Brady Night finally seems to provide real closure

FOXBOROUGH – From the time the fans started streaming in and out of the Patriots pro Shop around 1:30 on Wednesday, you knew it was going to be a special night.

The day just felt different. Not quite a game day, but a festive, anticipatory atmosphere. Many of the lots closer to the stadium started filling up quickly. Jahlani Tavai was out taking pictures with fans. Dietrich Wise cruised by on a bike following the team’s final minicamp practice.

Fans filed in between 5:30 and show time at 7:00 as the well-done red carpet show by the Patriots’ social media and PR staff played inside the stadium.  Once Jay’Z hit the stage to play Brady out, the night was one of those “I was there” nights for everyone.

Tom Brady’s induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame lived up to the expectations and then some. Sit down discussions with former teammates, a surprise appearance from Peyton Manning, Bill Burr providing some funny moments, another performance by Kenny Chesney and a special announcement from Robert Kraft.

The organic and memorable standing ovation for Randy Moss that had him in tears and the merciless boo’ing of Patrick Mahomes, Ray Lewis and Eli Manning that drowned out each of their video messages was a small taste of what makes being a sports fan around here so special.

The night had it all, but most importantly, it finally had some real closure.

The Dynasty documentary certainly left something to be desired and the Brady roast a few weeks ago was funny, but the awkward forced interactions between The Big Three on stage only fanned the flames of everlasting tension.

Patriots fans have been separated from Tom Brady for going on five years now, but it’s always felt like there was some odd uneasiness around how it ended here. Coming back last year in the opener against Philly for what basically amounted to a trailer for Wednesday night was nice, but it still felt like with so many issues at the quarterback position since his departure, fans still longed for the days of the GOAT.

Many still will if Drake Maye doesn’t ultimately become the next guy, but with RKK retiring the No. 12 and announcing the erection of a 12-foot statue outside Gillette, the book has finally closed. The red jacket made it that much more official and both Brady and Belichick finally said and genuinely meant (seemingly) what they were saying about the other.

Brady had some kind words for Bill Belichick in his closing speech, but the most emphatic quote he gave will last in the minds of Patriots fans forever, or at least it should.

“It wasn’t me. It wasn’t you. It was us,” he said “Let me make this crystal clear…There is no coach in the world that I’d rather play for.”

That debate will still live on forever whether either guy likes it or not, but for most Patriots fans, Brady’s word is as good as any on the subject.

Belichick received a 2-3 minute standing ovation from the 60,000+ fans, Brady, Kraft, hundreds of Brady’s former teammates and Patriots Hall of Famers on hand. After the abrupt end to the BB era, this was the first time fans had the opportunity to thank him in that manner. That too, finally felt like a proper ending.

Belichick talked about how Brady rarely if ever put the team in a bad position, which was one of the biggest keys to sustained success. He also told a funny anecdote about himself and Brady at Pebble Beach to highlight his competitiveness.

But, it was the simple stuff that everyone wanted to hear and they got it.

“It was a tremendous honor and privilege for me to draft Tom and coach him for 20 years,” Belichick said towards the end of his near 20-minute speech. “Thank you for everything you did for us, for everything you did for me.”

While there still could be some tension between Belichick and Kraft, it’s hard to imagine we aren’t doing this again for Bill within five years or so. Both guys aren’t getting any younger and after the emotion and finality of the Brady festivities, that should and will happen sooner than later.

However, most fans will always think of No. 12 when they talk about the incredible run this organization had. Brady will be immortalized outside Gillette forever at some point this season and when the stories of 28-3, the Seattle Super Bowl and 2001 are passed down among generations, they will always start with Brady.

Before one final giant fireworks display to cap off the night and photos with his now Patriots Hall of Fame brethren, Brady emotionally closed the show with a spine-tingling, heartfelt line that should be on the statue.

“I am Tom Brady and I am a Patriot.”