could have. I was seriously worried the Brady ceremony would be hampered by a 28-0 halftime score in favor of the Eagles. Thankfully, the team rallied back with two second-quarter touchdowns and had all the momentum as it headed into the locker room. Meanwhile, the GOAT was on his way out.

After one of the most epic Brady video tributes I’ve seen (which says a lot because I’ve seen about 1,000 since he retired) played on the new giant screen, Brady came running out. He revealed his Patriots jersey underneath his windbreaker and began his trademarked Let’s Go run and fist bump. Brady and the crowd fed off each other from that point on. In the past, Brady’s pregame ritual was fueled by pure competitiveness and anger. On Sunday however, it felt driven by excitement and joy. The best part of the whole event for me was that Brady seemed to feel the emotions just as much as the 65,000 people watching.The big smile and bright eyes couldn’t be missed as he waited to take the podium and address the fanbase that has worshiped him for so long. I haven’t seen Brady embrace being a Patriot that much in years, even when the flying Elvis was still on the side of his helmet.

Every detail of the ceremony worked. From the intro and outro song choices, to Brady sporting a game-worn jersey from the era he played (as opposed to the inferior ones they wear now), and the all-encompassing speech that ended with a declaration that he is a Patriot for life. Sure he’s a minority owner for the Raiders, but we can ignore that in this particular instance. Some would argue that this event was ultimately just a teaser for his Patriot Hall of Fame induction next June, but I felt it was a fulfilling accompaniment to the Pats’ opening game. Unfortunately, it ended up being far more fulfilling than the game itself.

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