In case you missed it, I have a story on Bleacher Report today headlined, WHY YOU REALLY HATE TOM BRADY. I thought I’d take a few minutes to explain the process …
So this was not a piece that initially excited me. Back when I was young and coming up, I’d have jumped at the chance to write on a Tom Brady, a Derek Jeter, a Kevin Garnett. With with age and experience, though, came a bit of fatigue as it pertained to superstars. Generally, the bigger the name, the bigger the hassle. There are handlers and egos and 1,002 hoops to leap through. So … Brady? No thanks. I’d rather write about the bartender with the quirky tattoos.
My Bleacher Report editor, however, sent me an e-mail that included this: “If you were do a takeout on Tom Brady, pegged to the week of his return on Oct. 9 in Cleveland against Browns, what would be your approach?” Well, dammit. When Bill Eeichenberger (the best editor I’ve ever worked with) talks, I listen. So I sent him an e-mail with a bunch of ideas. Here, this is actually exactly what I wrote:
So … yeah. Not such inspiring stuff. But, to my shock (and ultimate delight), Bill and the gang picked idea No. 2—and I was off.
Now, the first thing I considered was how not to write this. Meaning, I didn’t wanna simply interview a bunch of teammates and opponents, mixed in with some fans. That’s been done a gazillion times before, and with limited returns. So I just started reaching out to people I knew, from various walks of life, to see what they thought of Brady. The first big goldmine came in the form of Jeanie Buss, the Lakers owner and a woman who’s become a really nice friend to have. I didn’t know how Jeanie would be. I mean, what could she say about Tom Brady? Sometimes, though, luck takes over—and it turns out Jeanie is a diehard fantasy football player who refuses to draft Brady. Ever. So … yeah. Hello, lede.
Back when I was a very young writer in Nashville, I did some (bad) music writing. I’d review CDs, cover concerts, etc. Well, one day I get a disc in the mail from a duet named Shaw-Blades. It was Tommy Shaw from Styx and Jack Blades from Night Ranger … and the music was absolutely terrific. I reached out to the label and asked if Shaw would be up for a Q&A. Someone gave me his e-mail, and—using this wacky wonder machine called a … um … eh … computer!—we did the whole interview online. He was fantastic, and through the years we’ve casually stayed in touch. Well, when I was pondering Brady I was also pondering Bill Belichick—how this marriage of two men seems inescapable. And Shaw, like Brady, was once attached to a not-so-popular figure in former Damn Yankees guitarist Ted Nugent. I dialed Tommy’s number, and as we spoke his wife—hanging in the background–kept ranting about her hatred of Brady. It was perfection.
Another golden moment came via the magic of Twitter. I happen to be a huge Entourage fan, and fondly recall the episode where Brady guest starred as himself. It was truly hilarious—Turtle, a Giants fan, refuses to pair with Brady at a charity golf tournament, but by the end of the day he’s so charmed the two are planning dinner. Although I know no one from Entourage, I’d been told that Doug Ellin, the creator and producer, liked my Mets book, The Bad Guys Won. So I reached out via Twitter—and he immediately told me to give him a call. Well—perfect.
Oh, wait—one more. Several years ago, while waiting to pick up my kids from elementary school, the principal pointed to a dad standing across the courtyard and said, “You know who that is?” Um … no. “That’s the wrestler Tommy Dreamer.” Um … what? Turns out Tommy and I were the only two dads at pickup most every day. We started chatting—great guy, adorable kids, lovely wife. Again, another go-to quote on why we make villains of athletes.
So now you have this basis for a story, featuring big names and their takes on Tom Brady. From there, it was easy …