In the two years since Nick Foles and the Eagles dispatched the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, Tom Brady has won a sixth Super Bowl, earned a 14th Pro Bowl selection, and secured for himself almost $90 million in salary. However, Foles and his former team can take comfort in knowing that the Birds still live rent-free in Brady’s brain.
Brady delighted Eagles Nation on Sunday when, during a charity golf match, he admitted that the memory of losing to the Eagles in Minneapolis haunts him still. Brady and partner Phil Mickelson fell behind early, and on-course commentator Justin Thomas teased Brady that Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods, his opponents Sunday, wouldn’t choke like the Falcons did in Super Bowl LIII. Brady, playing poorly and clearly perturbed, replied:
“It’s the Eagles that [make me] cringe, bro. Not the Falcons.”
Manning began psyching out Brady on the driving range as Brady hit practice shots, recalling Brady’s Super Bowl failures as Brady warmed up on the practice range.
“It’s hard to get to him. Do you bring Eli [to caddie]?” Manning said, referring to his younger brother, whose Giants twice beat Brady in Super Bowls. Brady ignored that comment ... but then, Manning said, “Do you bring Nick Foles?”
You could see Brady’s hackles rise. Brady turned and replied, “Keep trying.”
Foles, who now plays for the Bears, immediately jumped at the chance to goad the G.O.A.T., tweeting: “I’ll come caddy and help you out against Tom. Let’s go!”
Foles didn’t need to be there in person. The mere memory of Foles and the Eagles rattled Brady. He butchered the first six holes.
Foles was not messing around.
Later, as Mickelson and Brady rallied, Foles tweeted: "Peyton, two words, if Tom and Phil start coming back: “Philly Special.”
Foles referred to the trick play at the end of the first half of Super Bowl LII that helped the Eagles win a game that probably saw Brady play the best of his record nine Super Bowls. Brady won Super Bowl MVPs, and he surely would have won a fifth MVP and a seventh championship had Foles not outplayed him in a 41-33 win on Feb. 4, 2018. Foles won the MVP that freezing night in Minnesota.
The chatter, both digital and live, was all in good fun, of course. The event, called “The Match II: Champions for Charity," raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief.
But any trolling of Tom Brady delights the Philadelphia area in particular. This animosity predates the Eagles’ only Super Bowl win; it stems from Super Bowl XXXIX, played after the 2004 season, during the Spygate era, when Brady and the Patriots were first caught cheating.
A decade later Brady cemented his profile in villainy with his unchivalrous role in Deflategate, which involved him using underinflated footballs in the playoffs following the 2014 season, then, during the league’s investigation, destroying evidence that might have incriminated him. Brady ultimately was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season.
Such indiscretions are not the exception for Brady. They are the rule. Brady signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent in March. He has since met with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, which some teams considered a violation of NFL rules that barred player-coach meetings. Brady also used a Tampa Bay park that was closed, a violation of the area’s stay-at-home order. Both the mayor and the commissioner let him off with a warning.
Sunday, his ignorance of one of golf’s basic rules — how and where to drop a new ball after hitting one in the water — led one intrepid tweeter to observe that Brady is indifferent to rules as a whole. The golf-ball drop fiasco also spawned a tweet that compared that drop to another, more ignominious failure: His botched catch early in the second quarter of Super Bowl LII against the Eagles.
That play has been magnified for the ages in light of Foles’ touchdown catch that capped the “Philly Special” later in the game.
If the acrimony regarding Brady seems intense, understand that Brady’s notoriety as cleft-chinned heel spans the nation, if not the globe. Why? Mistrust, mainly; but envy, too. It’s not that Brady is especially despicable. He’s neither a criminal nor a cretin. Rather, he just oozes entitlement. Look up “smug” in the dictionary and there’s his picture: high cheekbones, perfect hair, glowing complexion.
His life has been an American male’s fairy tale. He married supermodel Giselle, the richest and most beautiful woman he could find. He eats the best possible food any human has ever eaten. He not only has mastered football but he also has beaten the aging process; in his house, he’s become the more becoming model. He won his sixth Super Bowl at the age of 41. Father Time completely ignores Brady’s four-plus decades — unless, of course, Brady’s trying to get away from Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham.
What made Brady’s meltdown Sunday particularly sweet was that he’s actually a very good golfer; a single-digit handicap with power and touch.
It wasn’t until his fourth shot on the par-5 No. 7 that Brady showed his skills. Moments after notorious hacker Charles Barkley taunted Brady — Chuck, part of the TNT broadcast crew, challenged TB12 to a match and even offered to give him strokes — Brady holed out with a wedge from the fairway. As Brady put his club away, he couldn’t help himself:
“Take a suck of that, Chuck.”
Brady should’ve kept his mouth shut. A few minutes later, when he bent over to pick his ball out of the hole, Brady revealed to the world that he’d split his pants.
Brady knows he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so he’s smart enough to make fun of himself. After his wardrobe malfunction he tweeted a shot of himself, underwear showing, with the line, “Pants wanted in on social distancing, I guess."
He exacted virtual revenge on Barkley later in the evening. Sir Charles was an 11-time All Star with the Sixers, Suns, and Rockets, and he won the 1993 NBA MVP award, but, like most of Michael Jordan’s contemporaries, Barkley never won a title. Brady noted that painful shortcoming in his tweet: “I thought this was CHAMPIONS for charity Chuck ...”
So yes, dammit, Tom Brady’s as good at Twitter as he is at football. But he wasn’t very good at golf Sunday. Woods and Manning never trailed and won, 1-up.
Amazingly, somehow, Nick Foles and the Eagles won, too.