- After losing to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, Tom Brady stopped publishing social media posts featuring his fictional newspaper, the TB Times ... until today, and this writer is over-the-moon excited about it.
Three years ago, moments before the Patriots-Broncos AFC Championship game kicked off, a picture of Tom Brady riding a bucking bronco popped up on the quarterback’s Facebook page. The image was rudimentary and appeared to be hastily done—the Photoshop skills of whoever designed it were questionable at best—and all the caption said was “8:30pm #SNF #letsgoooooo.”
The photo intrigued me because it wasn’t very in line with Brady’s public image—Brady doesn’t seem like an especially silly guy, and this was undeniably, delightfully silly. What I didn’t know is that this picture would be the start of a three-and-a-half year journey. A journey that would lead me to internet stalk an artist in Boston named D.K., research Bill Hader’s entire film career, write over fifteen articles, inspect the back-end HTML of tbtimes.org and yell questions about a crocodile at Brady for two consecutive Super Bowl media nights.
I had no idea that this obsession would culminate in my almost fainting on a subway platform when I saw Brady post a cartoon of a crocodile beating up a Ram near Fenway Park two days after the Patriots won the Super Bowl for the sixth time.
But to understand how we got here, we have to go back.
The Patriots lost to the Broncos in the 2016 AFC championship, so Brady didn’t post a follow-up to his initial photo. But at the beginning of the next season, Brady began publishing posts on his Facebook page and newly-created Instagram account in the style of a fake newspaper called the TB Times (Brady didn’t seem to care that the Tampa Bay Times already exists). These posts featured cartoons of the team that the Patriots were playing that week. I couldn’t get enough.
At the time I requested to profile the person in charge of Brady’s social media accounts, and he politely declined, preferring to remain anonymous. Later I tracked down the artist of the posts—who signed each one simply as D.K.—but he, too, wanted to stay behind the scenes.
No one would talk, but the posts kept coming for the duration of the 2016 and ’17 seasons—and they kept getting weirder. As I’ve written before, they looked like someone had taken a bunch of acid and messed around in Adobe Illustrator. The posts only appeared after the Patriots won, and they all featured various puns about the teams New England had vanquished. Except that as the gag went on, the cartoons made less and less sense. There was no plot line besides a recurring cast of characters, including but not limited to a crocodile named Croc who sometimes wore a trench coat, a dolphin, a grouper fish, Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and the actor Bill Hader (whose career I became intimately familiar with as I tried to figure out why he was involved in these images at all). A website devoted to the cartoons was published—tbtimes.org—and I went through the entire backend HTML, inspecting each element individually, searching for hidden clues.
I couldn’t figure it out, but I’d become fascinated by the winding stories that went nowhere, and I wanted desperately to know why there was a crocodile involved at all. At one of Brady’s press conferences for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, I asked Brady who Croc was, and Brady said that we might find out if the Patriots beat the Eagles.
The Patriots lost. We never found out who Croc was.
So after the Patriots' first victory this season, I obsessively refreshed Brady’s Instagram for the first TB Times of the season. But it never came. Someone close to Brady’s camp sent me text messages between him and D.K. in which D.K. said of the TB Times: “LOL not happening this year." After I broke the news (very important journalism), D.K. himself sent me a cryptic message: this clip from the end of the movie Gladiator with the song “I will see you again” playing over sweeping shots of the Coliseum. I didn't believe him.
I felt despondent as I watched the TB Times get replaced with lame drawings that looked like they were made in MS Paint. Brady eventually won me back with his amazing hype videos, but there was still a fake newspaper-sized hole in my heart. I tried to ask Brady about his decision to shutter the paper at media night in Atlanta, but I couldn’t get close enough to him. I talked about the TB Times on Boston sports radio a few days later. I didn’t think I’d ever get over it.
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But then, on Tuesday morning, my dreams came true. I had just returned from watching my beloved football team win its sixth Super Bowl ring, which should be the ultimate as a sports fan. BUT THEN SOMEHOW IT GOT BETTER: I opened Instagram and saw that Tom Brady had posted a special edition of the TB Times celebrating the win.
They say there are some things you never forget: Your wedding day, the birth of your first child. I wouldn’t know about those, but I can tell you that I will always remember almost passing out on the Brooklyn subway platform when I first laid eyes on the resurrected TB Times. In it, Croc is wearing Brady’s No. 12 jersey as he stomps through Boston and beats up a ram. Does this make sense, given the previous narrative of the cartoons? No. Absolutely not. Croc couldn’t have been Brady because Brady often appeared in the pictures with him. The fact that they put Brady’s jersey on Croc doesn’t tell us anything conclusive about the storylines over the past three years.
But that’s the beauty of it. None of this ever made any sense. It wasn’t supposed to. It was just a beautiful, silly, totally bizarre exercise. I used to think maybe there was a code to crack, but it turns out that the real code was the fact that there was never any code at all. The post on Tuesday tied up any loose ends of the weirdest ride I’ve ever been on. It filled the hole in my heart. It brought everything full circle.
I just want to extend a huge thank you to Brady and his people for bringing the TB Times back. Life is hard. We need to find our happiness wherever we can, and for whatever reason, the bizarre, inconclusive, ridiculous story of the Tom Brady’s fake newspaper has brought me—and many fans across New England—joy. To have one more hurrah with this strange amphibian and this incredible football team was more than I ever could’ve hoped for.
Maybe one day I’ll get to tell the behind-the-scenes story of the process that made it all possible (lookin’ at you, Social Media Guy and D.K.). But for now, I just want to raise a glass of Tom Brady’s special protein shakes infused with electrolytes and greatness and say, “Long live the TB Times.”