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One of my favorite Randy bits is the one where he believes that Tiger, when faced with a tap-in bogey to win the Masters in 2019, should have done something irrational and beautiful and borderline insane. Instead of making the putt, he should have scooped it, tucked the ball in his pocket, then walked into mist, a family member under each arm, never to be seen again. The idea behind it is simple: Tiger didn't need to win a 5th green jacket to prove he is the greatest golfer of all time. We should have awarded him that crown already. Instead, all he needed was to prove to himself he could have won more, and that in and of itself would be validation.
The fantasy has a mystical quality to it, but I also love to imagine the panic it would inspire. Think about Jim Nantz trying to convey to the audience what had just unfolded, or the writers tasked with chasing him on his way to the parking lot, shouting their questions in confusion. Grown men would be weeping, begging him to return. It would feel like the end of a novel, the kind of book that infuriates some readers, mesmerizes others, and is debated for years. He would have left us wanting more, not less.
There is a reason why Tin Cup is arguably the best sports movie ever made. There is a hint of sadness there, and it leaves you a little unsettled, trying to unpack what you just watched. But there is also an honesty to it. The most interesting endings aren't warm and comforting.
I was reminded of Randy's fantasy this week when I watched Tom Brady give his retirement announcement from an undisclosed beach location, in a t-shirt, with condos in the background. There was no 1-day contract with the Patriots, no ceremonial press conference or happy send off with confetti in the air. His speech, if you can call it that, lasted less than a minute. In the end, the greatest quarterback of this generation — and likely of all time — said goodbye all alone, at the end of a season with little to no fanfare. He looked like he hadn't slept in weeks. He said goodbye with a selfie.
The great ones rarely care about narratives. Most don't ride into the sunset, they limp in the general direction of the sunset, frequently pausing and turning around several times, uncertain if they're truly ready to let go. We often want the best athletes to go out on top because it provides a beautiful coda to everything we've invested in them emotionally. But it's hard for them to wrap their brains around such silliness.
To us, Tom Brady's career is a story, something with a natural arc, but to Tom Brady, it's his life, his passion, and football is his addiction. He wanted to suck every last bit of marrow from the bone. When people debate his legacy one day, no one will spend more than a few seconds mulling the ups and downs of his final year in Tampa, when he seemed adrift, frequently angry and unhappy, demanding perfection from those around him but unable to meet the same standard with his own play.
There is part of me that wishes Tiger and Phil would have walked away at their apex, in a moment of triumph. But Brady's ending feels like a more honest blueprint of how it may play out someday. We're already seeing some of it with the final chapter of their careers. Part of being great at a sport means you never want to quit, and then one day you find yourself alone on a beach, choking back tears, not giving a damn how any of this looks or if you missed your moment, because you're still furious that it all went by so fast.