In a move that is as historically obtuse as it is exceedingly immodest, Tom Brady wants to trademark the nickname Tom Terrific. There’s a big problem with this idea. The name is already taken.
Tom Terrific is Tom Seaver, the Hall of Fame pitcher for the Amazin’ Mets. This has been true for 50 years, and it will be true for another 50. Tom Brady can call himself any number of other names – Jets fans will help if necessary – but he needs to cancel his recent filing at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for one simple reason: Tom Terrific belongs to Seaver.
As news spread of the May 24 filing by Brady’s company, TEB Capital, for two new, “Tom Terrific” trademarks – one for collectible trading cards, sports trading cards, posters and printed photographs and the other for T-shirts and shirts – New York Mets fans understandably grew angry. That this was happening on the 50th anniversary of their magical 1969 season made it even worse.
Seaver throws out the "last pitch" at Shea Stadium in 2008. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)
But this is about much more than furious baseball fans. Just three months ago, Seaver’s family announced that he was suffering from dementia and retiring from public life at the age of 74.
Can you imagine Brady, being aware of that sad news about this giant of a sports hero, deciding nonetheless to go ahead and take that man’s well-known nickname as his own so he could become wealthier off it? There is absolutely nothing terrific about that.
Whether you love the Mets or despise them, this is about the sanctity of sports history, and injecting a measure of decorum into the way we remember and honor it.
I did not cheer for Seaver and the Mets growing up. Au contraire. I was a Cubs fan. My parents were from Chicago and as a child, I was so into the Cubs and the big division lead they had built in the summer of 1969, that, while away at camp, my father sent me the entire newspaper sports section in the mail every day for a week so I could keep up.
When the Cubs folded and the Mets – Seaver’s Mets – won the division, the pennant and the World Series, I wasn’t cheering. I was devastated. But that didn’t mean that Seaver wasn’t what he was: a terrific pitcher and American sports superstar.
Five years later, on a family vacation, we were having lunch at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco when I spotted Tom Seaver in a jacket and tie at a nearby table reading a book while eating by himself.
My heart jumped. Tom Seaver!
I asked our mom if my siblings and I could say hello. She gave us permission and off we went.
“Excuse me, Mr. Seaver …”
He couldn’t have been kinder to four kids from Ohio. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the only thing I had with me that he could autograph: the San Francisco Giants’ 1974 schedule I was carrying. We were going to the Mets-Giants game the next day, July 17, 1974. I asked him to sign it and he did, writing his name with a strong, bold stroke that made such an impression that it pushed through the schedule and created a slight tear. I know this because I just checked it while writing this column. It has been a prized possession ever since.
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As we returned to our table, bubbling with excitement, my mother gave Seaver a little wave and smile while mouthing the words, “Thank you.” Seaver smiled at my mom and gave her a little wave, mouthing back, “My pleasure.”
Despite all my years in sports journalism, our paths never crossed again. I always thought I would bump into Seaver at a postseason baseball game or a dinner somewhere and thank him for what he did for us that day, but that never happened, and it can’t now.
Still, my siblings and I have a wonderful memory of a man of class and grace taking a few minutes away from his lunch and his book to be nice to us. There’s an adjective to describe how great that was. You know what it is.
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