Fast Friday 5: Wondering when we can stop obsessing over Tom Brady’s every move

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By WEEI 93.7
Five fun Friday mini-columns from the world of (mostly) Boston sports for the price of one free click!
“That's my house and that's my carThat's my dog in my back yardThere's the window to the roomWhere she lays her pretty headI planted that tree out by the fenceNot long after we moved inThere's my kids and that's my wifeWho's that man running my life?”

--Toby Keith’s No. 1 hit “Who’s that man?”

Anyone who’s ever driven by an ex’s house after a painful breakup or divorce knows exactly what Patriots fans – and by extension New England media – are going through these days in the post-Tom Brady era.

Certainly it was obvious from the moment Brady used his free agent freedom to flee Patriot Nation and sign with the Buccaneers that all of New England, and most of the football world, would have an eye on what TB12 does in Tampa Bay.

Will Brady put up MVP numbers? Will he lead the lowly Bucs to their first playoff win in nearly two decades? First playoff berth in more than a decade? Can he continue to defy Father Time as he hits the age of 43 in a new offense with new weapons working for a new coach?

But interest from the northeast on what Brady is doing down in Florida while living in Derek Jeter’s house has been more than anyone could have envisioned.

Brady posts on social media? It’s apparently worthy of a story on nearly every website.

Brady throws with his new teammates at a private school – weird, I thought he needed to spend extra time with his family in May and June? – it’s fodder for media musings from WEEI to ESPN and everywhere in between.

Some would say the focus on what Brady is doing every minute of every newly-tanned day in Tampa Bay is unhealthy, a fixation even.

The only question is when does this stop? When can we all move on with our sports and rooting lives, focus on our own team’s issues, live in our reality and stop worrying about what the GOAT is doing and who he’s doing it with?

The last year-plus of Brady’s time in New England felt like a Groundhog Day of paralysis by analysis.

Sadly, the first couple months of his time away from Foxborough and living the life in Tampa have been even worse.

Really, when will this obsession end? Because it doesn’t feel healthy, even if it does generate clicks, listeners and viewers for those of us in the sports media business.

 

Athletes must change the way they live, but not the way they play

There is no bigger topic in the sports world these days than how to get teams in all sports back to work amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

MLB had a 67-page, first-draft proposal for players mapping out a return to play as early as 4th of July weekend that included on-field rules forbidding high-fives, pitchers licking their fingers for grip, batters sharing a pine tar rag and dictating a need for baseballs to be removed from play if touched by multiple players.

All such recommendations for game action came in addition to significant plans for player testing, travel, living environments and food distribution.

While WWE, UFC and NASCAR have found a way to get back to work without fans, they’ve also seemingly found a way to do so without fundamentally changing their contests in any way.

That, almost as much as health safety, must also be a goal for the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.

As crass it may seem or sound, at some point players simply must trust the process put in place by health officials and, as we all hope to hear the umpires yell sooner rather than later, “Play ball!”

If a controlled group of athletes is monitored, tested, kept in limited contact with outsiders and practices cleanliness/hygiene at the highest level, when they step on the field, court or ice they should no longer have to think about coronavirus. That’s been done for them.

UFC fighters weren’t asked to brawl from six feet apart, were they? Nope.

NASCAR drivers don’t have to get a new car every lap, do they? Nope.

Baseball players should not feel like they have to treat every baseball that comes their way as a hazard.

In an effort to get games back it’s clear that athletes will have to make changes to the way they live and prepare, but they shouldn’t have to alter the way they play.

If the process leading up to games is handled properly then the arenas and stadiums should be relative safe spaces.

If they are not, then we probably shouldn’t be getting back to sports at all anyway.

 

A paycheck in the hand is worth two in free agency!

This past winter it was reported right here on WEEI that now-former Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts turned down multiple contract offers from Boston, including one worth more than $300 million.

Apparently, Betts believed at the time that he had a chance to earn north of $400 million on the open market of free agency.

In a different world and a different time, he may have. But now that the coronavirus has shut down baseball and, really, the world economy, Betts bet on himself is looking more and more foolish by the day.

This week legendary MLB insider Peter Gammons speculated that Betts may struggle to reach even $250 million on his next contract with the way baseball’s financial landscape has been altered by the ongoing coronavirus shutdown.

This is a lesson for all of us, including the seemingly bulletproof professional athletes who’ve been emboldened in a world of ever-rising salaries. Sometimes, it’s better to just take the good deal and not seek out the perfect one.

Betts is a great player and seemingly a quality human being. Nothing of his doing has dramatically altered his financial future. It just happens sometimes.

Hey, Dak Prescott, might want to see if the Cowboys are still offering to pay you more than anyone in football history.

It’s a lesson told in many a cliché over the years.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Take the money and run.

Lesson learned, Mookie. Lesson learned.

 

Docudrama

Now that it’s concluded, ESPN’s 10-part production following the 1998 Chicago Bulls, “The Last Dance,” is being analyzed rather intensely.

Certainly, we’ve all come to see the fact that Michael Jordan’s production company was part of the project led to it being very much an Air Jordan production. No, Michael wasn’t portrayed perfectly, but he certainly wasn’t viewed from all angles or as in depth in some areas as may have been warranted.

Now comes word that Tom Brady and his own production company are teaming up with ESPN for a “documentary” on the GOAT’s nine New England Super Bowl trips.

Certainly it will be a feast of viewing pleasure for Patriots fans and even those of us fortunate enough to have been along for the ride every step of the way. Patriots porn, as the footie-pajama-wearing super-fans like to say.

But let’s not pretend “Man In The Arena” will be an objective tell-all.

Of course, the reality in the current media landscape is that nothing we see, read or hear is truly free and clear of content-altering influence. News, sports, politics…it’s all about agendas, biases, business partnerships and the such.

We’ve all been conditioned to take our information and entertainment with a grain of, in this case, GOAT salt.

“The Last Dance” was highly entertaining.

Gotham Chopra’s work on “Man In The Arena” surely will be as well.

But let’s not pretend that the stories we’re told in these modern sports documentaries would hold up in a court.

They are fun. They’re worth our time.

But they are far from the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

 

The 30-something 2020 Patriots

Tom Brady has departed the Patriots. But that doesn’t mean New England is an appreciatively younger football team after bidding the 42-year-old TB12 adieu.

Even in a bridge (rebuild/retool/reboot?) season, the Patriots could very well have one of the oldest groups of 22 starting offensive and defensive players in the NFL.

At least 10 of New England’s starters (11 or 12 if you go with Brian Hoyer at quarterback or Rex Burkhead at running back) will be 30 years old before or during the 2020 season.

Offensively, Julian Edelman (34), Mohamed Sanu (31) and Marcus Cannon (32) are beyond the historical line for what’s generally considered hitting the back nine of an NFL career.

Things are even worse on defense were Patrick Chung (33), Stephon Gilmore (30), Devin McCourty (33), Jason McCourty (33), Dont’a Hightower (30), John Simon (30) and Lawrence Guy (30) are football old.

Oh, and your best special teamer is 35-year-old Matthew Slater.

Age may just be a number, but in football it’s considered a critical number.

So while New England may indeed get significantly younger at the quarterback position in the post-Brady era, that same can’t be said right now for too many other positions.

As a wise man likes to say, it is what it is.