Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything

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9780374214449: Moving the Chains: Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything

When Tom Brady entered the 2005 NFL season as lead quarterback for the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions, he was hailed as the best to ever play the position. And with good reason: he was the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl; the only quarterback in NFL history to win three Super Bowls before turning twenty-eight; the fourth player in history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He started the season with a 57–14 record, the best of any NFL quarterback since 1966.

Award-winning sports journalist Charles P. Pierce's Moving the Chains explains how Brady reached the top of his profession and how he stays there. It is a study in highly honed skills, discipline, and making the most of good fortune, and is shot through with ironies―a sixth-round draft pick turned superstar leading a football dynasty that was once so bedraggled it had to play a home game in Birmingham, Alabama, because no stadium around Boston would have it. It is also about an ordinary man and an ordinary team becoming extraordinary. Pierce interviewed Brady's friends, family, coaches, and teammates. He interviewed Brady (notably for Sports Illustrated's 2005 Sportsman of the Year cover article). And then he got the one thing he needed to truly take Brady's measure: 2005 turned out to be the toughest Patriots season in five years.

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About the Author:

On the staff of The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and a regular panelist on NPR's It's Only a Game, Charles P. Pierce has written for, among others, Sports Illustrated, GQ, and Esquire. He is the author of two books.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction
Two Drives, Three Faces
 
The instructor was not optimistic. He was looking at a roomful of knuckleheads.
 
            There were a couple of hockey players, and there were four or five baseball players—always the worst, a sense of entitlement on them as thick as pine tar on a bat. There were a handful of football players. There even were ten unsuspecting students unaffiliated with any of the university’s teams. This was a composition class at the University of Michigan, but it was stratifying by attitude into an unruly homeroom from some god-awful high school in the land of Beavis and Butt-head.
 
            The instructor wasn’t theorizing from the faculty lounge, sherry and contempt dripping from his lips. Eight years earlier, he’d been one of them, a scholarship offensive lineman, a grunt in the service of Big Blue, a cog in an athletic combine that had entertained more than 40 million people since the first Wolverine team went 1–0–1 in 1879. He’d sat in classes like this. He had bullied the teachers. He had blown off the reading. He’d been a dumb jock. Looking back, he thought himself a thug.
 
            Elwood Reid was a football apostate. He’d come to Michigan from the same high school in Cleveland that produced Elvis Grbac, a quarterback who’d thrown for 6,480 yards at Michigan and had helped win the 1993 Rose Bowl over Washington before moving on to a career in the NFL. Reid arrived in Ann Arbor bursting with words and ideas, and they’d proven to be stronger in him than the pull of a sport that seemed to have little use for either one. A sport that had left him, as he put it in a magazine piece years after leaving Michigan, “with this clear-cut of a body.”
 
            Ultimately, Reid would turn his years at Michigan into a novel, If I Don’t Six. It was a roman for which no clef was necessary. Its hero, named Elwood Riley, is a freshman offensive lineman at Michigan with a jones for Marcus Aurelius. His gradual disillusionment with football is the story’s arc.
 
            “They don’t show the bumps and bruises on television,” the fictional Elwood Reid says at one point, “or the long practices, cortisone needles as big as tenpenny nails, the yelling, and hours of boring film meetings where you watch the same play a dozen times until the coach feels that when you go home and close your eyeballs, the play’s going to be running on the back of your eyelids.”
 
            So Reid knew what he was looking at in his classroom full of knuckleheads. He was looking at a kind of fun-house mirror in time, where the years bent and showed him the reflection of the person football had tried to make of him. The person he’d never be.
 
            Reid noticed the skinny quarterback right off. He didn’t dress the way the other jocks did—a style that could generously be described as workout casual. The quarterback was polite. He was sincere. “He’d read the material that I didn’t give a shit about in that class when I took it,” Reid recalls.
 
            What was even more interesting to Reid was the reaction of the other jocks in the class. He’d seen the really heartbreaking ones—the ones who established their own territory through a kind of armored ignorance. Not only did they not do the reading, but they were also conspicuously proud that they hadn’t, and openly contemptuous of anyone who had. “They make fun of you,” Reid muses. “That’s the way they cull you from the herd.”
 
            The quarterback was different. He spoke differently. He even brought his books to class. Reid figured that the knuckleheads would eat him alive. He thought, at best, the quarterback would get himself a reputation around Ann Arbor as a kind of dropback Eddie Haskell. At worst, he’d get his ass kicked, literally and figuratively, for the rest of his college career.
 
            For good and ill, football is a great leveler. In no other sport is the balance between personal achievement and collective accomplishment so exquisitely delicate. In no other sport is the conflict between the two so consistently volatile. In football, it’s a dangerous business to stand out in the wrong way.
 
            To Reid’s surprise, even the most disruptive guys in the class did more than leave the quarterback alone. They seemed to look up to him. In fact, they seemed to look up to him more because he wasn’t following their lead. “The pull of the pack is to act a certain way,” Reid says. “And he wouldn’t do it. He took things seriously, and he was very gracious, so I figured, here was a guy who was going to go through the [football] program and then go find a life for himself.
 
            “I said to myself, look at this guy. I’m going to help this guy. I want to open his eyes. So I made sure he read all the essays. I was a little harder on him than I was on the other guys. I told him to pay attention in class, because that’s the thing that I didn’t do.”
 
            Five years later, in 2002, the skinny quarterback led the New England Patriots to a shocking win in the Super Bowl over the St. Louis Rams. Two years later, he did it again, this time over the Carolina Panthers. The next year, he did it a third time, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles. He became football’s biggest star. He became celebrated for his ability to stand out at the top of his profession while maintaining an almost fundamentalist belief in being a teammate.
 
            It was very strange to see played out on a vast stage the same thing that had happened in that classroom full of knuckleheads, thought Elwood Reid. It was very strange to see what had become of the kid who always brought his books to class and who never was given any shit about it, even from the people who—whether they knew it or not—already were dedicating their lives to giving shit to people about things like that. Because there was something about him that connected. Because there was something about this Brady character that was real.
 
 
“I remember that class,” Tom Brady said, leaning against a fence one summer’s day, as the New England Patriots rounded into the last weeks of training camp before the 2005 season. They had won two consecutive Super Bowls and were preparing to try to win their third, securing the team’s place even more firmly as one of the greatest in the history of the National Football League, and Brady even more firmly in the ranks of the league’s greatest quarterbacks.
 
            Over the previous four years, Brady had been the Patriots’ starting quarterback, and, in two of the three Super Bowls that they’d won, he’d been the Most Valuable Player. In that time, the team won twenty-one consecutive regular-season games, an NFL record. This success was all the more remarkable given the history of the Patriots, once so lost and bedraggled a franchise that they were forced to play a home game in Birmingham, Alabama, because no stadium around Boston would have them.
 
            Now, though, the team drew thousands of people just to watch it train at its facility outside Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, an otherwise sleepy little town south of Boston, just about on the upper bicep where Massachusetts flexes itself into Cape Cod. They showed up, in the height of the high summer, more than 52,000 of them a week, to watch football practice, which, on its most exciting day, can fairly be said to make the main reading room of the Boston Public Library look like Mardi Gras.
 
            They showed up, and the young girls screamed for Tom Brady the same way the fifty-year-old men did, except the pitch was higher. On the field, the team moved through its drills, grouped by position and then all together. Whenever a player, or a group of players, made a mistake, he had to run a lap around the entire field. When the various miscreants passed a grassy knoll that rises behind one end zone of the practice field, the fans sprawled thickly on the grass gave the passing screwups a standing ovation. Nothing the New England Patriots did was wrong, not even the things that were, well, wrong.
 
            Unlike basketball, where people scrimmage, or baseball’s spring training, which involves playing actual games, nobody who comes to football training camp actually sees anyone play a game of football. “When I was playing lacrosse in high school,” the New England head coach, Bill Belichick, once recalled, “I couldn’t wait for practice because I got to play lacrosse. Football practice isn’t like that.” Instead, football players train in crushing heat in order to perform in shattering cold. They toughen themselves for December in August. People come to training camp in order to see the players, not the game itself. It is a festival of individual attention before the season begins and the personalities of the players are subsumed by the team and by the grind.
 
            Brady came over to the fence to discuss a book—this one, to be precise. Earlier this spring, he’d signed a six-year contract extension for $60 million. He’d hosted Saturday Night Live, where not only did he sing, but he also performed a skit in his underwear. He was dating a movie star.  He was at the top of his profession. He was twenty-six years old.
 
            He is a substantial presence, six-four and 225 pounds, almost 30 pounds heavier than when he sat in Elwood Reid’s class at Michigan. (On page 156 of the 2005 Michigan football media guide, there is a picture of Brady, cocking his arm to throw. He appears to be wearing his big brother’s jersey.) He favors the actor Matt Damon a little, but he has a Kirk Douglas cleft in his chin. More to the point, there is about him a genuine sense of the present. He has that gift for which the average politician would gladly sell the portion of his soul not yet sublet by lobbyists—the ability to make the person he is talking to feel as though the rest of the world has fallen away and there is only this one conversation happening anywhere. Asked a relatively simple question—“Do you mind having a book written about you?”—he didn’t fall into easy cliché. His answer was subtle, and just worldly enough to be interesting.
 
            “To tell you the truth,” Brady said, “there’s only one real problem I have with this. I don’t know if I’m old enough for a book like this.”
 
            Old enough.
 
            It’s not a simple answer. It’s an answer with some thought—and, therefore, some substance—behind it. It’s an answer indicating that, despite his accomplishments, and despite all the extraneous celebrity sugar that’s come his way, he will not be completed on anyone’s terms but his own. In his answer, there’s a glimpse of something restless in Tom Brady, something visceral that resists summing up, something that insists on the primacy and integrity of an individual journey. But it is an interesting answer. In fact, it is just interesting enough to make sure that the project moves forward. It’s an answer that moves the chains.
 
 
Each chain is precisely ten yards long. There’s an upright at either end. There is also a third upright with numbers on it. The uprights are called the “sticks.” The officials who keep the uprights that are connected by a chain are called the “rod men.” The official who keeps the other upright, which is called the “down indicator box,” is called the “box man.” Across the field are auxiliary chains and sticks, and auxiliary rod men and box men, so that players can look at either sideline and determine the state of play.
 
            When a football team makes a first down, one rod man plants his stick in the ground parallel to where the ball has been placed. The other rod man extends the chain to indicate to the team (and the spectators) how far they have to go to another first down. Once a team passes that second stick, it gains a first down and the chains move. The object of any offense is to keep the chains moving.
 
            It’s within the movement of the chains that football finds its soul. It’s within the movement of the chains that football players see most clearly how they are bound together. When an offense is moving the chains, it keeps its defense off the field, rested and ready, while exhausting the defense of the other team. When an offense is moving the chains, its success is easily defined in calibrated achievements, ten yards at a time, one after another after another again. Each player gains confidence—in himself and in what comes to be seen as an inexorable whole. This confidence can become an almost physical force—something Newtonian, like gravity or inertia: “An offense in motion tends to stay in motion, except when acted upon by an equal or opposite force, which is usually a linebacker with blood in his eye.” In fact, an offense relentlessly moving the chains is often said to be going “downhill.” The constant progress shortens the game. “Time of possession” is one of the most beloved statistics among football coaches. Moving the chains bends time itself to a team’s will.
 
            Tom Brady moves the chains. It’s the first thing the New England Patriots and their coaches saw in him, back in 2000, when he was a sixth-round draft pick—and a fourth-string quarterback—directing the scout team with players who hadn’t been around long enough yet to be considered castoffs. The scout team’s job is to simulate the offense of the upcoming opponent. However, after practice, Brady and the scout team would practice the New England offense. He led, and they went with him. “They’d go through the plays, and, if somebody got something wrong, he’d correct them,” recalls Belichick. “You could see them getting better. They moved on you.”
 
            Almost two years later, in the Superdome in New Orleans, playing with the starters in the biggest game of his life, at the end of a very strange football season, Tom Brady moved all the chains, literally and figuratively, transforming the Patriots and changing his life. By t...

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Descrizione libro Farrar Straus Giroux, United States, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. When Tom Brady entered the 2005 NFL season as lead quarterback for the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions, he was hailed as the best to ever play the position. And with good reason: he was the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl; the only quarterback in NFL history to win three Super Bowls before turning twenty-eight; the fourth player in history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He started the season with a 57-14 record, the best of any NFL quarterback since 1966. Award-winning sports journalist Charles P. Pierce s Moving the Chains explains how Brady reached the top of his profession and how he stays there. It is a study in highly honed skills, discipline, and making the most of good fortune, and is shot through with ironies--a sixth-round draft pick turned superstar leading a football dynasty that was once so bedraggled it had to play a home game in Birmingham, Alabama, because no stadium around Boston would have it. It is also about an ordinary man and an ordinary team becoming extraordinary. Pierce interviewed Brady s friends, family, coaches, and teammates. He interviewed Brady (notably for Sports Illustrated s 2005 Sportsman of the Year cover article). And then he got the one thing he needed to truly take Brady s measure: 2005 turned out to be the toughest Patriots season in five years. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780374214449

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Descrizione libro Farrar Straus Giroux, United States, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. When Tom Brady entered the 2005 NFL season as lead quarterback for the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions, he was hailed as the best to ever play the position. And with good reason: he was the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl; the only quarterback in NFL history to win three Super Bowls before turning twenty-eight; the fourth player in history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He started the season with a 57-14 record, the best of any NFL quarterback since 1966. Award-winning sports journalist Charles P. Pierce s Moving the Chains explains how Brady reached the top of his profession and how he stays there. It is a study in highly honed skills, discipline, and making the most of good fortune, and is shot through with ironies--a sixth-round draft pick turned superstar leading a football dynasty that was once so bedraggled it had to play a home game in Birmingham, Alabama, because no stadium around Boston would have it. It is also about an ordinary man and an ordinary team becoming extraordinary. Pierce interviewed Brady s friends, family, coaches, and teammates. He interviewed Brady (notably for Sports Illustrated s 2005 Sportsman of the Year cover article). And then he got the one thing he needed to truly take Brady s measure: 2005 turned out to be the toughest Patriots season in five years. Codice libro della libreria AAS9780374214449

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Descrizione libro Farrar Straus Giroux, United States, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. When Tom Brady entered the 2005 NFL season as lead quarterback for the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions, he was hailed as the best to ever play the position. And with good reason: he was the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl; the only quarterback in NFL history to win three Super Bowls before turning twenty-eight; the fourth player in history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He started the season with a 57-14 record, the best of any NFL quarterback since 1966. Award-winning sports journalist Charles P. Pierce s Moving the Chains explains how Brady reached the top of his profession and how he stays there. It is a study in highly honed skills, discipline, and making the most of good fortune, and is shot through with ironies--a sixth-round draft pick turned superstar leading a football dynasty that was once so bedraggled it had to play a home game in Birmingham, Alabama, because no stadium around Boston would have it. It is also about an ordinary man and an ordinary team becoming extraordinary. Pierce interviewed Brady s friends, family, coaches, and teammates. He interviewed Brady (notably for Sports Illustrated s 2005 Sportsman of the Year cover article). And then he got the one thing he needed to truly take Brady s measure: 2005 turned out to be the toughest Patriots season in five years. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780374214449

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Descrizione libro Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Paperback. 288 pages. Dimensions: 8.1in. x 5.3in. x 0.7in.When Tom Brady entered the 2005 NFL season as lead quarterback for the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champions, he was hailed as the best to ever play the position. And with good reason: he was the youngest quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl; the only quarterback in NFL history to win three Super Bowls before turning twenty-eight; the fourth player in history to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. He started the season with a 57-14 record, the best of any NFL quarterback since 1966. Award-winning sports journalist Charles P. Pierces Moving the Chains explains how Brady reached the top of his profession and how he stays there. It is a study in highly honed skills, discipline, and making the most of good fortune, and is shot through with ironies--a sixth-round draft pick turned superstar leading a football dynasty that was once so bedraggled it had to play a home game in Birmingham, Alabama, because no stadium around Boston would have it. It is also about an ordinary man and an ordinary team becoming extraordinary. Pierce interviewed Bradys friends, family, coaches, and teammates. He interviewed Brady (notably for Sports Illustrateds 2005 Sportsman of the Year cover article). And then he got the one thing he needed to truly take Bradys measure: 2005 turned out to be the toughest Patriots season in five years. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Codice libro della libreria 9780374214449

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