How I went about the Tom Brady story


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 …

2 thoughts on “How I went about the Tom Brady story”

  1. Number one, I haven’t read the piece yet. Number two, I’m a nobody. I loathe Derek Jeter, so that removes him from being universally beloved. I now root fervently for Tom Brady because Roger Goodell used him and deflategate to show everyone how powerful he was. Not for the “good of the game”, but because he wanted to teach Brady, Belichek, Kraft, and the Patriots who’s the boss. It was a dick move by the supreme dick in sports.

  2. Jeff, I liked this story a lot. Way more than I thought that I would given that I’m a Boston guy. I have a question for you, when is Boston going to shed it’s racist image? Or let me rephrase that, when will people stop saying that Boston was the last team to integrate as proof that Boston is a racist city?

    The reason why I ask is because for one thing, it was almost 60 years ago. Sixty years is a long time and I think that with the way that Boston has celebrated players like Mo Vaughn, Boomer Scott, Jim Rice, Big Papi, Pedro, Luis Tiant and Manny can you use the Boston baseball team as a barometer of its racial climates.

    But if you’re going to use sports as a bellwether, what about the other teams in town? The Boston Braves brought up Sam Jethroe in 1950 and he won the NL ROY, the Celtics were the first to have a black player, head coach and starting five, and the Bruins were the first NHL team to suit up a black player in Willie O’Ree.

    I’m not saying that Boston’s racial past is spotless. There’s certainly a lot of work left to be done here as well as most of this country. I think that using the Sox as the epitome of racial intolerance is a bit lazy. The Red Sox were owned by a racist man and run by his horribly racists cronies. Unfortunately, you can’t choose the owner of your team and I’m sure that 1950s/60s Sox fans would have loved to see Ted Williams and Yaz flanked by Willie Mays in centerfield and Jackie Robinson in the infield.

    I don’t know, I’m probably a bit sensitive about this but I just wanted to bring this up to you. Sorry for the long rant.

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