The New England Patriots will face off against the Atlanta Falcons a week from Sunday in the Super Bowl, and as the big game looms an interesting relationship takes center stage: Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady’s friendship with President Donald Trump.
Sports Illustrated’s Melissa Jacobs reported on Tuesday about Brady’s recent interview with WEEI radio hosts Kirk and Callahan, who asked about his friendship with Trump and he replied: “Why does everybody make such a big deal? I don’t understand it.” Jacobs writes of Brady’s answer:
On the surface, it makes sense. The fact that we have such an intense obsession with a football player’s celebrity friends feels at times asinine. Except we’re not talking about any pedestrian friendship—this is a divisive incoming president who continues to strategically use his relationship with the Patriots, and Brady in particular, as an asset. When Trump, at his pre-Inauguration Day dinner last Thursday, immediately pivoted from thanking his family to telling attendee Robert Kraft, ‘Your friend Tom just called, he feels good. He called to congratulate us, he feels good,’ that was news that transcended sports. When Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway appeared on national television and said, ‘President Trump is just so grateful that friends like Tom Brady are loyal and can ignore the shrapnel, the verbal shrapnel,; hell no, we’re not just going to move on and start dissecting the offensive line. Brady, of all people, should understand this dynamic.
Jacobs adds that Brady has moved on from being just a “a stunningly gifted, Super Bowl ring-clad, future Hall of Fame football player” to having now “morphed into a superhero” who is “deeply intertwined with his brands,” an iconic cultural figure in his own right.
The Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley adds that since “these are no ordinary times,” and the country “has been transformed into a coast-to-coast high school cafeteria, and a food fight of biblical proportions is just getting under way,” the matter of who someone “voted for” and who they “supported” in the election “all is a big deal.”
“And it’s an even bigger deal when you happen to be the greatest quarterback of all time who happens also to be friends with our newly inaugurated president,” Buckley writes.
The New York Daily News argues that Brady’s actions “normalize” Trump.
“By being friends with Trump and having that friendship be public, Brady is tacitly condoning the president whether he means to or not,” Seth Walder wrote. “It normalizes Trump in a very non-normal situation. And at the very least, Trump has certainly taken advantage of Brady’s friendship as a campaign tool.”
And BarStoolPolitics’ Jerry Thornton writes that since the Patriots are “despised” except by their most ardent fans—and the same goes for Trump— he has “no problem with” this media narrative.
“Even more to the point, I say: Bring it,” Thornton writes. “Give them your worst. The Patriots are despised anyway, why not go all in? Everyone besides the 60 million who voted for Trump see him as a sinister, cat-stroking archvillain hellbent on nuking the world and enslaving the survivors, I say the Pats might as well be his evil, eye-patched Number Two.”
Interestingly enough, however, everyone who despises either Brady and the Patriots, Trump, or both seems to be missing a big theme here: Brady’s story and Trump’s story are very similar.
Trump, everyone now agrees, is someone who defied the odds and went on to win the presidency after taking basically everybody on. Two political dynasties—the Bushes and the Clintons—lay in his wake, as does the media industry as a whole, the Republican establishment, the left, and so many other enemies he took on and crushed in his meteoric rise to the top. He also didn’t follow the conventional playbook to get there, and reworked his own methodology outside the norms of traditional politics. Trump has also falsely been accused of cheating in the election, and not being the rightful winner, multiple ways—whether it be the electoral college versus the popular vote, allegations of Russian hacking, or so many other issues.
Brady, similarly, has fought against the odds. The media correctly admits to that hatred of him, and the NFL’s establishment—including commissioner Roger Goodell—have an awkward way of dealing with him. It’s now a headline story on CBS in Boston that Goodell thinks “it would be an honor” to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Brady if the Patriots win the Super Bowl again in a little over a week—something the NFL commissioner routinely does at every Super Bowl.
Like Trump, Brady and the Patriots have been accused of cheating multiple times—there was Spygate, then there was Deflate-Gate—and they’ve had to battle it out with the NFL in court. First the courts sided with Brady and overturned a four-game suspension, then on appeal they sided with the NFL and made Brady sit out the first four games of this season. Brady has come back to put up impressive numbers in 12 regular season games—stats that rival some quarterbacks who played all 16—and tore through the criticism of him in the media to ramrod his way back to the Super Bowl for a shot at yet another ring.
And Brady, throughout his career, achieved all this success alongside head Patriots coach Bill Belichick by rewriting the traditional rules of football, doing things their own way. Goodell, the NFL commissioner, is so despised by New England fans that they actually started a “WHERE IS ROGER?” chant at the home opener after their last Super Bowl win when Goodell pushed the “Deflate-gate” conspiracy, which was designed to delegitimize Brady’s and the Patriots’ last win in the big time.
Brady’s endorsement of Trump didn’t come early enough to make the final difference in New Hampshire–it could have changed more hearts and minds in a battleground state had it come just a few days, or even a week, earlier–but his friendship certainly helped deliver Trump his first primary state win in the Granite State back in February 2016. In New England, Brady’s “Make America Great Again” hat on display in his Patriots locker was something of lore–helping Trump break through criticisms and beat back the institutional left’s and establishment right’s clamps on culture, opening New Englanders’ ears to Trump’s message.
More importantly, though, both men—Trump and Brady—have taken on establishments, entrenched institutions, and the media. And both men have kept on winning. Perhaps even more hilariously, though, Brady and Trump have now both been accused of being part of the establishments they dismantled. Democrats in Congress are now accusing Trump of being “the establishment,” and Brady was regularly demeaned as part of the establishment in the NFL. Nothing could further from the truth. And if Brady puts up another win a week from Sunday, expect that phone call from the president of the United States in the locker room—it will be a sweet, savory call for both leaders. And neither of them will be ashamed of it.
— The Smoke Room (@thesmokeroom) January 24, 2017