I owe Tom Brady an apology. All season I’ve been displeased with the Patriots quarterback for shutting down his fake newspaper, the TB Times.
If you weren’t following along during the 2016 and ’17 seasons, all of New England—nay, America. Nay, the world!!!—was captivated by the TB Times. After every Patriots win, a new cartoon would appear celebrating the victory and making some visual pun (is that a thing?) out of the opposing team’s name and mascot. The Jets turned into hot tub salesmen, the Broncos victory panel featured a centaur, the Titans were some sort of Lord Of The Rings/Greek gods hybrids, and the Falcons were…well the Falcons weren’t a pun, they were just depicted as birds.
So why on earth was Brady posting comic strips featuring an odd cast of characters to his Instagram? That’s the whole point—the entire thing made no sense. Storylines and narratives collided, tackling each other like Trey Flowers sacking Patrick Mahomes. The characters came and went like Belichick cutting guys who’d played for him for ten years because it was just time. The most puzzling aspect of the whole thing was a recurring crocodile named Croc who sometimes had dreadlocks and sometimes wore a trench coat. I asked Brady last year at the Super Bowl who Croc was or what he represented, and he said that if the Patriots won, we might find out.
But the Patriots lost to the Eagles, and we didn’t get to find out who Croc was.
At the start of the season I was all excited to put my detective hat back on and figure out what the heck was goin’ on with the TB Times. But after the first Patriots win, as I obsessively refreshed my Instagram feed, I got a message from the mysterious artist who created the cartoons. There would be no more TB Times.
This was heartbreaking. It was like finding out ***SPOILER ALERT*** that Santa isn’t real, except instead of finding out that he isn’t real, you find out that you will never know what he was in the first place, and everything you staked your entire journalism career on has come to a dark dead end in an online back alley behind a defunct printing press.
Brady, like so many other media executives, decided that it made the most sense to pivot to video. Never mind the fact that he made this decision after it came out that Facebook had inflated video views by up to 900%, he still did it. And the videos were... I don’t want to be mean, but the videos were weird, and not in the way the TB Times was weird, but the way that your dad taking a selfie video of himself saying “good game!” and posting it to Instagram would be weird.
Brady also changed up the visuals on the graphics. The TB Times era of Brady’s social media looked like an artist dropped a bunch of acid and then fired up Adobe Illustrator, whereas Brady’s 2018 social media looked like a high school kid smoked a lot of pot and fired up MS Paint.
My initial negative reaction to Brady’s videos was probably a result of the fact that I just missed Croc. But then the playoffs arrived, and you know what? As Brady stepped up his football, he stepped up his social media game, too. I’m not sure anything will ever fill the gaping hole that Croc and the TB Times left behind in my heart and my mind, but the videos that have come out of New England have been a jolt of sports adrenaline that I doubt even the fanciest designer drugs could provide.
Look, I’m a Patriots fan. It was probably only a matter of time before I got over the loss of a fake newspaper and latched onto the videos of the team I grew up loving. But a lot of the content was good. One day this fall Brady made an entire Instagram story matching Patriots players to characters in Top Gun. He’s even tried his hand at memes, with mixed results that I—a terrible meme maker—nevertheless must respect.
But it’s the recent hype videos that Brady has made that have me completely sold on his social media strategy once again. They feature other Boston sports legends like David Ortiz, Paul Pierce, Mookie Betts, Zdeno Chara, and they’re all talking about winning over a montage of Boston victories while dramatic music plays. Find me a high better than the rush you get watching a perfect sports hype video. You can’t. Everyone’s like, “exercise gives you endorphins,” I’m like, “sure, but get back to me when you get around to checking out Tom Brady’s Instagram.”
Do I miss the TB Times? Yes. Dearly. Every day of my life. Do I wish that Brady hadn’t shuttered it? Yes. Do I plan to ask him about it at media night in Atlanta? You bet your bottom dollar I do! But would I like to eat this new New England propaganda for breakfast before I kick down doors and vanquish my enemies? One-hundred-thousand percent. Does winning rule? Yeah, and the Patriots been doing it for two decades, so I’m going to continue to bask in it before it ends because, even if it takes forty years and Brady is the first 81-year-old quarterback to win the Super Bowl, it will end. I don’t want this to be a Joni Mitchell “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” situation. I want this to be a Green Day “For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while/It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right/ I hope you had the time of your life” situation.
Anyway, here we go Patriots. Tom, please keep the hype videos coming, and here’s the apology that I said I owed you at the beginning of this incredibly long article about your Instagram: I’m sorry I ever doubted your social media strategy. You’re obviously the GOAT.