To honor the retirement of former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady – who spent 20 years in Foxboro and is known as “TB12” after his jersey number – I’ve written 12 mini-columns about sports and other topics.
1 Brady proved me wrong: Two years ago, in February 2020, I wrote that Brady was challenging Father Time by not calling it a career instead of becoming a free agent. Brady, of course, left the New England Patriots and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he won his seventh Super Bowl. He retired on Feb. 1 – although there’s been speculation that his retirement may be short-lived.
anger: No fan base holds a grudge like New England’s. Instead of being happy for Brady, radio talk shows for several days after his retirement announcement were full of people lamenting that he didn’t mention the Patriots or their fans in his original Instagram post. Even after he released a follow-up video, thanking Pats’ fans, many were still upset.
Those complaints were shortsighted. The GOAT was the most amazing Boston-area athlete I’ve ever watched. And I don’t say that lightly, given that in my lifetime I’ve seen these Boston sports legends play: Ted Williams, 1967 Impossible Dream hero Carl Yastrzemski and David Ortiz (Red Sox); Bill Russell and Larry Bird (Celtics); and Bobby Orr (Bruins).
3 Ortiz is a Hall-of-Famer: Speaking of David Ortiz, he deserved to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, which he was. He repeatedly delivered for the Red Sox in a clutch, especially in the playoffs. Although he got just under 78% of the votes cast (75% is needed for election), that total compares favorably to the votes received by the legendary Jackie Robinson in 1962. Robinson was also elected the first time he was on the ballot – but should have been a unanimous choice. Believe it or not, the Major League’s first Black player, with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, got just under 78% of the vote.
4 They’re stealing spring: There is no joy in Mudville as the baseball lockout, which the owners imposed on Dec. 2, has so far denied fans the ritual – and pleasure – of spring training. Even if talks lead to an agreement in time to play a full season, both sides have shown that they don’t care about the fans; the lockout followed the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 2021, when most ballparks weren’t at full capacity until almost June.
Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts fans should be particularly miffed as this dispute follows the cancellation of the 2020 Pawtucket Red Sox season, its last at McCoy Stadium, due to the virus and the team’s move to Worcester last year.
5 Stop trivializing the Holocaust: Those who angrily oppose vaccine and mask mandates and other pandemic rules should stop comparing those actions to the Holocaust, when 6 million Jews and more than 5 million other individuals, for a total of 11 million, were slaughtered by Nazi Germany during World War II. It’s bad enough when people who are ignorant of the Holocaust repeatedly use such a despicable analogy, but when politicians, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., members of Congress and even some local officials, insist on comparing pandemic medical policies to the Nazis’ Final Solution, it’s time to say enough!
6 Holocaust education update: One of the best ways to combat such thinking is to increase Holocaust education, so here’s an update to stories I wrote last summer for Jewish Rhode Island about where Holocaust education is mandatory.
Massachusetts became the 24th state (and the fifth in New England – all but Vermont) to require Holocaust education when Gov. Charlie Baker signed the genocide education bill into law in December. The legislation requires middle and high schools to incorporate the history of genocide, including the Holocaust, into their curriculum. It also creates a Genocide Education Trust Fund to ensure that teachers have the resources and training to develop the new curriculum.
Since my stories ran last August, the following states have also passed mandatory Holocaust education laws, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Georgia, Maine, North Carolina and Tennessee.
7 A new Olympic sport? How about adding car-scraping to the 2026 Winter Games? I burned a lot of calories scraping off my ice-encrusted car and windshield when the temperature plunged hours after we got hit with heavy rain, freezing rain, ice and snow, in that order.
8 Pandemic perspective: The opening paragraph of my first pandemic-related column, two years ago, published online in March 2020 and in the April 2020 newspaper, now sounds like a huge understatement: “Uncertainty abounds over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but one thing is certain: No matter how long the outbreak and its fallout last, it has already hurt the quality of our lives and has made us care even more deeply about the kinds of activities that we otherwise take for granted.”
No one in 2020 could have predicted that, two years later, COVID-19 would have killed over 930,000 Americans, caused havoc and division and changed our lives forever.
9 Pandemic misses: I resumed road racing last summer, but have yet to resume many pre-pandemic pleasures, including going to a baseball game (my last one was in September 2019); concerts (my last was in November 2019); and watching a movie in a theater (February 2020).
10 Pandemic fears: I still keep my distance from most people, and when I went to a neighbor’s holiday gathering, I wasn’t comfortable even though the adults were vaccinated. My psyche is so battered after two years of COVID-19 that I may never again feel comfortable around people indoors.
11 Brady or Belichick? Which masks will be more popular at Purim carnivals – Brady or Patriots coach Bill Belichick? Neither? Masks showing what people’s smiles look like underneath our COVID masks?
12 Laughter is the best medicine: Watch a Mel Brooks film and you’ll immediately feel better. “Young Frankenstein” and “Spaceballs” always do the trick for me.
LARRY KESSLER (email@example.com) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro. He blogs at larrytheklineup.blogspot.com.