No, not to the pitiable creature who is commissioner of the National Football League. Not to the Worldwide Leader in Broadcast Hyperbole that wasted so much air time covering the non-scandal resulting in his one-month exile. Not to the naysayers who derive more ghoulish glee from trolling New England Patriots’ fans than cheering for one of the 31 alternatives.

Those of us who are in the tank for TB12 are the ones who should learn from this. Learn to enjoy the show while it lasts.

Because we didn’t get that message during Brady’s absence. Most of us were too eager to stir the “In Belichick We Trust” drink mix. Too quick to anoint Jimmy Garoppolo as the next Steve Young or Aaron Rodgers in some “The king is dead; long live the king” ascension to an imaginary throne. So spoiled after watching somebody named Jacoby Brissett achieve a modicum of success that we became convinced anybody could step in, take snaps for the Pats and keep the hardware coming.

None of that is true. Brady is the star of the show here. Not Belichick, who’s a great one, no question, but who last time I checked is still forbidden from stepping between the fat white lines to catch, throw, block or tackle. Not any of Brady’s understudies, past or present. Not his overgrown frat-boy tight end.

To paraphrase a line from a time when presidential campaigns were relatively sane: It’s the Hall of Fame quarterback, stupid. He’s the most steady-handed surgeon ever to play the position. He makes marginal teammates good. He makes good teammates great. He makes great teammates immortal.

Seriously, can you imagine being Chris Hogan and Martellus Bennett? What a religious experience it must be for them, catching passes from That Guy instead of Tyrod Taylor and Jay Cutler, respectively. It’s no wonder both of them performed at an All-Universe level in Sunday’s demolition of the hapless Brownies.

But now I’m guilty of sounding like the average Patriots fan who has spent the past 17 years over-valuing Brady’s puzzle pieces. I mean, gosh, how would we ever win without Antowain Smith/Deion Branch/David Patten/Corey Dillon/Randy Moss/BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Wes Welker/Logan Mankins/Dion Lewis?

You get my drift, hopefully. The choice to part ways with each of those players (other than Lewis, who is beset by injuries) was viewed by many as Brady’s Armageddon. The beginning of the end. It’s counterintuitive in a world where non-descript quarterbacks are saluted for the most middling achievements, but in New England, the interchangeable parts get too much credit for the unparalleled success while Brady gets cursed for the infrequent failures.

The day after he becomes Mr. Gisele full-time is the day we’ll realize how foolish that was, and it will be too late. We will have failed to fully enjoy the ridiculous career Brady brought us.

Hey, I can be as guilty as anyone. Let’s switch to baseball for a moment. David Ortiz’s career could end Monday. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Whenever the playoffs end for the Boston Red Sox, No. 34’s redemption of what was previously a lost century is over. Done. Just like that. And I’ll be the first one to admit that I didn’t fully appreciate it.

It was too easy to forget all the times Ortiz made me spill my beer, leaping out of my recliner in exultation, and dwell on the times he looked slow, or heavy, or vulnerable, or stubbornly tried to hit through that freaking shift instead of dropping a bunt down the third-base line.

Such unrealistic expectations and unappreciative response probably are our New England birthright. Or perhaps it is how we self-medicate for our knowledge that these guys are mere mortals and that this can’t last forever. Maybe, just maybe, if they aren’t once-in-a-lifetime gifts from heaven, then we won’t be subjected to another 1-15 season or another 86-year championship drought down the road.

We have developed a disgusting sense of entitlement, but now is a good time to remind ourselves that the unbridled excellence of those two dudes, almost to the exclusion of everyone else to wear the Patriots and Red Sox uniforms since the turn of the century, is the reason we have it.

This is Tom Brady’s show, supporting actors and hangers-on be damned, until he and Mother Nature decide that it’s over. Stop looking for reasons to shorten or otherwise rationalize it, because I promise you that we’ll miss the heck out of it when it’s gone.

Kalle Oakes was a 27-year veteran of the Sun Journal sports department. He is currently a writer and editor in Kentucky. His email is [email protected]

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