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Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON -- So much for generations of New Englanders someday asking, “Where were you in the blizzard of ’22?’’

What’s a couple feet of snow compared to reports Saturday afternoon that Tom Brady is retiring?

No contest. Plows, blowers and shovels will take care of the snow. Brady no longer strapping on a helmet? That’s forever.   

On newspaper websites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages throughout the region, the conversation instantly shifted to Brady, whose hold on New England has not lost its grip in the two years and one Super Bowl ring since he left the Patriots and like so many other snowbirds relocated in Tampa/St. Pete.

Brady might have loved living in Derek Jeter’s mansion on the Bay, but we always knew he would have a permanent home here — on the Mt. Rushmore of greatest athletes ever to play in Boston.

It’s getting to be a crowded piece of real estate.

Ted Williams. Bill Russell. Bobby Orr. Larry Bird. David Ortiz. Tom Brady. 

Put them in any order you’d like. But on most lists, Tom Brady will probably rank no lower than No. 1 or 1A. Only Russell among these iconic figures won more championships (11 in 13 seasons) than Brady (6) in a New England uniform. Williams may be the greatest hitter who ever lived, Orr the greatest defenseman, Russell the greatest champion, but only Brady enjoys broad support as the greatest player in the history of his sport.

On Saturday, the 🐐 supplanted this 🙂 as the most viewed emoji on the planet, with Patrick Mahomes included among those paying their respects.

Brady, with an assist from a guy named Bill Belichick (some will continue to argue it was the other way around), transformed the culture of professional football in New England. From laughing stock to Super Bowl as a birthright, with 28-3 the eternal touchstone for what it means to never give up.

Here's what preeminent Boston sports fan/observer Bill Simmons tweeted Saturday.

Patriots fans may have squirmed to see Brady wearing the red, pewter and black of the Buccaneers, but they didn’t feel betrayed like Red Sox fans did when Roger Clemens bolted to the Blue Jays (and then the Yankees). The consensus was that he had earned the right to compose the last chapter of his career, especially when it appeared that Belichick was comfortable with, and maybe even welcomed, Brady moving on.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman, a favorite target of Brady's in New England, spoke for millions of fans in his tweet Saturday.

The haters, the moralists who lost their minds over Deflategate, the doubters who thought long before age 44 that Brady was on the downside of his career, the jealous types who mocked his life as too perfect, most of them resided outside the boundaries of Mass., Me., N.H., Vt., Conn., and R.I. For the most part, the devotion to TB12 did not flag. Sure, it may have been hard to see Brady hoist a Super Bowl trophy in another uniform, but it was more often than not accompanied by a “Good for him” chorus.

There was always a sense that Brady was just on a temporary loan to the Bucs. History would memorialize Brady, now and forever, as a Patriot.

Jared Carrabis, the Boston-centric sports commentator for BarstoolSports, may have taken it to an extreme Saturday, but he spoke for many Patriots fans when he tweeted:

“The earth was formed over four and a half billion years ago, and you got to exist on this planet the same time as Tom Brady. Count your blessings.”

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