1 Tom Brady: Reflections of Class Conflict and Upward Mobility Tom Brady, the 42-year-old quarterback whose name has become synonymous with athletic excellence, has departed snowy New England for the temperate climate of Tampa Bay. i With him, he brings a total of six championship rings, three MVP awards, and his favorite playing partner, Rob Gronkowski. Brady’s accomplishments are unparalleled in the history of sports, yet this success was predicted by practically no one. Like a classic Horatio Alger tale, Brady’s story represents a common narrative of the American Dream: the working class kid who, through sheer hard work and determination, rose to the top of his profession. Along the path towards greatness, Brady has had to defeat – one by one – adversaries who had more opportunities than him. In this sense, Brady is not only a prime cultural example of upward mobility, but a victor in class conflict, as well. From a purely statistical standpoint, Tom Brady has few rivals, even in comparison with dominant athletes in other sports. The following graph demonstrates his success in relation to other top athletes: Championships and MVPs Among Top Players 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 Tom Brady Michael Yogi Berra Bill Russell Joe Dimaggio Kareem Abdul Jordan Jabbar Top Players in Any Sport Rings MVPs TOM BRADY - CLASS CONFLICT AND UPWARD MOBILITY 2 Brady is well-compensated for his efforts. According to Forbes, he is the 21st highest- paid athlete in the world, and his salary among NFL players is only surpassed by quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. ii In addition to his wealth, Brady occupies a singular place in American entertainment culture: He is married to a supermodel, and has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated a total of 20 times, more than any other athlete in NFL history. iii He has even been described as a “hot quarterback” by Access Hollywood, which adds a movie star-like quality to his image. Brady’s journey began at the University of Michigan, where even a starting quarterback position seemed beyond his reach. As a freshman, he was seventh on the Wolverines’ depth chart. iv It took Brady two years to finally land the starting job, and when he declared for the draft, some predicted that all 32 NFL teams would skip over him. And so the first five rounds came and went, with Brady anxiously anticipating a call from an NFL team that never came. The television broadcasters’ praise for Brady’s talents was less than effusive. Mel Kiper simply described him as “accurate; throws a very catchable ball.” v Most were in agreement that Brady lacked the mobility to successfully function as an NFL quarterback. Finally, after 199 players had been selected, Brady’s name was called. vi The brain trust of the teams that passed on Brady clearly believed that other quarterbacks could contribute more to the franchise. Those six quarterbacks selected ahead of Brady combined for 191 starts over the course of their career; Brady alone started 283 games. vii The leading icons of other sports fared far better than Brady on draft day. The following graph demonstrates how many players were picked ahead of Michael Jordan, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Peyton Manning, and Derek Jeter in their respective drafts. TOM BRADY - CLASS CONFLICT AND UPWARD MOBILITY 3 Players Picked Ahead of Athlete In Draft 250 Nummber of Players 200 150 100 50 0 Michael Barry Bonds Roger Peyton Derek Jeter Tom Brady Jordan Clemens Manning Athlete The Most Privileged Quarterback of All Time It was in Foxboro, Massachusetts, in 2000, that Brady first emerged victorious in a battle with a quarterback who was in a higher class than him. Drew Bledsoe had been drafted #1 overall by the Patriots in 1993. viii In his second year, Bledsoe was provided the most opportunities in one season than any quarterback in history. ix Under the tutelage of legendary coach Bill Parcells, Bledsoe set the league record for most passing attempts in a season. The results of this opportunity were mixed at best. Bledsoe managed to accumulate the most completions that year, but led the league in interceptions. In other words, he was given the most opportunities to succeed, but failed the most. Metaphorically, Bledsoe was similar to a young, hotshot lawyer who had just graduated from Harvard Law School and was recruited by a top law firm. He was given the firm’s biggest case, yet failed to live up to his promise. Brady, meanwhile, was stuck in the firm’s mailroom. TOM BRADY - CLASS CONFLICT AND UPWARD MOBILITY 4 Despite his lack of success, Bledsoe continued to operate in an extremely pass-heavy offense. The seasons went by with Bledsoe at the helm. Then, before the 2001 season began, New England owner Robert Kraft rewarded him with the largest contract in NFL history. x Brady seemed destined to be a backup. It would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for Brady to overtake Bledsoe and rise to the top of the firm. Fortunately for Brady, the Patriots entered the 2001 season with limited expectations. The team’s record the year before was 5-11 (good for last place in the AFC East), and Bledsoe finished 19th in passer rating. xi The season began with a 17-23 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and it appeared as though New England would flounder in mediocrity for yet another season. xii Brady finally got a shot to prove his worth as the Patriots suited up to play their archrival, the New York Jets, in week 2. The nation was still reeling from the September 11th attacks, and the mood in Foxboro was somber. As the fourth quarter began, the Patriots dialed up a quarterback run with the characteristically immobile Bledsoe. With no options ahead of him on the field, Bledsoe simply sprinted for the sideline, hoping to get out of bounds. Jets linebacker Mo Lewis then delivered a punishing hit on Bledsoe, knocking him out of the game. Bledsoe would later be hospitalized with a chest injury. xiii And so, Brady’s storied career began as an injury replacement. The mailroom boy who no one thought would succeed retained the starting quarterback position even after Bledsoe recovered from his injuries several weeks later. New England would go on to win the final seven games of the 2001 season, culminating in a shocking Super Bowl win against the heavily- favored St. Louis Rams. The Patriots’ odds for winning the game were the third-lowest in the Super Bowl era. xiv TOM BRADY - CLASS CONFLICT AND UPWARD MOBILITY 5 Brady, the phoenix who rose from the ashes, had emerged victorious in his first obstacle of class conflict. There was still one more athlete to defeat, however, before Brady could fulfill his dynastic aspirations. Old Money and the Mannings Peyton, Eli, and their father Archie have been described as “football’s royal family.” xv Like Drew Bledsoe, Peyton and Eli were both selected first overall in their respective drafts. Archie himself was selected second overall, yet his NFL career was marred by inconsistency. xvi By some measures, Archie could be considered the worst NFL quarterback of all-time. Over his 13 seasons playing for the New Orleans Saints, Archie compiled a record of 35 wins and 101 losses. His winning percentage of 26.3 is the worst all-time for quarterbacks with at least 100 starts. xvii Naturally, Archie hoped to live vicariously through his sons and have them achieve the glory that he never could. Peyton entered the league in 1988 at the age of 22. Like Drew Bledsoe, he was given enormous opportunities to succeed. Peyton lead the league in pass attempts in his rookie season, and again, like Bledsoe, lead the league in interceptions that year. xviii While Peyton would win five MVPs over the course of his career, his postseason record could never match his statistical accomplishments. This graph shows the difference in postseason victories for the two athletes. Career Playoff Victories for Brady vs. Manning 32 30 28 Playoff Victories 26 24 22 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Brady Manning TOM BRADY - CLASS CONFLICT AND UPWARD MOBILITY 6 Brady and Manning would play head-to-head a total of 17 times during their careers, with Brady winning 65 percent of the contests. xix In both 2003 and 2004, Manning’s attempts to fulfill his father’s wishes of winning a Super Bowl were eliminated by Brady xx. In two AFC Championship games, the Patriots defeated Manning and claimed two more Super Bowl victories. Brady yet again succeeded in a challenge of class conflict. It wasn’t until 2006 that Peyton finally overcame his lackluster postseason performance and bested Brady in the AFC Championship Game. After that loss – and Peyton’s Super Bowl victory – the Patriots’ organization undertook an experiment which in hindsight proved to be a disaster. Eli and the Super Team In April 2007, the Patriots’ traded for the controversial yet supremely talented receiver Randy Moss. xxi Moss was immediately a game-changer in Foxboro. The Patriots cruised through the regular season, finishing with a perfect record. In the Super Bowl, Brady once again faced a Manning brother – Eli – and this time it seemed that a Patriots victory was all but guaranteed. It was said that Brady would emerge victorious and get revenge on the old money Mannings. The Las Vegas odds and sports fans in general were anticipating a walloping. Yet by halftime, the Patriots were only ahead by four points. Panic set in. With 1:15 left to go in the 4th quarter, Manning and David Tyree executed the famous Helmet Catch, later leading to a Plaxico Burress touchdown. The Patriots took possession of the ball with 35 seconds left, but by that time it was too late. The game was soon over, and old money, nepotism, and privilege had prevailed. xxii Devastated by the loss, the franchise would enter a period of relative mediocrity. In the first game of the 2008 season, Brady tore his ACL and his season was over. xxiii In 2011, Brady TOM BRADY - CLASS CONFLICT AND UPWARD MOBILITY 7 once again attempted to defeat the Mannings, but that Super Bowl also ended in a loss. xxiv His reputation as an upwardly mobile, working-class kid who could defeat privileged men was forever damaged. It would take another five years to reclaim the Lombardi trophy. Even then, this victory was seen as questionable due to the infamous Deflategate scandal. xxv We view our athletes and their successes as hopeful reminders of the validity of the American Dream. Collectively, we wish to believe that any person, regardless of socioeconomic status, can rise to the heights of greatness and achieve fame, esteem, and wealth. For a golden period of five or six years, it seemed likely that autumns in New England would forever be a staging ground for literal representations of classic Horatio Alger tales. The skinny kid from California who grew up disadvantaged would always defeat the privileged Mannings. He would own a $20 million house, he would fall in love with a supermodel, and the American Dream would live on – forever. But autumn soon turned to winter, and the beautiful New England backdrop gave way to the harsh, gray winter. Brady has escaped this winter and his troubles. He now takes over a franchise that has the fewest wins of any team since the Super Bowl era began. It will never snow, it will never get cold, and Brady will never have to face the fact – and neither will we – that the American Dream isn’t as real as we thought it was. TOM BRADY - CLASS CONFLICT AND UPWARD MOBILITY 8 References i Written By Tadd Haislop @taddhaislop, Written By Tadd Haislop, By, W., & Haislop, T. (2020, March 23). Why did Tom Brady leave the Patriots? A souring relationship with Bill Belichick and other signs from the past. Retrieved July 07, 2020, from https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/why-did-tom-brady-leave-patriots-bill- belichick/15mjznvuuerqb1u4uro8b8qlz1 ii “The World's Highest-Paid Athletes 2020.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, www.forbes.com/athletes/#73f8bc0c55ae. iii Tom Brady Sports Illustrated Covers, 4 May 2018, www.patriots.com/photos/tom-brady-sports-illustrated- covers-288141. iv “Tom Brady.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Brady. v https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Dt7JaSCft0 vivi “2000 NFL Draft Listing.” Pro, www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2000/draft.htm. vii https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5fdhfVrg1I viii “1993 NFL Draft Listing.” Pro, www.pro-football-reference.com/years/1993/draft.htm. ix “Drew Bledsoe Stats.” Pro, www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BledDr00.htm. x Writer, ALAN GREENBERG; Courant Staff. “BLEDSOE'S RECORD DEAL: 10 YEARS, $103 MILLION.” Courant.com, 26 Sept. 2018, www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-xpm-2001-03-08-0103082886-story.html. xixi “Drew Bledsoe Stats.” Pro, www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BledDr00.htm xii “List of New England Patriots Seasons.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_England_Patriots_seasons. xiii “List of New England Patriots Seasons.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_England_Patriots_seasons. xiv “Point Spreads & ATS Results for Every Super Bowl in History.” BetFirm, www.betfirm.com/point-spreads-for- every-super-bowl/. xvxv Nagle, Jeanne. “Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning: Football's Royal Family.” Amazon, Readhowyouwant.com Ltd, 2012, www.amazon.com/Archie-Peyton-Eli-Manning-Footballs/dp/1459633539. xvixvi “Archie Manning.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archie_Manning. xvii “Archie Manning.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archie_Manning. xix “Tom Brady–Peyton Manning Rivalry.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Brady%E2%80%93Peyton_Manning_rivalry. TOM BRADY - CLASS CONFLICT AND UPWARD MOBILITY 9 xx “List of New England Patriots Seasons.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_England_Patriots_seasons. xxi Jr., Harry Lyles. “Remembering the Raiders Trading Randy Moss to the Patriots, 10 Years Later.” SBNation.com, SBNation.com, 31 Oct. 2017, www.sbnation.com/2017/10/31/16550148/randy-moss-trade-patriots-raiders. xxii “Super Bowl XLII.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 July 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bowl_XLII. xxiii “2008 New England Patriots Season.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_New_England_Patriots_season. xxiv “Super Bowl XLVI.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Bowl_XLVI. xxvxxv Seifert, Kevin. “What Really Happened during Deflategate? Five Years Later, the NFL's 'Scandal' Aged Poorly.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 18 Jan. 2020, www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28502507/what-really-happened- deflategate-five-years-later-nfl-scandal-aged-poorly.