Outside of maybe LeBron James, Tom Brady is the most famous athlete in America. He’s reached that most rarified level of sports celebrity — a larger-than-life, quasi-mythic, demigod-level of renown that allows him to pass even The Grandmother Test. Does Ganny know who Tom Brady is? Yep, there’s a very good chance she does.
Brady’s enormous societal imprint doesn’t cover everyone, however. Take, for instance, soon-to-be-retired baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro began his Major League career in 2001, the same year Tom Brady entered the starting lineup for the Patriots. Since that time, Ichiro — who’s essentially the Tom Brady of Japan — has spent the majority of the last 17 years in the United States. You’d think this amount of exposure to American culture would put Brady on Ichiro’s radar on some level. And yet …
An excerpt from an Ichiro retrospective from The Athletic’s Peter Gammons:
One morning in spring training, 2017, he was in the coaches’ room looking at his cell phone text messages. Ichiro told the coaches about one message he had just received from a number he didn’t recognize. The guy said he’d gotten Ichiro’s number from Alex Rodriguez, and that he wanted to come meet him and study his stretching system.
What’s the guy’s name?” asked one of the coaches.
And just like that, fans of every team on the Patriots‘ schedule have a rude, brutally effective message to scrawl on placards they’ll bring to games in 2018. Score it as hit No. 3,089 for the magnificent Ichiro.