Tom Brady’s Retirement Plans

I plan to take a break from the recent trend here – – commenting on either criminal or anti-social behaviors in the sports world – – because I was more than a bit surprised to read yesterday about Tom Brady’s retirement plan(s).  Brady will be back at QB for the Bucs this year and may indeed be plying his trade in the NFL beyond this season; there was no announcement as to when his retirement would begin.  However, when it does begin, Tom Brady’s new career will be with FOX as the lead NFL analyst.

Frankly, that alone surprised me,  Obviously, Brady knows NFL football and is as tuned into the “Xs and Os” of the game as anyone.  The reason I am surprised is that Brady never came across to me as being nearly as comfortable behind a microphone as he was behind a center on the field.  Even accounting for the wide range of emotional swings a player must feel after a win or a loss, I usually had the impression that Brady would rather have been almost anywhere else than fulfilling his obligation in a post-game Q&A.

Obviously, I was wrong about that.  If he indeed did not like press interactions, he surely would not have signed up to do that for a significant part of his eventual retirement years.

And that brings me to the part of the story that really shocked me.  According to reports, when Brady begins his work with FOX, his contract will extend for 10 years and has a total value of $375M.  It was only a couple of years ago that CBS paid Tony Romo the “outrageous sum” of $18M per year to be the CBS lead NFL analyst.  As various other people in similar roles had their existing contracts expire, all of them sought to get a deal that included what came to be called “Tony Romo Money”.  Some succeeded and some did not…

Now comes the announcement of a deal which is a little more than double the yearly salary of “Tony Romo Money”.  In economic terms, I think it is fair to say that the market has moved to a new level.

I am also surprised about this deal from the FOX perspective.  Granted, Tom Brady is a huge catch for any network that signs him; I need not recite his football bona fides here; if you have read this far, you already know them.  He has won more Super Bowls (seven) than any franchise has won in franchise history.  When a network has Brady and his credentials on their air, they set a standard.

Having said that, I keep coming back to something I have said about announcers and sideline reporters in the past:

  • I do not believe that anyone ever tuned into a game mainly because of who was on the microphone for that game.
  • Conversely, I do believe that some announcers/analysts can be sufficiently annoying that viewers may tune out – – or at least mute the telecast.

People will tune into see what is an important game – and/or one that is billed as a pivotal game in a season – – no matter who the announcing team might be.  I have announcing teams that I greatly prefer as comparted to others, but there is no network announcing team that is so bad that I would forego watching an important game.  I might mute the telecast if the announcers became sufficiently annoying, but that is about it.

[Aside:  I am trying to think of an imaginary announcing team that would make me hit the mute button early in the first quarter of an NFL game.  Best I can come up with now is Alan Alda on play-by-play with Rachel Maddow as the analyst.  Rambling play-by-play followed by being lectured to by the analyst would probably get me on the mute button quickly…]

Let me be clear; I do not think Tom Brady will be anywhere near “sufficiently annoying that viewers choose to tune out of games on FOX”.  At the same time, I cannot understand how he can possibly be so outstanding that he will increase the numbers of viewers for games on FOX nearly to the extent that those added viewers might allow FOX to recoup even 50% of the $375M they will pay him.

Perhaps, there is some commitment in this deal that Brady will also be doing some “studio work” for FOX in the off-season aligned with some programming on FS1 or FS2.  If that is the case, Brady’s presence could indeed add to the ratings for the program that has him there offering insights and opinions; but even in that circumstance, I find it hard to see how it might add anything close to $375M to the coffers at FOX.

Allow me to presume to give the suits at FOX a bit of advice.  Obviously, once Brady has retired for good, they will work with him and with his on-air partner to “develop chemistry” between the two.  I am sure they will call existing games to hone their skills as a team and that there will be analysis and critique during and after those “rehearsals”.  Here is the advice:

  • Please help Tom Brady recognize when the best thing he can do is to be quiet and let the events/happenings on the screen speak for themselves.

Tom Brady knows football as well as anyone.  Once he relaxes in his new position, he is likely to be a font of information for viewers – – as are his counterparts as lead analysts for various networks.  If he can develop what I call “The Art of Shutting Up” he might become the GOAT of TV analysts as well as the GOAT of NFL QBs.

Finally, since today has been about sports on television, let me close with this view of television by the economist John Kenneth Galbraith:

“There is an insistent tendency among serious social scientists to think of any institution which features rhymed and singing commercials, intense and lachrymose voices urging highly improbable enjoyment, caricatures of the human esophagus in normal or impaired operation, and which hints implausibly at opportunities for antiseptic seduction as inherently trivial.  This is a great mistake.  The industrial system is profoundly dependent on commercial television and could not exist in its present form without it.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



2 thoughts on “Tom Brady’s Retirement Plans”

    1. Doug:

      I agree up to a point about the trio with Dandy Don and Howard Cosell. But that was a LOOONG time ago…

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