There are great unknowns accompanying Tom Brady’s 10-year, $375 million bombshell deal with Fox Sports making the (as of today) Bucs quarterback, and cinch Hall of Famer, its No. 1 NFL analyst.
Like when will Brady ultimately exit the playing field and enter the booth?
Or are Fox Sports suits finished wheeling and dealing?
Much of the reaction to the Foxies bold move is about whether Brady, who mostly showed his stoic side, while using an economy of words during his 22 years’ worth of meetings with the media, has the every-man personality, the likeability factor and verbal skills to handle such a high-wire (sans net) act?
Brady likely will be working with play-by-play man Kevin Burkhardt, a steady voice. Yet considering the unorthodox history of Fox Sports, what’s to stop the Foxies from going to a three-person booth? Brady would be placed in a more conversational setting. Partners? For added buzz, Fox could call on one of Brady’s security blankets in New England: Rob Gronkowski, who has already worked for Fox. Or Julian Edelman, who has already made some noise on Paramount+ “Inside the NFL.”
Although it was under its original executive team, Fox Sports once assembled one of the most talented 3-man NFL broadcast teams to ever grace the small screen when it debuted the trio of Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth, to replace John Madden and Pat Summerall, in 2002. Aikman, Buck and Collinsworth lasted three entertaining years. If the Foxies think a 3-man would increase Brady’s chance to succeed, they shouldn’t hesitate to use it.
While much of the fallout over the mega contract has centered on whether Brady has the ability to thrive, will the gig even be what he expects? This is a full-time job. This is not about fooling around. To succeed at such a lofty level, there must be a strong desire to put in intense game preparation. To know two teams inside-out every week. It’s a seven-month grind; not seven months of taking breaks for a round of golf. Brady will be hard-pressed to Tony Romo his way through the gig. Expectations will be much higher for Brady.
The easy answer to any motivational concerns is M-O-N-E-Y. The reported $37.5 million per year should be enough to keep Brady’s nose to the grindstone. Then again, Brady already has the big money and a lifestyle that goes with it. More millions can’t change it much. What made Brady tick, the love of competing and the competition itself, will disappear the minute he stops playing football and starts making his living talking about it. Making a good point, that is recognized by his Fox crew or some Gasbag in Boston, won’t compare, or produce the same level of excitement, or adrenalin rush, as driving his team down the field for a game-winning score.
In the broadcast booth, there are no winners or losers. No thrilling wins or heartbreaking losses. No victory celebrations. No jumping into the arms of your producer. It’s a totally subjective business, influenced more and more by the denizens of social media. Once Brady takes to the microphone, they will pass judgment. The days of taking a game into his own hands are over. He must also come to terms with the fact he is technically a member of a media corps he never really trusted.
And unlike the suits he will be working for, Brady is not going to get excited over a game he broadcasts getting monster ratings. Voices don’t move the ratings needle. Matchups do. Brady is a prestige buy for Fox. He gives Fox something the NFL’s other TV partners don’t have, a player recognized by many as the greatest to ever play quarterback. Still, even with the money, and Brady’s golden image, there are huge risks involved for both Fox and Brady.
If he flops, like others superstars have (Joe Montana and Jason Witten), the word embarrassment won’t be strong enough. It would mark one of the few times Brady has failed, miserably, on a big stage. For the Foxies, the failure would be magnified by them letting proven practitioners they developed, Aikman and Buck, jump to ESPN, opening the door for Brady. In doing so, Fox is betting $375 million that Brady’s brand of starshine will sparkle inside a broadcast booth.
NO-NO NAMING NAMES
After calling the Yankees’ 1-0 win over the Rangers on YES Monday afternoon, in which Nestor Cortes took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, Michael Kay went on his ESPN-98.7 gabfest complaining about the negative feedback he received for mentioning the Bombers pitcher had a no-no going. None of this was surprising. The superstitious believe a voice can jinx a no-hit bid by mentioning it. And Kay, the thin-skinned one, overreacts to most criticism directed his way. Yet there was an odd twist. Kay said there are other current baseball voices who adhere to the superstition, going out of their way to keep a no-hitter in progress a secret. Who? That Kay would not reveal the “culprits” was disappointing. He should have named names. Isn’t Kay’s job to enlighten listeners? Unfortunately, not on this occasion.
TOM’S SUPER ROLE
When Tom Brady’s deal with Fox went public, speculation mounted that the quarterback — if Tampa Bay doesn’t make it to Super Bowl LVII — would have a role in the network’s coverage of the Feb. 12 event. The spec will come to fruition, but Brady will not be in the booth. ”That would be too big a risk, even for Fox,” an industry source said. ”The pregame show is how long? Fox would find a role for Tom leading up to the game itself.” Meanwhile, Fox Sports must have a whopping budget if it can afford to pay Brady $375 million over 10 years. Yet since the company said it will also use Brady as an “ambassador,” especially for “client and promotional initiatives,” his salary is likely coming out of the budget of a few different Fox divisions.
AROUND THE DIAL
Watching Yankees baseball, if you can find it, is like watching a game show. Viewers can tune in (if they know where to tune in) and see Aaron Judge play for that big cash prize. YES should turn it into a reality show. It can also feature the Wacky GM who just loooooves talking about those “cheating” Astros. … Between the 2nd/3rd period of Game 4 on MSG, Henrik Lundqvist painted a blunt picture of the Rangers performance, saying: “They were paralyzed in their own end. It was tough to watch.” Tough stuff. … Sean Marks state of the discombobulated Nets news conference was a must Wednesday watch. So was Michael Wilbon’s assessment of Brooklyn’s dysfunction on ESPN’s NBA Countdown a few hours later. An outraged Wilbon basically said the GM was talking jive. And until he delivers the word directly to Kyrie Irving none of what he says should be believed. Ouch! … When FAN’s Craig Carton isn’t claiming he broke a story, he’s flapping his yap about another potential job opportunity. It’s all so self-absorbed.
* * *
DUDE OF THE WEEK: JAHAN DOTSON
The first-round pick of the Washington Commanders set an example that will resonate with young people. He sought, and received, permission to miss rookie camp to attend his graduation from Penn State. Washington coach Ron Rivera advised him to attend.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: NOAH SYNDERGAARD
For back-tracking. If the Angels pitcher is going to put his hot takes (this one was about the Mets) on social media in real time, he doesn’t get to revise intent. Apologies are accepted. We all make foolish remarks occasionally.
What Aaron Judge said: “I’m just doing what I do.”
What Aaron Judge meant to say: “I’m just doing what I do, but with a whole lot of money at stake.”