John Tomase

Tom Brady ceremony further proves Patriots are living in the past

The Patriots are becoming the team they used to sneer at.

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What happens when the franchise notorious for only looking forward suddenly has nothing to look forward to? You get Tom Brady Night in June opposite the NBA Finals.

Didn't we just roast this guy? Didn't he just ring the lighthouse bell?

We did and he did, but prepare for a total embrace of the past, because it beats whatever's coming for the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

The franchise that could quietly sneer at the various Rings of Honor and reunion nights common to other, lesser organizations during its 20-year reign is suddenly peddling nostalgia, too. Like the deposed dictator who overnight must find a home for her 6,000 shoes, the Patriots are getting a taste of how regular folks live.

It ain't pretty. You sell the past because the future might never arrive.

The Pats are already 0 for 1 on Brady succession plans, with Alabama Mac Jones melting like a forgotten baked Alaska whipped up by delinquent chefs. Now they're on to round two, and we will undoubtedly hear great things about No. 3 overall pick Drake Maye during training camp, even as the odds suggest he's more likely to become Blake Bortles than Josh Allen. If Maye flames out, it'll be another three or four years wasted.

So once again Brady must save the day and give everyone a chance to flaunt their Super Bowl rings, which become slightly less lustrous by the day. The Patriots picked the date of 6/12 because TB12 won six rings here, conveniently eliding the fact that if the organization hadn't let the greatest of all time leave over the intractable pettiness of former head coach Bill Belichick, we might be doing this in July or August. As it is, I guess we're pretending that seventh ring in Tampa Bay never happened.

Be prepared for more of this, because we're a long way from, "On to Cincinnati" and "No days off." The Patriots mastered the art of only acknowledging the future during the Belichick Era, at least when it suited them. It allowed them to survive the various -gates of those years, and it was also a flex: "We control the narrative, not you."

Then Brady bolted, Jones bombed, Belichick got the boot, and now they're starting over as just another franchise hoping someday to be worthy of primetime status.

They'll push the past because it's more compelling than the present, but it's also officially the stuff of John Facenda narrations and sepia tones, and it no longer buys much goodwill. The owners must prove they can win without Brady and Belichick, rookie head coach Jerod Mayo will soon be under the microscope, and the immediate fate of the franchise rests on the shoulders of the third quarterback taken in this year's draft. Welcome to life as a schnook, as Henry Hill might say.

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Just to make the descent into have-not status even starker, the Patriots failed to foresee that the Celtics would be playing for a championship, so their ceremony will oppose Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night in Dallas.

Some might say that's bad luck, but really it's the exact opposite.

The Celtics were considered title favorites when the Patriots announced Brady's early Hall of Fame induction in September, so this overlap was always on the table. While Jayson Tatum and Co. attempt to win in the here and now, the Patriots will be celebrating an era that ended five years ago.

I suppose it's smart marketing. Sell what's sellable. For the Patriots, that used to mean the promise of the next Super Bowl. Now it's glorifying the old ones. Me? I'll be watching basketball.

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