You don’t win four Super Bowls without knowing how to read a defense and a crowd. Which is exactly why Tom Brady wore those ridiculous shield-like sunglasses to the MVP ceremony before Super Bowl 50 on Sunday.
Clearly, the Pats QB and three-time Super Bowl MVP knew he was going to get booed. Fervently. Enthusiastically. Why else would he stride onto the field looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator”?
For those who missed it: Prior to kickoff, the NFL gathered dozens of MVPs from Super Bowls past, giving the Levi’s Stadium crowd of 65,000 a chance to applaud politely while gulping the first of their $13 Bud Lights. Many football greats were there: Joe Montana, Lynn Swann, John Elway, Jerry Rice, among others.
So was Brady, of course, outfitted in a gorgeous navy suit, white dress shirt (no tie), fringy haircut, and a pair of bad-guy shades that said, “I’ll be back.”
He had to know that the Super Bowl crowd would boo and heckle him about Deflategate or headset-gate or whatever-gate till the taps ran dry. But it didn’t matter. Because next season — unlike Peyton Manning (most likely) and the bulk of those other MVPs — Brady will be back.
Sunday wasn’t the first time that Brady has let his clothing do the talking. Like that day last May when Brady helicoptered into Salem State University amid the craziness of Deflategate and the Wells report for an interview with Jim Gray. The QB was, a bit shockingly, the picture of regal cool: shirt open at the collar, summery trousers, and sunglasses, tipped with gold.
Had he just arrived from his buddy Donald Trump’s Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago? Did he have a care in the world? Who knew? No. 12 wasn’t giving anything away.
Months earlier, after winning Super Bowl XLIX, Brady made another statement, dressing for a press conference in snowy white garb — a man seemingly unsullied by the allegations of ball tampering that were then swirling around the Pats. In the midst of the media crush, Brady smiled sweetly for the cameras as he (and Roger Goodell) held the shiny Pete Rozelle Trophy.
He’s had ample opportunity to perfect his sartorial communication over the years. When he wanted to look bro-ish and carefree throwing out the first pitch at Fenway last April, he went with a backward baseball cap and oversize Ray-Ban-style sunnies. Chic but casual at the Kentucky Derby in 2012? White slacks, black-on-black shirt and tie, low-key aviators. Can’t-touch-this cool at the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in Vegas? Black leather jacket, black V-neck tee, and sunglasses — indoors, of course.
But back to the booing. Before the big game, Jim Gray asked Brady in a radio interview if he saw himself as one of football’s greats.
“This is a helluva question and I wouldn’t put myself there,” Brady said before lauding his football hero, Montana. “The style and the grace and the beauty of what Joe’s style was, it never looked hard for Joe.”
In truth, it doesn’t look that hard for Brady either. Which is one reason the Super Bowl crowd booed him so lustily — “Terminator” shades or not.
Hayley Kaufman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.