You won't like what my Magic 8 Ball told me this week.
You know, that oversized billiard ball you shake, turn over and then read a fortune or get an answer from after you ask it a question? Ok, so I'm showing my age - but trust me, it was fun to play around with back in the 1970's. Mattel toys made millions of 'em.
Yes, I still have one. Sorry, I'm a pack rat by nature. While away this week I asked it a question that you've probably asked yourself, about this upcoming version of the Patriots that starts camp in a couple of weeks. My guess is, thousands of Patriot fans have asked this question as well, and perhaps didn't care to know what the answer might be.
My question: "Will Tom Brady play beyond this season for the New England Patriots?"
Magic 8 Ball: "Better not tell you now."
Hmmm. There are a couple of interpretations here, don't you think? One might be that a middle-aged guy asking a plastic toy a question and looking for a real answer is slightly off his rocker. Another could be - "you won't like the answer I'm ready to give you, so perhaps it's best to wait a while before delivering the news?"
In other words, my Magic 8 Ball is softening me up for an expected blow.
Look, Brady himself has said previously he'd love to play football until he's not wanted anymore. And when he was 38 years old he told us he wanted to play 10 more years, which was largely dismissed then as an overflow of TB12's competitive bug juice from within.
Do you also recall two years ago, when the subject came up for the umpteenth time, and Brady said he wanted to play until he reached the Grand Old Age of 45? "If I get there (to age 45) and I still feel like I do today, I don't see why I wouldn't want to continue," he told ESPN in May.
Did you believe him then, while hearing muffled guffaws coming from around pro football? Did you just dismiss his words as "Brady being Brady," or put any real meaning or reasoning into believing they could actually be true?
I believed them.
Or at least, I believed HE believed them. But having seen the cruel realities of pro football over the past 4+ decades that I've been privileged to cover this sport, I'm pretty sure I know what the truth is. And that truth is - who the heck knows?
I doubt my Magic 8 Ball really knows, but it's still tempting to tweak the fickle finger of fate by asking the unaskable - because the answer is unanswerable.
Did your thoughts or beliefs change when his wife suddenly blurted out on CBS This Morning that her husband suffered a concussion last season, and he had dealt with several knocks to the noggin' in previous seasons?
What about when you saw the spate of sponsorships coming from the TB12 camp this spring - from UGG shoes to Aston-Martin cars, from mattresses to mineral water companies? He's publishing a cookbook, he's letting all of us in on some of his secrets to staying fit, he's sharing lifestyle information...just in case you ever wanna be like Tom Brady.
He's setting himself up for his career after football, isn't he? He's playing the trump card (pardon the pun) on his career while the competitive fires continue to burn, and while his popularity continues to soar. Even haters have to ask, is there anything he can't do? Who knows?
What we all know however, is this - Brady still has the desire to play. He takes very good care of himself. He trains religiously, and vigorously. He studies and prepares like few others have ever prepared. These are all reasons why the initials G.O.A.T. (for Greatest Of All Time) somehow find their way attached to his name on almost every morsel of written or spoken media you see and hear these days.
The history books and keepers of the records will ultimately decide just who the greatest is, or will be. Perhaps it really is an unanswerable question that only the passage of time can declare. But putting it simply, and succinctly, Patriot fans should enjoy what they have while they have it. For how much longer they'll have it, as we embark on 2017, no one really knows for sure.
Even my Magic 8 Ball is still having trouble. When I ask it again about TB12's future, all I get is "reply hazy. Try again."
John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and is beginning his 25th year as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 30 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame, and RI's Words Unlimited Hall of Fame.