There’s an old English saying — first uttered by The Earl of Sandwich one day as he took a jar of mayonnaise out of the precursor to the refrigerator — that goes, “revenge is a dish best served cold.”
Well, my friends, there’s currently a pair of cold, vengeful dishes two athletes are serving up in the world of sports. The first is a delicious tartine (an open-faced sandwich, if you’re not up on your bougie food terms) called the Scorned Teammate, which Russell Westbrook is putting together one triple-double at a time. The second is a tasteless dessert called the Mostly Air, a whipped merengue Tom Brady is making with agave and dates instead of sugar and butter because the man is a freak and doesn’t eat anything that tastes good.
What I’m trying to say here through various food metaphors that you may or may not follow is that Russell Westbrook’s revenge tour is way more fun to watch than Tom Brady’s.
Two of the biggest stories this summer were Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Golden State Warriors and Brady’s decision to stop fighting the never-ending Deflategate saga. There were two huge casualties of these choices: Russell Westbrook’s ego and the first four games of Tom Brady’s season.
Westbrook and Brady are proud, competitive dudes, so it was only natural that in-season revenge would follow the slights. We’d seen it before from Brady. Remember the Patriots in 2007? The team that barreled through their schedule and then the playoffs with nary a loss, only to slam headfirst into the Giants’ steel door of disappointment at the Super Bowl? It was a beautiful or terrifying thing to watch (depending how you feel about the Patriots) while it lasted — a giant middle finger extended to Goodell and the NFL after Spygate.
Many people — myself included — expected 2016 to be a repeat of Brady’s first Fuck You Tour. And, largely, it has been. He’s on track to be the MVP of the league despite missing the first four games. The Pats aren’t undefeated, but 9-2 isn’t too shabby.
And yet, watching Brady pummel the league has lacked joy. His revenge merengue tastes stale, like something made from an outdated family recipe and left on the counter for too long after Thanksgiving. To many football fans outside of New England, Brady and Belichick are already reviled, and Deflategate was a long and boring saga that didn’t garner the Patriots that much sympathy because their narrative of being cheaters was already firmly in place. Brady is also 39 now, so he’s started getting the old man treatment during games. Remember when the Jets didn’t deck him as he acted as a run-blocker for LaGarrette Blount last Sunday? That was arguably a show of respect for an admired quarterback, but you know how you get to be that admired quarterback? You hang around the league forever.
Westbrook, on the other hand, is in the prime of his career with America on his side. He’s the jilted lover of basketball whose best friend left him all alone in Oklahoma City — OKAHOMA CITY!!! — by text message. I’d be super pissed, too, if my BFF decided he was going to ditch me for a bunch of splashy guys we used to make fun of together. Public opinion will never be with the one doing the leaving, so the nation has rallied around Westbrook, especially since the Big Break Up had all the juicy drama that Deflategate lacked.
Better yet, Westbrook is delivering us the perfect sequel and getting his revenge by living his best life. He’s on pace to join Oscar Robertson as only player in NBA history to average a triple double for a full season. He wasn’t able to put up numbers in the Thunder’s first game against the Warriors while Durant rained down 39 points on his former teammate/best friend/partner in crime/oh god now I’m crying. But that just made it even easier to be on Westbrook’s side, especially after he announced that “the Warriors were doing a lot of trash talking. Apparently, I guess they talk a lot of trash talk now.”
There’s also the matter of the sous chefs with whom Brady and Westbrook are cooking. At the rate they’re going, the Patriots are probably going to be in the Super Bowl. They’re on the longest streak of being-so-good-that-the-nation-turns-on-you, a model that Durant and the Warriors are on track to resemble. They’re the pretentious restaurant that gets all the Michelin stars and that no one wants to go to.
The Thunder, on the other hand, are not title contenders. They’re like the guys who worked at that diner in high school and spent most of the time smoking weed in the parking lot. Everyone knew they weren’t going to win any awards, but man, was it fun to watch that one dude flip pancakes in the back with dexterity and skill.
And Westbrook is the pancake flipper. He’s putting on a show in a no-threat environment surrounded by a bunch of underdogs. Who doesn’t want to root for that?
Westbrook is also making it very clear that he knows what he’s doing. Why else would he have showed up to the Thunder’s game against the Warriors to see the photography-obsessed Durant for the first time dressed up in a photographer’s vest? That was not just for the fashion. There was no fashion. That was shade of the shadiest variety, the kind that makes you go, “ooooooh!” in a sing-song voice. Westbrook later denied that his outfit had anything to do with Durant, an assertion I don’t buy for a second.
Brady, on the other hand, has never gone all-in on Goodell. He’s towed the Patriots party line of “don’t say anything that isn’t related to football unless it’s about Donald Trump.” If Brady were to verbally light up the commissioner, this whole thing would be a whole lot more fun.
The moral of the story is that when it comes to conducting your own revenge tour, make yourself a chilly Westbrook sandwich of brilliance. Don’t bother with Brady’s variety — it’s been in the fridge for way too long and you’re probably already sick of it, anyway.