For the rest of the country, the debate is back on. "Who's better: Brady or Manning?"
In New England, of course, Brady clinched things last year with his fourth Super Bowl ring. And No. 12 still wins the ring count vs. No. 18 with a 4-2 advantage.
But we caught a glimpse into the minds of the majority of NFL fans Sunday night when Brady was roundly booed in his hometown.
"Brady has four Super Bowl rings, sure, but none of them were won without a cheating scandal!"
That's what I kept reading over and over on Twitter late Sunday night.
Boston fans can come back at the haters with all the facts in the world. Ya know, stuff like: The Boston Herald recanted the story that said the Patriots filmed the Rams walkthrough in 2002 ... There are already a million TV cameras and 80,000 people in NFL stadiums on every single Sunday and if a team wants to record another team's play signals you can still easily do that. (So, Spygate was mostly bunk.) Chris Mortensen's initial report that 11 of 12 footballs were 2 pounds under the 12.5 PSI legal limit was flat-out wrong. (So, Deflategate was mostly bunk.)
And then there are the facts that after the Spygate story broke, the Patriots rattled off the greatest regular season in the history of pro football. And that after the Deflategate story broke, the Patriots beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49. In both cases, all eyes were on the Patriots and they would have been absolutely moronic to "cheat" in any way - given how hot the temperature was during those time periods.
Those are the facts. But sports fans have little use for them.
New England is guilty of it, too, of course. We can paint broad brushes with the best of 'em.
"The 1970s Steelers were all on steroids … Pats dynasty is better." "Peyton Manning was on steroids … Brady's better." "The 2003 Yankees were all on steroids … Sox were better."
Trying to get a Boston sports fan to see the "other side of things" is as difficult as trying to convince Ted Cruz that, hey, that Bernie Sanders guy might have a point about free college.
So, "Brady vs. Manning" is a thing again for the rest of the country, even if Boston doesn't want to admit it.
The ugliest fact for Patriots fans now is that Manning is 3-2 against Brady in the playoffs. Pats fans like to think Brady is the most clutch NFL player of all-time and Manning is the epitome of a choke artist, but that stat badly burns that argument. Yup, it's true that Brady didn't have enough help in all of the three losses and that in all three losses the Pats were dealing with significant injury issues. But those facts will surely get lost in history.
The Brady - Manning rivalry is often compared to the Magic Johnson - Larry Bird rivalry in the NBA. And today, it's actually more apt than ever.
Unfortunately for Boston sports fans who enjoy symmetry, we have Magic this time around.
Brady is the fashionable guy who wears six-figure suits. Peyton is the guy who - allegedly - drinks Budweiser. Magic won five championships. Bird won three. Brady has won four championships. Peyton has won two. Magic's career went longer than Bird's (Magic came back to play for the Lakers five years after he retired due to HIV) as Bird's body broke down. Brady is set to play until 2025, while Manning is likely done.
"Who was better: Magic or Bird?" is still one of the more debated sports arguments. And you can be sure, 25 years from now - "Who was better: Brady or Manning?" will be a topic, whether Boston wants to admit it right now or not.