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Who Has the Better Fist Pump, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers?

Two Super Bowl–champion quarterbacks, two fist-pumping celebrations—but only one can be the best

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Tom Brady, who was drafted later than he was anticipating and started out his career backing up a more established quarterback, is, in no unclear terms, one of the best quarterbacks in football today (and probably the greatest of all time, really). He is a multiple-time Super Bowl champion, a multiple-time league MVP, a multiple-time record-setter, and a multiple-time Pro Bowl pick. When he does a good thing or a thing he is very excited about during games—perhaps even the one on Thursday night, when his Patriots visit the Buccaneers—he will, on occasion, celebrate with an impassioned, intimidating fist pump.

Aaron Rodgers, who was drafted later than he was anticipating and started out his career backing up a more established quarterback, is, in no unclear terms, one of the best quarterbacks in football today (and probably one of the 10 greatest of all time, really). He is a Super Bowl champion, a multiple-time league MVP, a multiple-time record-setter, and a multiple-time Pro Bowl pick. When he does a good thing or a thing he is very excited about during games he will, on occasion, celebrate with an impassioned, intimidating fist pump.

So the question here is obvious: Who has the better fist pump—because (somehow) they are remarkably different—Tom Brady after he does a thing that he’s excited about or Aaron Rodgers after he does a thing that he’s excited about?

That’s what we need to figure out. It’d seem to be a problematic thing, trying to answer a question as nebulous as this one. But it’s not. The way you do it is you break up the fist pumps into categories and then select the better of the two fist pumps for each category. Then you just tally up the total, and there you go. If you do that then that’s how you answer a difficult or knotty question in a tidy, easy way.

Category 1

Which fist pump appears to carry the greater philosophical and existential ramifications?

This might seem like an impossible category to traverse or parse, but it’s the second-easiest of the five. Look:

They’re very different, which means they mean very different things.

Tom’s fist pump is more of a punch-based action. It’s a way for him to say, “You’ll never fucking stop me ever because I’m the greatest ever” without actually saying it, because that’s essentially what you’re saying whenever you punch someone in the face. I’m sure it’s all tied up into how he got overlooked at the beginning of his college career and then was also overlooked at the draft and then was also overlooked at the beginning of his pro career. Every Tom Brady fist pump carries with it the implication that he’s punching through whatever wall he feels is attempting to stop him from reaching success at any given moment.

Aaron’s is more of a scoop or a dig-based action. It’s a way for him to say, “I have gotten just a little bit closer to burying you” without actually saying it, because that’s essentially what you’re saying whenever you start digging a hole in the ground. You could also argue that him digging his way through a fist pump is the same as him digging himself out of whatever grave it was someone tried to shove him into, which is why he is so great at those Back From the Dead, End of Game Hail Mary plays. (The all-time greatest We’re Not Dead Yet Aaron Rodgers moment was when the Packers started the 2016 season at 4-6 and he said he thought they were going to “run the table” the rest of the season and make the playoffs, which is exactly what they did.)

Winner: Tom Brady gets the nod here. The fuck you–ness of his punching fist pump is slightly more interesting.

Score: 1-0, Brady

Category 2

Which fist pump, on average, has the greatest amount of torque?

Torque is “a twisting force that tends to cause rotation,” which means this is the first-easiest category to figure out because all you have to do is look at the aftereffects of each of the fist pumps to see which had the most force.

When Tom Brady does his punch fist pump, he really loads up on it so as to make it as powerful as possible. He starts it from his legs with proper footwork and then, almost as if the fist pump becomes its own sentient thing, it rolls its way up through the rest of his skeleton, past his knees and hips and chest and then, finally, into his fist. Fist-pumping is a full-body thing for him, same as throwing a football or (probably) making love.

Tom Brady does the fist pump with such a great amount of velocity that it causes the right side of his body to come all the way forward, generally ending with his right foot farther forward than his left and his right shoulder farther forward than his left, too. It’s masterful, truly.

HOWEVER, for Rodgers it’s even more astounding. He starts from a position similar to Tom’s, but Aaron’s fist pump can, at times, be so unbridled and enthusiastic and forceful that it carries him clean and fully off the ground, spinning him in a near 360 while he’s in the air. It’s the fist-pump equivalent of Ryu’s shoryuken uppercut in Street Fighter. Or it’s the fist-pump equivalent at the end of the first Fast and Furious movie when Dominic Toretto finally races his father’s muscle car and the engine has so much torque that it makes the car do a wheelie. It’s one of those two things, both of which are too much for Brady to overcome here. Aaron wins this category.

Winner: Rodgers

Score: 1-1

Category 3

Which first pump gets used the most judiciously?

Meaning: Which quarterback uses it with greater discretion?

This category falls to Aaron by default, because the fist pump isn’t even really his signature celebration. His signature celebration is the Championship Belt thing (which many people have replicated in honor of him, the best being when Zak Showalter hit a very improbable 3 to send the Wisconsin-Florida Sweet 16 game to overtime during March Madness earlier this year). (Or to mock him, because J.J. Watt is fantastically petty.) With Tom, you know if a celebration is coming, it’s going to be the fist pump. With Aaron, though, since he’s got two celebrations to pick from, he has to figure out which one is the most fitting. That means he’s working a bit harder here. He wins.

Winner: Rodgers

Score: 2-1, Rodgers

Category 4

Which fist pump has the greatest lineage?

There are minutes and hours and days and months and years and decades and centuries of people fist-pumping. If you go through them all, Aaron has great company on the Scoop Fist Pump side of the field. (Most notably, you’ve got Tiger Wood’s iconic scoop fist pump at the 1997 Masters.) But, when measured against the frequency at which the punch fist pump occurs, it just can’t keep up. There are too many A+ players on the punch-fist-pump team. Michael Jordan did it four times in a row in quick succession after he hit The Shot over Craig Ehlo and the Cavs in 1989. Tim Duncan did it after he hit the 3 at the end of the first overtime of Game 1 of the Spurs’ 2008 series against the Suns. Dwight Schrute did it when the firemen showed up after Ryan accidentally started the fire in the break room during Season 2 of The Office. The Red Ranger used to always do it in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. And, perhaps most unstoppably, Michelle Obama did it one time while talking to the press. That’s just too strong of a team. Aaron gets washed away in a tidal wave of punch-based fist pumps.

Winner: Brady

Score: 2-2

Category 5

Which fist pump has been shown off on a larger scale?

Both quarterbacks have done their version of the fist pump in a Super Bowl (Rodgers did his after throwing a touchdown pass to Greg Jennings in Super Bowl XLV; Brady has done his in each of his seven appearances). And that is obviously football’s most important game. BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT, Tom Brady did his before what would go on to be the first Super Bowl to feature an overtime, and also the first Super Bowl to see a team come back after being down 25 points late into the third quarter, making it possibly + potentially + maybe + perhaps the greatest Super Bowl that’s ever been. So, by a very, very thin margin, he slides by Rodgers into the win column here.

Winner: Brady

Final Tally: 3-2, Brady

So, the question again: Who has the better fist pump: Tom Brady after he does a thing that he’s excited about or Aaron Rodgers after he does a thing that he’s excited about?

Tom Brady has the better fist pump, 3 to 2.