My brother and I, both not Patriots fans, were and are fascinated by the rise of Tom Brady. A little known fact about the Michigan alum is this: he didn’t become great until well after he was publicly recognized as being so. An even lesser known (though speculative) fact about Tom Brady is this: the fact of everyone thinking he was great didn’t just anticipate, but maybe precipitated, his actual greatness.
To wit: Tom Brady was a league average quarterback on a pretty good, but very well coached, Patriots team in 2001 that got inordinately lucky down the stretch and parlayed the luck into a Super Bowl win. The quarterback, due to his looks and new jewelry, became not just ungodly famous — magazine covers and the whole shebang—but was suddenly credited with being one of the top quarterbacks, no players, in all of football.
And so he started working like one.
And so he became one.
We coined the phenomena, which crops up not infrequently in sports, the “Tom Brady Theory of Evolution.” (If it sounds like we were reading too much Bill Simmons then, it’s because we were.)
(Very) long story (very) short, the TBTOE operated like this: confidence begat raised expectations which begat hard work which begat better performance which begat more confidence which begat higher expectations and harder work, and this vicious—for non-New England fans—cycle continued until Tom Brady, game manager, became Tom Brady, remorseless face eater.
The theory gives us a framework for understanding, among other things, Eli Manning, Jud Apatow, the 2008 New York Giants, Rick Santorum, and Rulon Gardner.
It also explains, through some admittedly Rube Goldberg logic, the 2012 Sixers.