In the fairy tale, the handsome prince always slays the giant, gets the pretty girl and rides off with the gold.
But the Tom Brady fairy tale is now 37 years old, and he hasn’t slain the giant in 10 years.
He’s still a handsome prince, of course, with a supermodel wife, palaces on both coasts and a standing invitation to walk anyone’s red carpet.
Yet, what’s this? New England’s Tom Brady stammering at the microphone last week?
Brady, the Patriots’ Mr. Meticulous, the quarterback who has everything, trying to say that he didn’t notice two weeks ago that the footballs didn’t measure up to his specifications?
Brady was sacked only 21 times in the 2014 season, but rival players and jealous fans were eager to gleefully pile on after the Deflategate mess.
The episode has provided a rare glimpse at Brady’s footwork. Let it be noted that, thanks in large part to Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s spirited defense Monday, Brady can still tiptoe with the greatest of them.
When asked Wednesday about the football inflation controversy, Brady lithely responded, “I don’t have any comment on those things. I talked about that last week, and I’m not going to talk about any reports.
“I’m focused on the game.”
Much the same thing happened at Tuesday’s get-together with the Super Bowl XLIX media. One glib answer by Brady snuffed any further queries about Deflategate.
His critics, nonetheless, suggest that the episode has forever tarnished Brady’s legacy. But haters are always going to hate. One “gotcha” moment isn’t about to besmirch the record of a guy who will play Sunday in his sixth Super Bowl.
Here is one more stat to take into Sunday’s game:
Brady has won 20 playoff games in his 14-year NFL career.
When he was handed the Patriots’ starting quarterback job in 2001 — amidst great controversy, you may remember — fans wondered whether Brady was truly capable of replacing the incumbent, Drew Bledsoe.
Now, Brady is being compared to the game’s all-time Super Bowl greats, Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.
Brady’s first Super Bowl followed the 2001 season, and he said Wednesday, “That happened so fast in my life. I didn’t quite understand what was going on. I was just a young guy.”
As the Patriots’ starter, Brady won his first 10 playoff games. But then there was a bitter 38-34 loss to the Colts in the 2006 AFC championship game and two losses to the Giants in the final minute of Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.
All of a sudden, the storybook seemed to be closing. Brady’s golden reign seemed over.
And then the Patriots won 10 of 11, rolled over the Colts for the AFC title, and here they are again. Another scowling, angry giant awaits.
Brady has done it without an All-Pro pass catching target like Dez Bryant, or the league’s leading rusher like DeMarco Murray or an offensive line stocked with No. 1 draft picks.
Two years ago, Brady agreed to a five-year, $57 million contract extension which, in essence, replaced future money with guaranteed and allowed Belichick and his people to maneuver around the salary cap.
The prince, it seems, is not a greedy prince.
He is, however, a slightly congested one this week, as his occasional sniffles showed Wednesday.
“I’ve had it for four or five days,” Brady said. “My kids got sick, and then my wife’s pretty sick right now, so I brought it, unfortunately, to Phoenix.
“But I’ll be fine. I’ll be at 100 percent. I’m not worried about it.”
If his legacy is tarnished, Tom Brady showed no signs of it as his sixth Super Sunday neared.
“Home remedies,” he said, will take care of the sniffles.
And it’s about time for the fairy tale to take care of the rest.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697