SMOOTH SAILIN’: Packaging our pop culture for the people

My young cousin, Tristan, is still at the age when Christmas morning is a magical bacchanal of presents. He is a little old for all the Santa business but his little brother is still in the thick of it. So he plays along, thrilled with the the benefits of playing both sides of the fence.


This year, he got the present he really wanted: a popular Xbox video game that mimics games played in the NFL. He was beside himself and almost immediately drifted away into a screen based digital world.

This young man is a sports fan in a family full of sports fans. Tristan loves the players, goes carefully over the statistics from the games and even wears the shirts of his favorite players. My cousins live up near Atlanta which allows them to occasionally attend big stadium games. They cheer for the new professional soccer team and the Braves but their favorite is the Atlanta Falcons football team. It was a big deal last year when the Falcons made it all the way to the Super Bowl. They lost when the New England Patriots, fueled by legendary quarterback Tom Brady, mounted an unlikely comeback and beat the Falcons in the final seconds. It was tough on my little cousin.

So this year, a few days after the excitement of Christmas in a snowbound suburb of Atlanta, the family awoke to the hum of their father’s ancient printer machine slowly churning out paper. The copies filled the tray of the dusty machine; each had a picture of Falcon’s receiver Julio Jones. Tristan’s dad, who had been hoping for a little more sleep, just looked at his son with that look of bewilderment that only parents can muster.

Tristan explained that his new Xbox game was awesome but came with a big picture of Tom Brady on the cover.

“Dad, I just can’t look at Tom Brady’s face everyday,” Tristan told his father. Dad immediately understood and went back to bed.

I was thinking about my goofy sports-crazed cousins the other day when I thought I saw Tom Brady. I was driving west over the State Road 312 bridge and I resisted the temptation to pull in to the Harbor Freight parking lot. I inched up to the intersection with US 1 and was sitting in traffic by that ornately decorated Mexican restaurant on the corner. I looked up and there was Brady. I blinked my eyes and looked again at a billboard advertising a local wellness center. The doctor on the billboard was a dead ringer for Brady.

This is an interesting time of year, especially if you are a football fan. It seems like our resurgent Jaguars have drawn a lot of us in. When my young cousin tells me how much he hates the Patriots quarterback I set him straight. You can’t hate Tom Brady, he is a force of nature.

Tristan scoffs at me, of course, because he is one of the haters. There are vast legions of these Brady haters in America today. They don’t appreciate that one of the oldest players in the NFL can still drop back in the pocket, read a defense and throw a surgical pass to a receiver in micro seconds. I tell Tristan he is jealous that Brady wins. He tells me something I cannot repeat.

Sadly, this country is becoming more polarized as each day goes by. From sports to politics, we love this person or hate that person. Everything is apples and oranges, the substance involved doesn’t seem to matter as much as the packaging these days. What team you are on is suddenly more important than playing the game.

It makes sense to me that a local wellness center would put the face of a Brady doppelganger on their billboard. Aside from being the best quarterback to ever play the game, Brady is a handsome, well-mannered, all-American boy, married to a famous supermodel. I understand why a woman considering attending a wellness center might entertain the fantasy of Tom Brady taking very good care of her.

But I don’t think that billboard would play in my cousin’s neighborhood.

Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.

Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.