I have some terrible news. I’m not sure how to break it to you gently, so I’m just going to rip the Band Aid off and say it.
Tom Brady’s fake newspaper, the TB Times, has folded. That’s right: Sources close to the people involved have confirmed to me that the Patriots’ quarterback and Prince of New England will no longer be posting strange comics on Instagram to celebrate wins.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, or why this turn of events is so devastating, let me explain. Since 2015, Tom Brady’s social media has been one of the most intriguing things on the internet. Before the AFC championship game three years ago against Denver, a photoshop of Brady riding the Broncos’ mascot appeared on Brady’s Facebook page. Fans ate it up: The post got more engagement than anything Brady had ever published. I tracked down the guy who runs Brady’s social media after that post went viral, but he wouldn’t go on the record with me. He still won’t.
During the 2016 and ’17 seasons, the photoshops became more elaborate. They were designed to look like a fake newspaper called the TB Times (whether the creators of this publication knew that the Tampa Bay Times, known as the TB Times, already exists or just decided to ignore the fact remains unknown). The cartoons featured jokes about the teams the Patriots had just beaten, and because New England doesn’t lose very often, we were blessed with one basically every week for the past two years.
In this newspaper, a story—one that made very little sense—started to play out. The pictures, all of which were drawn by an artist who signed them “D.K.”, featured a reptile named Croc. I became obsessed with figuring out what was going on. Who was Croc? How did the story end? I went down a rabbit hole so deep that I ended up reading the IMDB page of Bill Hader’s entire acting career and searched the outfits he wore in every movie after Hader was featured a few times in the comics. I drew my own cartoons. I searched the HTML in the backend of TBTimes.org for clues in the code that would give me a hint as to what Croc represented. I investigated Tom Brady’s eyebrows. I dissected Greek myths. I found the artist’s friends on Instagram and sent them messages.
I tracked down D.K. last year, but, just like the social media guy, he wouldn’t go on the record with me. Most of the pictures are very well done, but they make you feel like you dropped a ton of acid and then read the Sunday comics while watching football.
Finally I went straight to the source. Last year at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis, while battling a 103-degree fever, I went to Brady’s press conference and asked him what the deal is with the TB Times:
“I thought that was kind of a great way to commemorate some wins,” he told me. “Some of the funnier ones came when we lost, and we didn’t get a chance to put ’em out, but maybe someday I’ll show you some of those ones that we were going to put up but we ended up losing the game. But it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve got a couple guys I work with that work really hard and obviously I’m not the one doing the drawing, but they work really hard, run ideas by me, and I let them go with it.”
When I asked if he could tell me who Croc is, he said, “No, but there might be a reveal after this game.”
There wasn’t, because the Eagles won the Super Bowl and the comics only ran after Patriots’ wins. Philadelphia stole any chance we had at a closure to this confusing narrative when Nick Foles decided to flap his wings, fly out from under the shadow of Jeff Fisher and prove to Gisele Bundchen and the entire world that he could indeed throw and catch the ball at the same damn time. The Patriots didn’t get that elusive sixth ring, and we didn’t get a celebratory TB Times.
I was heartbroken. I’m a Patriots fan but found myself so invested in Croc’s story that I took the lack of a comic harder than the actual loss. The story playing out in the TB Times at that point somehow involved Bill Hader, Billy Crystal, Will Smith, Bill Murray, an Aztec temple, a centaur, a hot tub salesman, a dolphin selling fidget spinners, an underwater lair in Miami, a punk-rock puffer fish, a guy resembling Peter Pan, Greek gods...I could go on. I don’t think the guys—20-somethings in Boston—making these things had a clue what they were doing. They didn’t seem to have a plan. It was like they got too far down the road to stop making these images, so they just kept getting weirder and weirder with no rhyme nor reason.
I hoped that at least we could pick up the scent again this season. That maybe we’d get some answers if the cartoons kept appearing. So after the Patriots won their first game against the Texans on Sunday, I refreshed Brady’s Instagram obsessively for about an hour, but no post appeared. In the past, the TB Times would appear within minutes of a win. I began to worry.
And then I got a message from a source close to the artist. He sent me a screenshot of texts with D.K. where he aks D.K. about the TB Times, and D.K. says “lol. Not happening this year.” A different source close to the quarterback said that the guys had “no idea” what they were doing with the storyline.
Look, I don’t blame Brady for stopping the presses given the climate of the industry, but I AM BEREFT. I’ve asked to speak to D.K. to try to get the details on who Croc is, and whether he and the social media guy had any plan. But I’m not holding my breath.
I guess there are just some famous mysteries that never get solved. What happened to Amelia Earhart? Where did DB Cooper go? Who killed Tupac? Did Dez Bryant catch the ball? Was the NBA draft lottery letter really frozen? Why didn’t J.R. Smith know the score?
Now we can add one more to that list: Who was Croc and what did he represent?