ST. PAUL, Minn. — Back in Boston, there's a radio host in his mid-20s who might fear his career being over before it really started.
Here at the Super Bowl, Tom Brady — who angrily protested the host's comments a little more than 12 hours earlier — took the stage Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center looking relaxed, happy and like a man who had moved on from the controversy. After all, there's a game in six days. He was wearing gloves on both hands, the left one having just had stiches removed, and a winter hat.
"These are to protect my hands," Brady said, as if he was a concert pianist afraid of getting a splinter on the way to the symphony.
But when Brady had joined his usual WEEI radio hit earlier that morning, there was a different Brady talking. This was a man who responded in a raw moment after hearing the comments of a weekend host, Alex Reimer, who called Brady's 5-year-old daughter Vivian an “arrogant little pissant."
Repeat: his 5-year-old daughter. Reimer's comment came after the host had watched Brady's Facebook documentary series. "Tom vs. Time." Vivian had semi-cut off Brady while he was talking to his wife, Gisele. Brady is a paid weekly guest on the show, and Brady told the regular hosts (neither of whom was Reimer) that he'd need to reevaluate whether he'd continue on with the show.
Calling out the daughter of the most reconizeable athlete in recent Boston sports memory is not the best career move for a guy just starting out his career. But for Brady, at some point between the dialtone could be heard after he hung up on WEEI and when he took the stage several states to the west, he had toned down his message.
Brady said he didn't want Reimer fired.
“We all have careers and make mistakes," Brady said. "I’d hate for someone to have to change their life over something like that. That was certainly not what he intended.”
Maybe because he's more world-wise, now as a savvy 40-year old. Because pretty much everyone, even the biggest Patriots haters out there (and there are a few), was on Brady's side when they heard the story.
Brady is famously private, and "Tom vs. Time" is about as much of his life as most of us will ever see, outside of a glimpse here or there of him, his wife and his kids. You can certainly understand why given this incident.
But Brady isn't vengeful, either, despite what happened. You could even say that Brady was doing his best to help the guy who made the comment.
“I just think any parent is really protective of their kids," he said. "I’ve never stayed away from criticism. I understand criticism is part of sports, but I certainly don’t think my children — any children — really deserve to be in that."
This is more about Brady than Reimer, of course. One is getting set to play in Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles. The other is trying to figure out if he needs to swtich careers suddenly.
Above all else, it's about Brady passing up the chance to lay the hammer down at a time when he easily could have and had mass support.
“I can express [my disappointment], and we can move on,” he said.
Brady has made a career of moving on without actually going anywhere. When Spygate hit and the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl after winning their first 18 games, we wondered if life ever would be as good for Brady in his 30s as it had been in his 20s. Imagine that.
When Deflategate was launched by the NFL, Brady was labeled a cheater — by the NFL and by large portions of the football-watching country that were sick of his almost flawless face. So he launched his counterattack: winning another Super Bowl.
And then another. Yeah, the Bradyphiles were dancing in the streets by mid-second quarter almost a year ago in LI. Never before had there been so many Atlanta Falcons supporters. By game's end, Brady had pulled off the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Then this year, there was the ESPN report about discord, fragile egos and internal strife in the kingdom. Yet here they are. Again. Brady hasn't gone anywhere.
"Making one Super Bowl is an amazing achievement," Brady said with a genuine smile and earnest words. "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd be at eight of these."
Look, let's not make too much of this. Brady is a football player. Maybe the best ever. But we're not talking about the Dalai Lama here. Yet for a guy who has spent most of his adult life ripping the hearts out of opponents who fail to kill him off on the field, Brady showed a pretty compassionate side on Monday.
On Twitter, there were the retirement speculations. The assumptions that the WEEI higher-ups had begged for Brady's forgiveness. There might have been a belief that Brady had time to reflect on the flight to Minnesota that he didn't want to ruin his "brand," which he did openly talk about during Media Night.
Maybe, as Brady said, he just realized that he had made his peace with the thing and was ready to move on. The Eagles are a challenge — a big one. Brady talked openly about their coverage, their pass rush, all the challenges Philly's defense poses. No BS there whatsoever.
But otherwise, he was loose. He cracked jokes with the guy (Guillermo was his name) who wanted Brady to sign his cookbook. He chided his friend, new Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, for going to "that school" (Ohio State). Brady ribbed an NFL Network host for mentioning Brady being 40. He had fun with the kid reporters but also took the time to answer their serious questions.
Someone handed Brady a hat. So he put it on.
Maybe it's all just muscle memory at this point for Brady, having gone through this Media Day circus before. But it didn't feel that way. A year ago when another one of those young reporters asked about Brady's mom, he tearfully explained what she meant to him.
On Monday, Brady was asked about the most inspirational woman in his life, and he picked both mom, Galynn, and his wife, Gisele. Brady said, "My mom can do no wrong in my wife's eyes," and it wasn't hard to see that Brady really just is a family guy too.
Galynn made it to Super Bowl LI despite her tough battle with cancer, and she's expected here for LII close to where she grew up, where Brady said he spent summers fishing up here and then cooking up their catches. It was all just real talk. Family talk. Close to the heart. About as far from the Media Day circus as you could get, save for the hundreds of cameras and microphones.
"Good job," a PR assistant said to Brady after he walked out, and Brady just smiled. He knew he'd handled the situation the right way and, when it's all said and done, set a good example for his daughter and for all his kids.
Now he can get on with his work.