Well, that didn’t take long, just a matter of firing up the Zoom machine and asking Tom Brady a question. Now that he has established he can obliterate the laws of time and reach a Super Bowl at age 43, might he play beyond 45?
“Definitely,” he said Monday. “I’d definitely consider that.”
Hell, why not 50? Sixty? One hundred, even? Isn’t this the first athlete we’ve ever encountered who makes us wonder, “Hmmm, might he live forever? Will he never have to worry about obesity, memory loss, colonoscopies, diabetes and erectile dysfunction? Will he never slurp soup or need an adult diaper?”
As we chuckle in awe of the man, having left our doubts and insults far behind, Brady immediately was seizing early control of the most monumental quarterbacking matchup in Super Bowl history. Rather than cede ground in the inescapable reality that he is 18 years older than his similarly transcendent counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, Brady doubled down on a once-preposterous notion: that he can play at a high level, alter a franchise culture and compete for a championship at an age when most quarterbacks are retirees who limp around the backyard, attend autograph shows or, like Tony Romo and Drew Brees, settle for the catbird seat of the broadcast booth.
He isn’t viewing Sunday as his final game. He sees it as his seventh stop in the Vince Lombardi Trophy receiving line, with two or three more ahead. At this point, is anyone foolish enough to doubt him?
“The perspective I have on that is, you never know when that moment is. Just because it’s a contact sport,” explained Brady, who had a stylin’ thirtyish pompadour going as he spoke to the national media. “There’s a lot of training that goes into it. And it has to be 100 percent commitment from myself to keep doing it. I think I’ll know when it’s time. I don’t know when that time will come. But I think I’ll know. And I’ll understand that I gave everything I could to give to this game. You put a lot into it. I don’t think I could ever go at this game half-ass. I’ve gotta put everything into it. When I put it all out there and feel like I can’t do it anymore — I don’t feel like I can commit to the team in the way that the team needs me — then I think that’s when it’s probably time to walk away.”
It was his way of saying, politely, that he has checked every box. With those observations, Brady has deftly one-upped Mahomes in a competition he is well-suited to winning as a veteran of 10 such media weeks — the Super Bowl mind game. He has flipped the narrative to where the pressure isn’t on him to win; it’s on Mahomes not to lose. Here we thought St. Patrick was just boarding the legacy speedtrain as he and the Chiefs attempt the NFL’s first repeat since Brady and the Patriots in 2005. At 25, doesn’t he have 15 more years to mesmerize us with eyeball-glazing dazzle, playground-dirt fun, Super Bowls, MVPs, a boyishly humble sensibility and a strong social presence that helped Roger Goodell finally acknowledge that Black Lives Matter? My God, isn’t he just getting started on one of the notable sports careers ever?
Apparently not. If you listen to Romo, who might have downed one too many espressos and read too many Wikipedia chess stories before a CBS media call, Mahomes must win Sunday … or else.
“This is the biggest game Patrick Mahomes will ever play in for the rest of his career,” Romo said. “It’s the only way he can catch Tom Brady. He has to win this game. If he loses this game, he cannot catch Tom Brady, in my opinion, because Tom Brady (is) Bobby Fischer, and you got a chance to play Bobby Fischer for the world championships.
“It’s LeBron versus Jordan. You know how hard it’s going to be for Patrick to play in 10 Super Bowls and win seven? I mean, with a perfect career, Patrick is the rare guy who might. But as long as he lost to Tom when Tom was older, he’d have to go to 12 Super Bowls and win nine. So I think this is the biggest game of Patrick Mahomes’ career. … Brady, I promise you, shuts the door if he wins this game. There’s almost no way you could ever argue if Tom Brady at 43 years old, turning back Father Time, beats Patrick Mahomes, who is the face of the NFL — and rightfully so — and who’s the only guy who could possibly climb the ladder. If Tom Brady closes that in this game, I just don’t see some other human being ever competing in 10 Super Bowls, winning seven and being able to say you’re better than Tom Brady.”
While the LeBron James-Michael Jordan analogy is apt — I can’t speak to Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen, also name-dropped by Romo — it’s a little loony to declare Mahomes must win or bury his head in the sand of St. Pete Beach. Is it his fault that Brady is nuts and wants to play pro football 20 or 25 years to win six or seven titles? And why would Mahomes share the desire to play into his mid-to-late 40s, having just signed a $500 million deal and maybe preferring more years with his family in midlife? Say Brady and the Buccaneers do win, giving him seven championships to Mahomes’ one. There are no definitives in the vague, subjective handbook of determining the greatest quarterback of all time. In my estimation, Mahomes could win, oh, four Super Bowls and still eclipse Brady as the G.O.A.T. if he: (1) keeps revolutionizing the position as a dual-threat magician who throws from all angles and escapes all predicaments; and (2) remains the all-time regular-season and postseason leader in passer rating, the NFL’s defining QB metric.
Romo’s comments smack of Dana White promoting a UFC event. In truth, a variety of elements are involved. Brady, as a pocket passer, was protected by offensive lines in New England and this season in Tampa Bay and gets rid of the ball quickly, thus reducing wear and tear. Mahomes, as an improvisational whirlwind, is vulnerable to injury, as seen this postseason with a concussion that knocked him out of the Cleveland game and an ongoing turf toe issue. If he continues to be injury-prone, will it diminish his legacy? Absolutely. And he’ll need the help of coach Andy Reid and owner Clark Hunt, late arrivals to the Super Bowl victory circle, to keep the Chiefs championship-competitive for the long term.
But can we please let this doubled-edged drama play out on Sunday, if not into the future, before declaring absolutes? Because if Mahomes and the Chiefs win — as I suspect they will, even as injuries deplete Kansas City’s starting tackles against Shaq Barrett and a fearsome pass rush — the Super Bowl scoreboard suddenly is 6-2. Mahomes would be 2 for 2, Brady 6 for 10. Which brings us to Jordan vs. James. Among the reasons Jordan always will remain the NBA’s G.O.A.T., even if James wins again this year with the Lakers and narrows the race to 6-5, is that he played in six Finals, won six Finals and won six Finals MVPs, for a 1.000 batting average. James has lost six times in the Finals. Such a matchup can happen only on video games, of course. Which is the beauty of Brady vs. Mahomes — a whopping age discrepancy suddenly doesn’t matter, the ultimate rarity in sports. We can compare eras, right there on a field. This is what Romo definitely gets as he blathers on.
“This is going to be one of the great matchups in sports history because it doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “This matchup is what you talk about with your friends when you talk about as if. Could you imagine if Michael Jordan got his team to the NBA Finals … when he was older against a young LeBron James, who’s the face of the league? It would be the greatest thing in the history of sports. I think we might actually have that Super Bowl. We might have that game. It just has never happened.
“You want to see this guy in his prime and this guy in his prime. It’s like Jack Nicklaus against Tiger Woods. There’s no comparison I could find in any sport, and I would love it if somebody could. The only thing I can think of is LeBron James chasing Michael Jordan. He’s spent his entire career chasing. Jordan set the bar so high, so LeBron has to be so amazing to get in the discussion — and he is. Somehow he’s put himself in the discussion. The fact that Patrick Mahomes is somehow even remotely in this discussion shows you how amazing this guy is. We all see it. When it’s all said and done, there’s a chance for Patrick Mahomes. If you’re playing in this game, this could be the thing if you get close to climbing that ladder; this game could push you over the top when it’s all said and done. To say you beat Brady in the Super Bowl head to head.”
Fair or far-fetched, the seed has been planted. Mahomes, still a kid who puts ketchup on most food items and demands the “Patrick Price” in State Farm ads, suddenly has to ponder legacy. The challenges are piling up — the Chiefs are the first road team in Super Bowl history, arriving in Tampa on Saturday — and Mahomes is facing crazy questions this week about trying to keep up with Brady’s longevity. Would he play until he’s 43 or older? You know, to try and surpass Brady’s Super Bowl ring total? This is Nicklaus vs. Woods stuff, but unlike the golfing majors count, football is a team sport that also depends on how a quarterback’s defense and front office perform. It’s shallow to equate this as simply Brady vs. Mahomes, like a heavyweight fight in the day. But Mahomes is dealing with history nonetheless.
“I want to play as long as they let me,” he said Monday. “In order to do that, I have to take care of my body as much as I take care of everything else on the field. If you want to play this sport for a long time, how physical as it is, you have to invest as much time into your body as you do anything else. I’ve learned more and more in my young career so far about what I can do to keep myself available and healthy and try to be in the best nutritional state I can be in. I feel like I can be better.”
Such are the pressures created by Brady’s unprecedented career. Now that he’s taken down his forerunners and contemporaries — from Joe Montana to Peyton Manning to Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game — he eyes the new kid. Having attained all the fame, wealth and all-time status he could want, you’d think Brady would stop exacting revenge against career slights. He has won all of those wars, hasn’t he? But he still thinks he’s the 199th pick in the draft. Or the guy accused of deflating balls. Or a lucky beneficiary of the Bill Belichick system. Thus, though he understands his place in the sporting pantheon, he refuses to settle.
“I could never have imagined it would be like this. I don’t think anybody could have,” Brady said. “(I’ve) tried to go play my ass off every week. I’m still trying to do it. This work for me has never been about — I would have thought that success is passing yards or touchdowns or Super Bowls — it was always maximizing my potential, being the best I could be. When I showed up as a freshman in high school, I didn’t know how to put pads in my pants. I was just hoping to play high school football because I wanted to be like Joe Montana and Steve Young. And then when I got a chance in college, I just wanted to play at Michigan. When I got drafted by the Patriots, I just wanted to play, I just wanted to start. It’s just been a series of steps like that of trying to be a little better every year, trying to learn a little more every year, trying to grow and evolve in different areas.
“My life has taken certainly a lot of different directions. I’m obviously older now. I’ve got a family. A lot of incredible blessings in my life. Fast-forward 21 years — sitting in Tampa and trying to win a Super Bowl in our own home stadium would be pretty sweet.”
Though Brady’s career has been marred by clouds, including Deflategate and the suspicious presence of personal trainer Alex Guerrero, the media are bowled over by the implausibility of it all — at 43, playing for the running-joke Buccaneers in a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Rather than starring in the league’s 55th movie, and one of its most captivating, Mahomes is treated like a supporting actor. He was asked, on Zoom, not about his massive achievements so far but about a loss to Brady in the 2018 AFC championship game … and how Brady stopped by the Kansas City locker room to offer encouragement.
“It was important because it showed I was doing things the right way,” Mahomes said. “As a young quarterback in this league, you show up early and you try to put in the time and put in the work. Him saying that he respected what I was doing and how I was playing on the field and the type of person I was, it kind of put a stamp on me that I needed to go in and be even better in order to get to the Super Bowl.
“He’s the same way I am. He’s going to leave everything he has on the field every single time he’s out there. He doesn’t care what it takes. He doesn’t care if he has to throw for 400 yards or if he has to throw for 100 yards. He wants to win. I feel like I have the same mentality. I just want to win no matter what happens or how it happens.”
Of course, the questions inevitably returned to Brady … and what Mahomes needs to borrow from him. At this point, I’d have excused myself, but this was not a UFC match. He had to be polite. “The way he’s able to dissect defenses before the snap is something I truly admire. I’m trying to get to that level,” Mahomes said. “The way he’s able to move within the pocket and be able to reset his feet and be completely calm and still make the throw right on the money no matter who’s around him — it’s something I can continue to work on. As I continue in my career, I’m just going to try to do whatever I can to watch the tape on him because he’s doing it the right way. You can tell by how many Super Bowl championships he has and the rings on his fingers.”
There is only one way, it seems, for Mahomes to flip a script that already is written. As the challenger, he must shock the world and beat the champ.
Except it wouldn’t be a shock. I’m expecting it.
Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable
After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.
Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.
Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.
The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)
OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.
What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY
Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.
This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.
I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.
I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.
What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.
I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.
“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”
Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.
“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “
“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”
OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.
However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.
“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.
“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”
Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.
That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.
Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”
I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.
I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.
I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.
By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”
Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:
Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”
If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.
Media Noise – Episode 75
A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.
Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM
Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.
Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.
I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future.
Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?
Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.
How is advertising on Bleav different?
We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content.
What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see?
The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space.
SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like?
We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?
There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple.
At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram.
If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.