He already has won, of course, having conquered a daffy compulsion to play football at 43 when he should be booking his first prostate exam. Tom Brady has beaten conventional life wisdom, the unforgiving laws of health and age. He has one-upped Bill Belichick, who is absorbing his new fate as an also-ran and losing the argument that he was most responsible for the vanishing Patriot Way. He has hushed those of us who urged him to retire two years ago.
“It’s amazing,” said his coach, Bruce Arians, “because when you’re out there watching him, you’re like, this guy looks like he’s 30, maybe 33 at most.”
So in a biblical context, it isn’t imperative that Brady wins a Super Bowl next month. What overwhelms our senses is this: Never has an athlete of his acclaim and achievements, anywhere on this planet, performed at a higher level at a more advanced age in a team sport. I wouldn’t have acknowledged that as recently as mid-season, when he was throwing fits during defeats as Arians criticized him publicly. But we should have recognized those moments as Brady at work in his new laboratory, rehabbing the culture of a languishing franchise, demanding correction and perfection with an ultimate goal in mind.
It remains preposterous to think he’d move to Florida, as old people do, and lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl in their home stadium. That he’s positioned to do so, in a second act that once appeared ill-advised, only bolsters his stature as the greatest of all quarterbacks. Perhaps he ends up with nothing but a tan after the Saints are through with him this weekend in New Orleans, in an NFC divisional-round challenge against a defense that has whipped him twice and another senior quarterback, Drew Brees, who is writing his own final chapter. Yet have we allowed ourselves to ponder what it would mean to sportingkind if Thomas Edward Patrick Frigging Brady, on a February evening during a pandemic, won his seventh NFL championship?
Jesus, he might play until he’s 50.
“Come on, it’s Tom Brady,” Bucs running back Leonard Fournette said. “I ain’t gotta think too much about that. That’s the boy. We’ve got faith in him.”
Said Brees, pondering what will be his final game against Brady: “I guess it was inevitable.”
Contrary to reports, the game will be on Fox, not the History Channel.
If Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth was a Florida myth, the rejuvenation of Brady is legitimate. Reduced to dinks and dunks by Belichick in his final New England season, he has reclaimed his passing velocity and deep-ball arsenal in Arians’ risk-taking attack. With weapons everywhere, from Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to old friend Rob Gronkowski, Brady has bombed away for 42 touchdown passes — 12 in his last 12 quarters, when he has amassed 1,448 yards. His average pass is traveling 9.2 yards past the line of scrimmage, compared to 7.1 in 2019. He is playing more dynamically than the 41-year-old Brees, who suffered 11 fractured ribs and a punctured lung this season and wisely is headed to an NBC studio. Every time Brady breathes or burps, he is establishing some sort of new postseason record, to the point the networks are redundant when showing another graphic.
Naturally, he isn’t close to being happy. After the Bucs eased off the gas against Washington, allowing emergency quarterback Taylor Heinicke to stay close and win a Twitter following, Brady was mopey after a 31-23 victory. Not until he reaches a mass Zoom interview at Raymond James Stadium, first Tuesday of next month, would he talk openly about his latest life and career triumphs — about finding new success beyond Belichick with a team known mostly for its end-zone pirate ship. It’s possible he won’t talk about it then.
After all, what is left to say? The man who has accomplished everything is accomplishing more. You’re almost afraid to stare at him too long, thinking he’ll reveal himself as an android. Vegas has established the over-under for projected Brady smiles this postseason at two. We’ve yet to see the first one.
“You’d love to play great every game. I think it’s good to win and advance,” Brady said. “But if we don’t play well next week, we’re not going to be happy. We’re going to have to go play great football.
“We hit some big plays, made some chunks. I think just not scoring enough in the red (zone) was the thing that bothers us, missed a two-point play, had other opportunities to score but just didn’t quite take advantage. We moved the ball OK. I think we had decent yardage. But at the end of the day, it comes down to points, and we’ve gotta do a better job scoring more points — and we’ll work on that next week.”
This is a sports story worth following because it transcends sports. It’s a tale as old as life itself, about a man defying time and nature. As Tony Romo, who retired from NFL quarterbacking at 36, said on the CBS broadcast Sunday: “I’m 40, but my body’s like 117.” Any basic playoff game shouldn’t interest us much with America in a deep existential crisis, other than how the Cleveland Browns — amid a COVID-19 heap that left them without coach Kevin Stefanski and several players — somehow stampeded the Steelers in Pittsburgh and made a desperate wreck of 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger. Notice how I’m not writing about the Bills Mafia, the Rams’ defense, Lamar Jackson’s first playoff win or the Ravens’ stomping of the Titans’ logo. Nor am I writing in depth today about the NBA’s inevitable COVID crisis, the solution for which is self-evident: The league should be shut down until teams follow protocols and field complete rosters for legitimate games and credible competition. The NBA announced it is staying the course, reflecting the bogus logic of Toronto coach Nick Nurse, whose approach is why the coronavirus might never go away.
“I still say that until somebody’s going to the hospital, getting really, really sick … I think we’re still so unclear about what having the virus even means, other than you don’t want to spread it so we’ve got to pull you out of whatever you’re doing and isolate you and make sure you’re not spreading it around to anyone else,” Nurse said. “So I think that there’s still some part of that, even college football, or baseball, or NFL. I don’t recall hearing anyone being taken to the hospital, being gravely ill. So I still kind of stand on my same — I’m OK playing.” Thank goodness Nurse isn’t a real nurse.
The NFL continues to dodge a COVID nightmare, for now. After a so-called “Super Wild Card Weekend” — the league’s way of soft-marketing the somber necessity of a scattered season — Brady and Brees join the presumptive MVP, 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers, as stubborn old souls trying to fend off next-gen quarterbacks. We’re anticipating Patrick Mahomes surviving Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen the next two AFC weekends and facing Rodgers in the Super Bowl, yet Brady is the biggest angle of all until he loses. He likely won’t be lifting a Vince Lombardi Trophy, but none of the others have executed a one-season quick fix like him. Which means his story — and more importantly, his physical being — still would have legs heading into his age 44 season. It’s utter lunacy to speak of any athlete within this framework of longevity, much less a targeted man in a barbaric sport. But we just heard Washington’s Chase Young, who will terrorize quarterbacks into the 2030s, demand Brady’s hide, shouting last week, “Tom Brady, I’m coming! I want Tom! I want Tom!”
Tom is still waiting. The mystique refuses to wane.
“His leadership is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Peyton Manning is the only thing close,” Arians said. “It’s a never-ending thing with him — the perfectionist, to get everything right in practice. Also, his calmness on the sideline in games when we’re not winning, saying ‘We’re going to win.’ Those type of things. You put those in a bottle and you make a bunch of money.”
And those constructive critiques that had us wondering if Brady would strangle him? “Any time you transition, a lot of things are different,” Brady said. “You get used to one way, one routine, and then everything is different. I feel like we have a great relationship. From the moment I got here, we’ve just had great dialogue and I certainly appreciate all the insight he gives me and the way he coaches and leads. It’s very open, honest dialogue about how we think, certainly how I can be most effective.”
Until he throws an interception. Certainly, the Bucs are far from the steely, methodical Patriots machine that Brady directed to the playoffs 17 times, with nine resulting in Super Bowl appearances. Arians always been a free-wheeling character, but he’s never played for a championship as a head coach. Brady’s offensive line has protected him well, but now he won’t have right guard Alex Coppa, who fractured an ankle. Evans is dealing with knee discomfort. And to rely on Antonio Brown in any substantial way is dangerous, given his penchant for trouble. The defense might break, too, having to deal with the razz-ma-tazz of Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Taysom Hill in the Superdome.
“I think we know what type of game that’s going to be,” said Brees, suggesting a Sunday night shootout for the ages — and the ageless. He added, “I don’t take it for granted. I’m very appreciative of the opportunity.”
The Brady uprising could crash, sure. And certain precincts would be glad because he isn’t viewed as an American treasure as much as a freak of nature. Some never will forgive him for his role in Deflategate, nor should they. While he’s a political agnostic these days, at least publicly, it wasn’t long ago when he was a Donald Trump friend wearing a MAGA hat. If LeBron James is the contemporary who has melded athletic greatness with historic activism, Brady is the TB12 cultist who thinks he can cure COVID-19 via holistic wellness. I can buy a jar of plant-based protein right now — “a digestible plant protein made from sustainable yellow field peas” — for $52 online.
Just asking: Does the NFL still test randomly for PEDs?
Even if he benefits from funny business involving his mysterious personal trainer, Alex Guerrero — and there is no evidence so far — Brady still is FORTY-THREE YEARS AND FIVE MONTHS OLD. And as he once commented on a social media post when it was suggested his retirement was imminent: “Cuarenta y cinco.” That would be 45, and if we chuckled at the idea then, it’s time to realize it’s happening.
A sports nation is fixated on a man who apparently wants to live forever.
Who are we to tell him otherwise?
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.