Ryan L. Fox
On March, while the sports world was on hold, ESPN launched a documentary series about NBA legend and ‘GOAT’ Michael Jordan. Titled the ‘Last Dance’, it was a 10-episode series that unveiled the behind-the-scenes moments of his Airness during his playing days with the Chicago Bulls during their dynasty in the 1990s, cumulating with his final season and 6th title during the 1997-98 NBA season, as well as a behind-the-scenes glimpse of those 90s Bulls teams. It was well received with audiences in the United States and ESPN was able to enjoy a great amount of success in TV ratings.
Seeing success of the Last Dance, another ‘GOAT’ has decided to launch his own multi-episode documentary series about to document his own behind-the-scenes moments of his team’s, or rather former team’s, title runs. That GOAT is former New England Patriots and now current Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady.
It was announced back in late May that ESPN along with Brady’s filming company, 199th Productions, and Brady’s arts & entertainment partner Gotham Chopra, of Religion of Sports, would collaborate on a 9-episode documentary series called The Man in the Arena: Tom Brady. Set to be released in 2021, each episode of the documentary would be an episode dedicated to each of Brady’s 9 Super Bowl runs with the New England Patriots, following the quarterback during his behind behind-the-scenes moments of each season.
But with that announcement comes the question that a majority of people are asking.
Why is Brady releasing another behind-the-scenes multi-episode documentary about himself?
For those who are unfamiliar, Brady had already a multi-episode documentary with Chopra called Tom vs. Time back in early 2018 that aired on Facebook Watch. Filmed during the 2016 season, it essentially gave an inside look into Tom’s personal life at home as well as his off-season football training regimen that he does.
I will admit, I am not the biggest Brady fan. I do, however, respect what he has accomplished on the field through his many accolades and awards as well as his contributions to charity off the field. I consider him to be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play and a game-changer. That being said, I have my doubts when it comes to this new, upcoming documentary of his.
First off, the premise seems a little tacky. According to multiple reports, the premise of The Man in the Arena is simply Brady’s rise from being the 199th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft to being one of the greatest QBs in NFL history. In short, it’s pretty much a ‘Tom vs. The Doubters’ documentary. At this point, he’s just spitting into the wind. We are constantly reminded of how he was drafted 199th overall in 2000. We are constantly reminded of all of Brady’s accomplishments during his NFL career (multiple MVPs and All-Pro honors, named to 2 All-Decade NFL Team for 2000s and 2010s, top 3 in practically every quarterback statistic, 6 Super Bowl titles). At some point, the ‘me vs. the doubters’ and the ‘look at how I rose up from nothing’ narrative for Brady will get stale. Hard to say ‘Oh it’s me against my doubters’ if you are referred to as the GOAT.
Second, I question the content of the documentary. Not the legitimacy of his accomplishments but what is he going to cover that hasn’t already been covered in previous team documentaries and books. What I mean by this is that over the course of Brady’s playing career in New England, there have been many ‘behind-the-scenes’ books have been written by sportswriters (i.e. Five/Six Rings: The Super Bowl History of the New England Patriots by Jerry Thorton) and documentaries of the team (i.e. ‘Do You Job’). Plus you have NFL’s own documentary series America’s Game that gives people an insight of Super Bowl winning team’s season the year that they won. More likely than not, Man in the Arena will follow the same trend but through Tom Brady’s eyes. If you were hoping to see in-depth looks at Spygate in 2007, Deflategate in 2014 and the following suspension for Brady in 2016, Malcolm Butler’s benching in 2017, and the fall out between Tom and Bill in 2018, you might as well just tune in to a random sports talk radio show and hear their theories of what went down in each of those moments.
Third, what content will Brady be willing to share. As most Patriots fans should know, the only other person in the Patriots organization besides Bill Belichick that most people can’t get a good sound byte from is Tom Brady. He’s always said the ‘right things’ during team press conferences or during his scripted interviews with Jim Gray on Westwood One Sports. Not to mention that anytime he says or hints at anything, there always seems to be a statement or him coming out to say that ‘oh, that meant nothing’ like minutes later. At least with the Last Dance, you got a glimpse/idea of what Jordan was like behind closed doors.
Fourth, who is going to be in this documentary? Without even guessing, it’ll probably be the same usual suspects in this documentary. You’ll probably see the Kraft family (Robert and John), former teammates he’s been friendly with over the years (i.e. Willie McGinnest, Randy Moss, Matt Cassell, Julian Edelman), former and current coaches (i.e. Josh McDaniels, possibly Charlie Weis, and possibly maybe potentially Bill Belichick), some opposing players and coaches that he’s played against over the years (i.e. Peyton Manning or a Rex Ryan), Boston media people (i.e. Scott Zolak, Marc Bertrand, Michael Holley, Bob Ryan), and maybe (but perhaps unlikely) NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. More likely than not, whatever anybody says will fall under the narrative of ‘Tom was a good competitor/teammate/leader that changed the quarterback position, etc.’ instead of giving some real raw emotion on how they really felt about TB12.
Lastly, will we truly see the what really went on with the player-coach relationship between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? Will we see how Tom reacted when Bill essentially dropped practically the entire weight of Deflategate onto Tom? Will we see whether or not Tom really influenced the Garropolo trade? Will we see their fallout in 2018? Will we see Bill get vilified the way former Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause got vilified in The Last Dance? Hell, will we even see Bill in the documentary at all?
It will be another year before it comes out. Still, will it captivate people like The Last Dance outside of the New England area? Or will it end up being the AAF & XFL of football player documentaries where it’ll be interesting the first two episodes and then just be one giant ‘meh’ for the rest of the way? We really know for sure until it comes out in 2021.
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