Brady can rest easy about legacy
In 1967, a 30-second TV ad cost US$42,000 for Super Bowl I. Trumpeter Al Hirt was the half-time entertainment. The TV ratings were not good, particularly in the host city of Los Angeles where the game was blacked out because it was not sold out. But for NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, this was a seminal moment in American sports and he knew it. A detente had finally been reached between the established NFL and the upstart AFL and Rozelle, in what seemed like a fit of hyperbole at the time, claimed this would eventually be a defining day, the biggest on the sporting calendar.
Forty-five years later a 30-second ad costs US$3.5 million and Madonna, aided by a cast of hundreds, did the half-time show. Nostradamus had nothing on Rozelle. Today this football game is every bit as important to the ad industry on Madison Avenue as it is to the men wearing pads on the field. And I guess some careers could be made or shattered in the ad agencies on Super Bowl Sunday. But only on the football end are legacies crafted during the Super Bowl, fair or not.
In the legacy game, the grandeur of the moment defines the man and no man was under more scrutiny coming into Super Bowl XLVI than New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Since his collaboration with coach Bill Belichick began 12 years ago, in three of Brady's first four years as a starter they won the Super Bowl. That kind of early success was unheard of and could not help but inspire all-time great comparisons.
But after destroying the entire NFL in 2007 and winning 18 straight games, the duo came up short in the Super Bowl and were upset by the New York Giants. Four years later the Patriots were back to face those same Giants and everywhere you turned all of the media pundits were declaring that this game would define Brady's legacy.
But what about Madonna's legacy? Certainly that had to be at stake. Despite the massive audience, no act since U2 at Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 has used the opportunity to propel themselves into another stratosphere because of their riveting performance. Since that time The Who were inaudible, the Rolling Stones flat out awful and the Black Eyed Peas eminently forgettable.
This time around it seemed like pretty standard Madonna fare and nothing to propel the close to 200 million watching worldwide to run out and say I must buy tickets for her upcoming tour! But while the number of viewers watching the game in the US was 110 million, during Madonna's performance it rose to 114 million. That's quite a legacy in itself and although her performance was somewhat lacklustre, every ticket for her upcoming tour will still be sold so her reputation was never in jeopardy.
A few minutes before she took the stage, Brady had led the Patriots to a late touchdown and a 10-9 half-time lead. The Pats would get the ball back to start the second half and Brady seemed to be getting comfortable in both his play and the notion of another title. Was it really only seven years ago that at the tender age of 27 and with three Super Bowls championships already in his pocket that he was only getting started on a career which was certain to establish him as the greatest quarterback ever?
Since then he married statuesque Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen and appeared four times on the cover of GQ. He was rich, boyishly handsome and had all the glitterati begging to hang out with him. His was the life most men dreamed of having. But as a football player he felt empty without his fourth Super Bowl ring and on this day he would get no closer as Giants quarterback Eli Manning led them to a come-from-behind victory, again.
Brady's legacy was quickly recorded; his big-game magic was officially gone according to one and all. And maybe it has passed him by. These moments are fleeting, the opportunities rare. He will be 35 soon and searching for his first title in eight years. Belichick is not yet 60 and can roam the sidelines for a good while longer. Tommy's clock is ticking though.
But legacies are all relative. Last year Brady's wife earned US$45 million so it's kind of nice to make US$13 million a year playing football and not even be the breadwinner in your household. And how many multimillion-dollar athletes can look in the mirror and say with absolute certainty: She didn't marry me for my money. That's not a bad legacy to have.
Maybe this is all just good old karmic retribution catching up to him for having so much. I mean, there can't be anything Brady does not have that he wants, other than another Super Bowl ring and there are only two quarterbacks who have four. Brady is simply one of the greatest to ever play by any standard. That much is certain. And while it is little consolation, he certainly had a much better game than Madonna.