We need to talk about Tom Brady’s Instagram. I haven’t seen something this trippy since I got high in college and watched The Great Muppet Caper three times. Check out what the Patriots quarterback put up after New England beat the Dolphins Sunday afternoon:
There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the fact that when I initially saw it, I thought to myself, “Am I missing an obvious internet or football joke? Or is Tom Brady’s social media person just dropping tons of acid before he fires up Adobe Illustrator?”
Assuming there’s some semblance of sense to this cartoon (which is pretty well done, I have to admit), here are some questions it raises:
- Why is a dolphin asking Brady if he and his turtle friend, lobster friend, alligator friend, and grouper friend want to buy some fidget spinners?
- Are fidget spinners still cool?
- Why is the dolphin a fidget spinner salesman with a SPIN 4 LIFE tattoo?
- Is SOUTH BEACH SPINNERS the dolphins’ fidget spinning club?
- Why does the dolphin have a questionable goatee and yellow teeth?
- Why are they all underwater?
- Dolphins can breathe above water, can’t they (I’m not a doctor, but I’ve seen Ace Ventura: Pet Detective before)?
- Why does Brady’s alligator friend have dreadlocks, and what’s on the papers he’s holding?
- Why does the turtle look like a blind jazz musician?
- Why is the grouper a punk rock fish with pink hair and a lip ring?
- Or is that a fish hook?
Here’s the thing: I could go on. But that would assume there are answers to any of these questions, when I’m worried — hopeful? — that there aren’t.
There used to be. To attempt to understand what’s going on now, we need to go back to the end of the 2015-2016 season. Brady’s people posted this to his Facebook page before a Broncos game, and it did major numbers in terms of likes. 106,000, to be exact:
After that success, the quarterback’s Facebook page started really going for it and getting weirder. At the time, Facebook was the only social media platform Brady was on, and I was as intrigued then as I am now by the change in direction. I wanted to know who was responsible and what was going on in what I assume is a social media lair underneath one of the TB12 workout facilities, where the work kitchen is stocked with wheatgrass shots and avocado beers. So I put on my Serious Reporter hat and tracked down the person responsible for Brady’s social media presence.
That person, however, didn’t want to go on the record or talk to me at all, preferring to stay behind the scenes and remain anonymous. So I don’t know how big the team is, who is doing what, or the extent to which Brady himself is or isn’t involved with the content. I also don’t know if that person is still in charge, but I would assume so, given how loyal Brady is.
Regardless, here’s what Brady said about his social media presence before the Super Bowl last year:
I want my pages to represent who I really am. The messages all root back to who I am and how I try to live my life. In reality, my goals and my approach to life are pretty simple. I want to be the best father and husband I can be, the best football player I can be, represent my family well, and share what I’ve learned over the years about sustaining peak athletic performance with athletes around the world.”
At the start of the 2016-2017 season, images from a fake newspaper (intentionally fake, not Fake News fake) started popping up on Brady’s Facebook page. The first one hit during his four-game suspension that was the result of the long-and-never-ending-dumb-football-situation-that-dragged-on-forever-and-had-to-do-with-air-in-footballs-and-shall-not-be-named. Perhaps no one in the QB’s camp realized that the TB Times is already a thing (The Tampa Bay Times). Perhaps they didn’t care. Either way, that’s the name they went with, and that’s the name that stuck.
Here’s the first edition, which went up after the Pats beat the Cardinals in the first game of the season:
It shows two Patriots players — Dont’a Hightower and Martellus Bennett — shooting cardinals at the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium as though the cardinals were characters in the popular mobile game Angry Birds.
It’s funny! It’s topical! It’s cute! It’s a joke that makes sense!
So did many of the others, such as this picture of Rob Gronkowski dumping hot sauce on wings after the Pats beat the Bills in 2016:
Brady joined Instagram toward the end of last season, so this season’s images have been popping up there in addition to Facebook. Things started out fairly normal: Here’s a TB Times cover that hit after the Patriots’ win against the Chargers. It’s Halloween-themed, with Brady in a vampire costume (because he’s ageless, get it?) pretending to be afraid of a kid. The kid is dressed up as a Charger dressed up as a Greek god. Or something like that. I’m not totally sure:
Either way, it makes some logical sense. The picture after the Falcons game did, too. It shows Brady sitting with a falcon after beating Atlanta, as though the two were little kids who just rode their bikes to town and were playing tic-tac-toe. Brady’s asking if the bird wants to play three-out-of-five, because he already beat him twice (once at the Super Bowl; once this year).
But this is where things start to get a little weird: Check out the window of what appears to be an ice cream parlor. See who’s in there? An alligator. The same alligator that appeared in Sunday’s super bizarre under-the-sea cover. Once you start looking for it, you realize that this alligator also appears in many other versions of the TB Times from this season (he — I’ve decided it’s a male alligator — isn’t in any from last year).
After the Pats beat the Jets, you can see him in the lower right-hand corner in the last box of the cartoon, which is about a hot tub salesman trying to pass a bath tub with jets off as a hot tub (because, as everyone knows, that’s the most logical joke to make about jets).
Brady calls this alligator “Croc,” however, so I have been wrong this whole time: This is a crocodile, not an alligator. I’m not sure if that’s my fault for not knowing my reptiles better, or if it’s on the cartoonist for not making it visually clearer.
Croc also appears in this early-season cover after the Pats beat the Saints. See him in the back, with his hand (paw? claw?) on Brady’s shoulder?
(Also, check out the bizarre ASK TOM graphic in the bottom right-hand corner, where Brady is dressed up as a psychic.)
Croc is even in this strange one from the Patriots’ win against the Raiders in Mexico City, in the lower left corner by the Aztec pyramid ...
... and here after the Patriots beat the Texans, which features the Space Patriots and is a play on “Houston, we have a problem.”
One cartoon Croc doesn’t appear in is the post following the Patriots win against the Broncos in Denver, which is probably the strangest TB Times cover of all.
This is where all logic seems to go out the window. Why is Brady a centaur? I get that the Broncos’ mascot is a horse, but why does that make Brady a centaur? Has this whole exercise actually been an homage to Bojack Horseman, the dark cartoon for adults on Netflix starring a man with the head of a horse?
I have more questions after analyzing these images than I did when I started.
- Who the hell is making these cartoons now?
- Is it still the same Social Media Person who didn’t want to be named?
- Is this why the Social Media Person didn’t want to be named, because they knew how weird things were about to get?
- What is Croc?
- Why is Croc?
- Who is Croc?
- Why does Croc only have dreadlocks in one picture?
- Is Croc another inside joke that I’m missing?
- Is this whole thing an obvious joke I’m missing, or even a not so obvious joke, but a joke nonetheless?
- Or is this actually a sick prank that Brady and his team are playing on Patriots fans to see how far they can go before fans start to question what’s happening?
- And, subsequently, is this Brady’s way of proving that Patriots fans will never doubt anything he, New England’s favorite son, ever does?
- And am I that brainwashed of a Pats fan myself that I’m evidence of how correct Brady is about, seeing as I actually enjoy these nutty pictures?
- Because I do. I like them. Yes, I think they’re totally whacked-out and defy all my attempts at corralling them with logic, but I find them delightful in their nonsensicality (is that a word?).
- That last one wasn’t a question, sorry. Neither is this.
I guess that’s all I’ve got. My head is spinning. It’s South Beach Spinning. I feel high just from writing this blog. If anyone has more insight into these pictures (Croc — why!??!?!), or can tell me whether the person in charge of making them is OK, that would be great. I’m a little worried, a lot intrigued, and, at this point, very invested.
While I’m at it, a Hail Mary: If you’re the person responsible for these pictures and suddenly do want to talk, please, for the love of God, email me.
Update: Someone emailed me to point out to me that Croc actually does seem to appear in the Denver photo. I apologize for this oversight — I even obsessed over the picture before I published this, trying to find a hidden Croc, but I missed it. Thanks to reader Anthony Molea for the tip.