Feinstein: Brady Shouldn't Trademark "Tom Terrific"

The Patriots icon is trying to trademark "Tom Terrific," and John Feinstein doesn't think he should – for many reasons

John Feinstein
June 05, 2019 - 8:32 am
Tom Brady New England Patriots

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There is a part of me that says I should steer clear of this whole “Tom Terrific” controversy. After all, I couldn’t possibly be more biased on the subject. But I can honestly say I have NO bias against Tom Brady and readily concede that he is terrific, fabulous, extraordinary and flat-out great.

I’m not a Patriots hater—in fact, I like and admire Bill Belichick and the dynasty he and Brady have built.
But I had four boyhood heroes—true heroes—growing up in New York: Joe Namath, Willis Reed, Brad Park and Tom Seaver.
In a remarkable 16-month period, Namath and the Jets, Seaver and the Mets, and Reed and the Knicks produced world championships. The Jets’ victory in Super Bowl III may still be the greatest upset in NFL history. The Miracle Mets had won 73 games in 1968. They were nine-and-a-half games behind the Chicago Cubs on August 9th and finished with 100 victories, winning the National League East by eight games. The Knicks had the best record in the NBA in 1969-70 but when Reed went down in game 5 of the Finals (no NBA marketing uppercase in those days), they had no chance to beat the Lakers and Wilt Chamberlain—but they did.
I remember those championship moments vividly. I can still name the entire Mets roster; the entire Knicks roster and almost all of the Jets starters. Want to try me on Randy Rasmussen, Bill Hosket or Al Weis?
I’ve always been a fan of underdogs, so it wasn’t surprising that I became a Mets fan in 1962 when I discovered baseball. I still remember the first time I attempted to read a paper, soon after my dad first took me to the Polo Grounds (yup, the Polo Grounds) to watch the Mets get swept in a doubleheader by the Cubs. I looked at the standings. The Yankees—of course—were in first place in the American League. The Mets? They were 15-48 and you can imagine where that put them in the National League.
I was hooked. One of the first books I can remember reading was, “Now Wait a Minute, Casey!” which was Maury Allen’s hysterical chronicle of the Mets’ first three seasons under Casey Stengel. They won 40, 51 and 53 games in each of those seasons. Many years later, I got to know Allen and was delighted that he turned out to be every bit as nice and funny as I had imagined him to be while reading the book.
Casey had to retire in 1965, and the Mets remained horrible. And then, in 1967, Seaver arrived. And everything felt different. The team was still pretty awful, but he wasn’t. He was, in fact, terrific. Every time he pitched, the Mets had a chance to win. He was outgoing and bright and had a beautiful young wife.
He was, in every way, Tom Terrific. The media put the nickname on him early and it never went away. Check his Wikipedia page: Tom Terrific is in the first sentence.
He won 16 games and made the All-Star team as a rookie. He won 16 games again in 1968—pitching for teams that won 61 and 73 games.
And then came ’69. The Mets had hired Gil Hodges as their manager a year earlier and they had one of the great young pitching staffs in history: Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Nolan Ryan and Jim McAndrew. Ryan was only a part-time starter because of injuries and military commitments.
Seaver was 25-7, won the Cy Young Award and later, Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year Award—at 25. He went on to win 311 games and received 425 of 430 votes in 1992, his only year on the Hall-of-Fame ballot, the highest percentage of votes ever received at the time. Of the five voters who didn’t vote for him, three sent in blank ballots as a protest to Pete Rose being left off the ballot; one was recovering from heart surgery and didn’t realize Seaver was on the ballot; and the fifth had a policy of never voting for anyone their first time on the ballot.
But I come here today not to declare Seaver more terrific than Brady or to demean Brady’s terrificness in any way. I come here to ask the question: When has Brady ever been known as Tom Terrific?
Pretty close to never would be my answer. He has marketed various products for years as TB12. Tom Terrific? I have no memory—none—of hearing him called that. Maybe in Boston some call him that. I’ve never heard anyone on a national telecast say, “And here comes Tom Terrific and the Patriots offense.”
Brady’s application to trademark “Tom Terrific” is a marketing move. He and his various sponsors want to market “Tom Terrific” products. I have no doubt they’ll sell. But they’d also sell as “Brilliant Brady” or “Tom the Magnificent” or “Beautiful Brady.” OK, maybe the latter needs to be reserved for his wife.
We all know Brady needs to make more money like Dan Snyder needs to make more enemies. He’s beyond rich and he’s the NUMBER TWO breadwinner in his own home. I am NOT arguing that Brady isn’t terrific—he’s beyond terrific. I’m arguing that there’s no need for him to do this.
Seaver is 74 and is dying of dementia. His family announced in March that he’s completely withdrawing from public life and won’t be able to take part in any of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the Miracle Mets this summer.
Dementia is always beyond sad. I’ve seen it up close. Just thinking about Tom Seaver in that state makes my heart ache.
The Mets have filed a protest with the U.S. Patent Office, asking it to turn down Brady’s filing. My guess is they have no legal grounds on which to stop him. Seaver never thought to trademark “Tom Terrific.” It never occurred to him that he’d need to do so.
Here’s what I wish: My guess—and it’s nothing more than that—is that Brady had no idea there was another great athlete out there who was regularly called, “Tom Terrific.” Now, he knows. And he knows that Seaver’s family, countless fans and almost anyone who ever came in contact with Seaver, don’t want to see this happen.
So, I wish that Brady would call a press conference and announce that the application is being withdrawn, that his marketing team will find another way to sell product under the Tom Brady umbrella.
It would be a class move and it would probably force a lot of people who try to cast Brady as the devil to re-think their position on him—if only a little. They’ll still despise him whenever he lines up under center, and that’s fair enough.
But they would have to concede that he did the right thing in understanding that “Tom Terrific” meant a lot more to Seaver and to Mets fans than making a few extra, un-needed bucks.
The issue isn’t whether Brady has the right to do this; the issue is whether Brady will do what’s right.
I hope he does. But if he doesn’t, there is one thing I know for certain: for me and for an entire generation of baseball fans, there will always be only one Tom Terrific.
John Feinstein’s most recent book is, ‘The Prodigy,’ a novel about a 17-year-old with a chance to win the Masters who has to fight off agents, equipment reps and his own father who want to turn him into a human ATM machine even while the tournament is going on. His latest non-fiction book is, “Quarterback—Inside The Most Important Position in Professional Sports.” John’s website is JFeinsteinbooks.com