By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Photoshops have begun. Some are good. Some are bad. But the flood of images showing what life would be like if Tom Brady were to actually wear another team’s jersey is not going to stop any time soon.
For some fans, the sight is just a part of life. And frankly, Brady lasting this long in New England has been more than anybody could have ever reasonably expected. That is of course the logical point of view.
But in sports, logic often has no role. So to some, the sight of Brady wearing anything other than a Patriots helmet is an abomination, a picture of a frightening reality that should never, ever, ever come into existence.
To be fair to that segment of the population … the images are a bit jarring.
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Do you want to see Tom Brady with the Raiders in Las Vegas? https://t.co/B6ZsdxtIJI
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Some of the ‘shop jobs are better than others, but the longer that Brady’s future remains in question, the more elaborate they’ll get.
And while Brady still may end up signing a new contract with the Patriots and putting all of the creative speculation to rest, it remains a real possibility at the moment that Brady does end up with a new team for his age 43 season.
If that were to happen, Brady would join a short list of Boston sports legends who ended up wearing other team’s jerseys.
Bobby Orr, Chicago Blackhawks
Today in 1976, Bobby Orr inks a 5-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. pic.twitter.com/eikYlQiIOl
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) June 8, 2017
This one just should have never happened. The short story is this: Orr’s agent, Alan Eagleson, decided not to tell Orr about the contract offer from Boston that included an ownership stake in the team. Eagleson wanted Orr to sign with Chicago, and he did.
Orr would play just 26 games over two seasons for the Blackhawks, so the on-ice impact was minimal. Nevertheless, the image of Orr in anything other than a Bruins sweater remains jarring to this day.
Pedro Martinez, New York Mets
With four World Series victories since the turn of the century, it’s hard now for anyone who wasn’t around in 2004 to fully comprehend how significant that team was to Boston Red Sox history. After a near-century of heartache and failure, and one year after a heart-wrenching defeat in the Bronx, the 2004 Red Sox made history.
And then, a little over a month later, the heart and soul of the team was gone.
Pedro Martinez signed a four-year deal with the Mets in December of 2004, concluding his seven-year career with the Red Sox, during which he delivered some of the best pitching that Boston has ever seen.
Martinez capped his career with a final season with the Phillies where he pitched in the World Series but ultimately lost … to the Yankees.
Carlton Fisk, Chicago White Sox
When you have a Hall of Fame player in your organization for 10 years, you generally don’t let him just walk out the door in free agency. Unless you’re the Red Sox in 1980.
The story goes that the Red Sox failed to submit their offer for Fisk before a deadline, thus making Fisk a free agent at 33 years old. He’d end up signing with the Chicago White Sox, where he’d end up staying for 13 years, making four All-Star teams and winning three Silver Sluggers.
Fisk is wearing a Red Sox hat on his plaque in Cooperstown, but he ended up spending more time in Chicago.
Ray Bourque, Colorado Avalanche
It speaks to how much Boston loved Ray Bourque that the city held a celebratory rally for him after he won the Stanley Cup with another team. But spending 21 years with the Bruins tends to build that kind of relationship.
Bourque was traded by the Bruins to Colorado in March of 2000, in an effort to help the veteran finally realize his lifelong dream of winning the Cup. That dream didn’t actually come true right away, as the Avalanche lost in Game 7 of the conference finals that spring. Bourque returned to the Avs for one more year, and his final moments on NHL ice were spent parading around with the Cup above his head.
Bourque’s situation was unique, as the Bruins were a last-place team and thus, most local fans were happy to see him go to chase his Cup dream.
Roger Clemens, Toronto Blue Jays/New York Yankees/Houston Astros
It’s ancient history now, but the ending to Roger Clemens’ Red Sox career sure was ugly. Then-general manager Dan Duquette suggested that The Rocket was set to enter the “twilight” of his career. Little did Duquette (or anybody else, for that matter) know, but Clemens had another 11 seasons, six All-Star spots, four Cy Young Awards, and two World Series left in the tank.
Two of those Cy Youngs came immediately in the two years after he left Boston, and the World Series wins came when he was with the Yankees, all of which sure did make the departure sting that much more.
Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts
Bill Belichick was not wrong to let Adam Vinatieri depart New England via big free-agent dollars in 2006. The kicker was 34 years old, and the team had invested top dollar in him multiple times. The Colts, desperate to replace Mike Vanderjagt, felt Vinatieri was the one addition needed to get over the hump and win a Super Bowl.
That proved to be a worthwhile investment — and then some — for Indy. Vinatieri ended up spending more time (14 years) with the Colts than he did with the Patriots (10 years), winning the Super Bowl in 2006, his first year with the Colts.
Considering how much time he spent there, the sight of Vinatieri in a Colts jersey became normal over the years. But in that first season, when Vinatieri went 2-for-4 on field goals in an Indy win in Foxboro, it was a jarring scene for everyone to witness.
Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets/Washington Wizards/Los Angeles Clippers
Yes, Kevin Garnett moved on, but he had spent nearly 15 years with the Timberwolves before his arrival. Yes, Ray Allen went to the hated Heat, but the Celtics were his third team anyway.
The real shock in the breakup of the lone Celtics team to win a championship in the post-Bird era was in seeing homegrown superstar Paul Pierce move on. It was done for the betterment of the team, as the C’s stole three first-round picks from the desperate Nets in the deal. But it nevertheless was a bummer for Boston basketball fans to see Pierce finish out his career playing elsewhere.
Fortunately, Pierce did get this farewell moment, an opportunity which few athletes are ever afforded.
There have been some others. Wade Boggs went to the Yankees and ended up winning a World Series. Nomar Garciaparra never looked quite right in a Cubs, Dodgers or A’s jersey, just like Manny Ramirez‘s No. 99 jersey in Los Angeles took some getting used to. (Fun fact: Manny played 24 games for the White Sox in 2010, and nobody remembers it. Then he hit .059 for the Rays in 2011, which was somehow more memorable.) Phil Esposito‘s trade from the Bruins to the Rangers in 1975 was not a joyous moment for Boston hockey (but the return was pretty sweet). The Mo Vaughn, Jacoby Ellsbury and Joe Thornton departures all had different levels of shock with them.
But of course, none of those guys comes close to being on Brady’s level in terms of Boston sports hierarchy. Of all the athletes mentioned, only Orr is even close, but his unique injury and agent circumstances make him a different case altogether.
In terms of fellow members of the theoretical Mount Rushmore of Boston sports, Larry Bird was a Celtic for his full playing career, as was Bill Russell. Ted Williams spent his entire 19-season career with the Red Sox. David Ortiz‘s career didn’t start in Boston, but it did end in Boston, after a 14-year run.
Among Patriots to play during the dynasty, Vinatieri obviously left, as did Vince Wilfork, Willie McGinest and Ty Law. Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel were sent packing. But the likes of Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk and Tedy Bruschi opted to retire instead of trying to squeeze out another year or two in another uniform. Rob Gronkowski spent his full career in Foxboro, and Julian Edelman‘s current contract situation has him looking poised to do the same.
Once again, there are those players … and then there’s Brady. In terms of Boston sports status, there’s just nobody quite like him, and there won’t ever be another quite like him. That’s why his current uncertainty is such a big story. And that’s why if he were to leave for another team, that image becoming a reality would no doubt reshape the minds of many sports fans in Boston in ways that can’t be properly imagined.