Imagine me in a room full of, oh, maybe 20-25 New England Patriots fans.
Yeah, not a good thought.
But, in this case, I really wasn't in the room with them to watch a football game, or to trash talk about the great rivalry between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. I was there, at Chelsea Piers in NYC, for an event sponsored by Under Armour which featured Pats quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady, it seems, is now a pitch man for Under Armour, and this event was something where Under Armour had a contest which allowed the winners (twelve fans) to have a little Q&A with Brady. Kind of a cool thing. And no, Under Armour did not pay me anything to say that. If the event where just a chance to see Brady, or have him wave at the fans, I'd would write 'That kind of sucks for them.' This event was pretty genuinely nice, and while I had to suffer through the oogling these fans had for Brady when he was in the room, I appreciated how special the moment likely was for them.
Don't get me wrong. I hate the Pats. But, you kind of have to be a bit of a stone cold jerk not to smile when a 76-year-old lady, whose been rooting for New England for years, asked Brady for a hug. He stepped off the small stage he was on, bent over, kissed her on the cheek, and hugged her.
Classy move, Brady. Classy.
I wasn't invited to this event because I was a winner of any contest. I was there because, after the Q&A with fans, about ten 'media' folks were able to have some face time with the 2010 NFL MVP. Yours truly got two questions in. Brady only answered six questions total. So, I think I was able to get what I needed. And while the wild, rabid fan in me wanted to scream 'HEY TOMMY, HOW'S IT FEEL TO BE 2-5 AGAINST THE COLTS SINCE 2005! BWHAHAHAHA!' the reality is I kind of had to be a professional and not act like a clueless jerk.
Apologies to all of you hoping I would, I don't know, punch the guy or something. Even if I wasn't acting as an official rep from SB Nation, if I just randomly ran into Brady, I'd shake his hand and tell him I like how he plays. I've always liked Brady's way of playing QB. Always will.
After the jump, some highlights and quotes from the event.
The event prior to the media Q&A was the fan Q&A, this part was moderated by Boomer Esiason. In essence, it was Boomer's job to bail Brady out of any question that could, in essence, put him on the spot. For example, one fan asked him who he was rooting for in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Brady, caught a bit off guard by the question, hesitated. Immediately, Boomer jumped in with 'Boston, of course!' Brady smiled, nodded, and then said, 'Yeah, Boston.' From my observations, it was clear Brady doesn't watch hockey, and if he did, had he said 'Oh, I like the Blackhawks!' legions of mindless Patriots fans with loyalties to the Bruins would have been up in arms.
That's just how Boston is, folks.
Remember when Brady wore a Yankees hat? Boomer was basically there to make sure Brady didn't trip over himself, and I'm sure that helped make Brady more comfortable answering random questions from fans.
In general, Brady touched on basic subjects relating to his career, such as being a sixth round pick in 2000. He talked about how Drew Bledsoe, the man he replaced, was one of the toughest players he'd ever met.
Tom Brady: He broke his thumb on a helmet in Cleveland, and played through it.
He also lauded the toughness and leadership of Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, and Troy Brown. Now, for someone like me, I'm silently rolling my eyes at all this. But, the audience was Pats fans, and Brady is a Patriot through and through. So, it's understandable that he praise these former teammates.
Brady also called Robert Kraft the best owner in football. This was an interesting statement considering Tom Brady just sued Robert Kraft (and 31 other NFL owners) for anti-trust violation and won that suit in federal court.
During this time, Esiason mentioned that while Brady was now acting as a spokesman for Under Armour, he doesn't do many endorsements.
Esiason: Peyton does. He does a lot!
Tom Brady [laughing]: Yeah, but he's good at doing them.
Esiason also asked Brady about the interview recently which showed him crying when discussing draft day in 2000.
Tom Brady: I'm an emotional guy. I cry at movies, and stuff. I play that way too. Football is a game of emotion.
For someone like me, this was actually the first time I'd ever been in a room with Brady. He's a tall dude (roughly 6'3). He's clearly been on a beach recently (perfect tan) and his teeth are ivory white (I practically needed sunglasses). His hair is pretty long now, near his shoulders, and he has a sort of unassuming, laid back presence about him. In fact, when he entered the room and sat down, he almost came off as shy and bashful. But, after a few questions moderated by Esiason, who had effectively won over the room with his charm and crowd pleasing statements (he stated quite clearly that Brady is better than Peyton Manning), Brady settled in and seemed to enjoy the moment.
When the fan Q&A was done, the 'people wranglers' pulled Brady and about ten or so of us media off into a corner. We all stuck our records in Tom's mug, and started asking questions.
Now, for those of you who have never experienced this, asking the sort of 'pool reporter' questions is sometimes less about getting what you want from the subject (in this case, Brady) and more about fighting with the others in a circle with you who are trying to get their questions in. You never take it personal when someone interrupts you, and you never get angry when you try and ask a question, and someone else tries to overlap you.
In the end, if Brady maintains eye contact with you as you speak your question, you've got him. No matter what someone else says, you finish the question, and wait for an answer. With me, I got in two.
The first few questions asked of Brady by media involved the Patriots first round pick from the night before: Nate Solder of Colorado. Brady stated that he had not met or spoken with Solder, and only saw a little video of him when ESPN showed he'd been drafted.
I then jumped in with some labor-related questions. Sorry, no Colts-related stuff. I wanted to know his thoughts on the labor strife.
BBS: What were your thoughts when you heard of Judge Nelson's decision Monday night?
Tom Brady: I was actually in bed when the news broke. So, I didn't hear about it until Tuesday. Um, this isn't going to get resolved by one decision. This is a process.
Brady went on to talk about how Robert Kraft was 'working hard' at the negotiating table. Brady talked about how hard DeMaurice Smith was working. One got the sense that Brady did not want to 'cheer' the decision the way other players have. Again, this is interesting because his name is the most prominent name on the list of plaintiffs because of alphabetical order. I mean, the case is called Tom Brady, et al. V. NFL.
Generally, Brady didn't cheer or smile when asked about the decision. He was very serious and his answers very neutral. He did make one thing very clear: He believes football will be played this season, no matter what.
My follow-up question was...
BBS: Do you know if any Patriots players attempted to go to the team facility today?
TB: I don't know.
After answering two labor questions, the guy next to me tried to switch gears and asked Brady about the New York Jets. Brady's response was interesting to witness. The man quite visibly bristled when the words 'New York Jets' were uttered, and it wasn't an act. Based on that reaction, I'm now convinced of two things: One, while the Pats and Colts are a rivalry, there is mutual respect. Two, Brady just flat out HATES the Jets.
Brady [very sarcastically]: My favorite subject. Let's talk about the Jets.
The reporter told Brady that Jets coach Rex Ryan recently stated that Brady was the most 'hated' quarterback in the league.
Brady: Hey, if that guy hates me, I'm cool.
After that, the wranglers told us that was it, and they rushed Tom away so he could have a group photo with the fans. I walked over to Boomer Esiason and asked if he had a few moments. He apologized and said no. He had to catch a flight.
After I packed up all my stuff, I walked over to the 76-year-old lady who got a hug from Brady. I said hello and told her that moment was kind of cool to see. She said thank you.
I didn't tell her I was a Colts fan.