ATLANTA — If you like your souvenirs bootlegged and sold off card tables, as they were on the sidewalks of downtown Atlanta, perhaps you saw the most popular item at the Super Bowl: fuzzy hats and shirts in Patriots colors with a goat head on the front.
Or, rather, a G.O.A.T. — for Greatest of All Time.
If Tom Brady hadn’t cemented that football legacy yet, he did Sunday, even as he took a backseat to his defensive teammates in a 13-3 win against the Rams. Brady’s sixth Super Bowl win passed Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley for the most in history.
“You can’t say enough good things about Tom Brady,” Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski said. “The team played great [Sunday], and I think everyone contributed to the game. It’s just special, and to be a part of something special, it will be crazy to see the ‘30-for-30’ one day about this team.”
Before ESPN ever produces that documentary, though, it had to go through the rite of our 24-hour hot-take culture. Its multiple morning shows Monday debated something considered blasphemous in Chicago: Is Brady better than Michael Jordan?
Talk about a six-ring circus.
It’s foolish to compare the incomparable, but it says here that the Patriots quarterback isn’t close to the former Bulls great — either on the field or in the zeitgeist.
Both have six championships. Jordan never lost an NBA Finals series, though, and Brady has gone 6-for-9 in Super Bowls. Jordan won the Finals MVP in all six appearances and the regular-season MVP five times. Brady has won the Super Bowl MVP four times and the regular-season honor three times.
Jordan practically invented the shoe culture. He made bald heads cool. He starred in “SpaceJam.”
Brady was asked about Jordan by Westwood One radio on the eve of the Super Bowl last year, when he tried — and failed — to win his sixth title.
“He’s at a different level to me,” Brady said. “When you’re a kid and you’re watching Michael Jordan, the most incredible athlete I’ve ever seen, I could never see myself that way.”
Maybe that conversation changes if Brady wins his eighth or ninth Super Bowl. He’ll be 42 next season — eight years older than Jordan was when he retired from the Bulls, and two years older than His Airness was when he played his last minute for the Wizards.
Father Time is undefeated, but Brady has already taken him into overtime with a work ethic and nutrition routine unseen in the sport.
“That man works harder than anybody I’ve known,” Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers said. “From the outside looking in, people might say ‘He’s lucky, he’s this.’ He is talented, but you know how much hard work he puts into his craft, how much focus he puts into it each and every day. Just the attitude that he takes and brings to the game, you would definitely understand why he’s so successful.”
Brady’s place as the centerpiece of the NFL’s greatest dynasty takes a back seat to no one in his sport.
But venture into Jordan’s realm at your own risk.