Tom Brady retired yesterday. Or maybe left New England? Well, not really. But for a few minutes people thought he did in a tweet with only a photo attached. Yes, this is the first Super Bowl that does not involve Tom Brady since Super Bowl 50 in 2016, and the big hat enthusiast decided to enter himself into the proceedings anyway.
To be fair, though, all Brady did was tweet. It was the media that decided to turn into his tweet into a massive puzzle.
CNN was in high-alert mode. “WE NEED TO KNOW,” the venerable news organization blared, while also identifying Brady’s age as “42 ½,” like he’s a little boy. The CNN post went out on the wire, and so multiple news outlets ran the story.
I don’t know if there was a meeting to go over all this, but the term journalists decided to use to describe Brady’s photo was “cryptic.” Pro Football Talk used it. So did WCVB-TV in Boston. USA Today got in on the fun. As did Boston.com. And TMZ, Yahoo! Sports, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, the New York Post and popculture.com. Even FOX Business used it! MLive.com used it at 8:00 this morning. More “cryptic” references may be coming.
So “cryptic” is, by journalistic consensus, the way to describe this tweet. I’m a little disappointed no one appears to have used vague or enigmatic or another fine synonym, but I suppose we have to trust the press on this one even though calling Brady’s tweet “cryptic” makes it sound like he just took a photo of the purported Loch Ness Monster.
The content of these news articles was mostly no better than a guess. “[T]his could be a ploy in his negotiations with Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots organization,” WCVB wondered, while USA Today guessed that “[r]eporters and fans are sure to parse it for days and maybe weeks.” I plan to spend every waking moment of the next year deciding what, exactly, that photo is trying to say.
The main debate over the photo seemed to be whether Brady was coming or going. Was he entering the field? Was he leaving it? Maybe it was a visitors’ locker room? Or as New York Jets beat reporter Brian Costello put it, “Is this like that confusing dress picture from a few years ago?” Not to advise a man with double the number of Twitter followers I have on punch lines, but I think that joke could’ve been a little wordier.
Earlier on Thursday, several reports had Giselle Bündchen, Brady’s wife, looking at schools in Nashville. Other reports had Tom Brady in Nash Vegas himself! Surely fans checked to see if the stadium Brady posed in had the Batman Building behind it. This, however, was shot down: NBC Sports Boston said Brady was not in Nashville, and embedded a photo of Brady and Bündchen in Miami last night. WKRN-TV of Nashville said none of the Bradys—not even Cindy—were in the city.
Adam Schefter, about an hour and a half later, had a scoop:
I don’t know if “fun” is the word I’d use for the football media talking about a 42-year-old quarterback eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago in the days before the Super Bowl. But, yeah: It’s not about his football future. It’s likely some sort of stupid advertisement designed to get you to think Brady was retiring or leaving New England.
Thinking back on it, it wasn’t really cryptic at all. It’s Tom Brady. Of course it’s some stupid ad.