Legendary NFL quarterback Tom Brady is under fire (figuratively) for comparing football to combat. The only problem is, he didn't actually do that. So why the flak? U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton.
Just in case you haven’t been on the internet or within earshot of a disgruntled veteran in the past 24 hours, here’s some useless news you might have missed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady sparked immediate outrage earlier this week after comparing football to war during an episode of his Lets Go! podcast.
Naturally, Brady’s remarks were like red meat for talking heads and reporters. Some notable headlines and commentary include: "Tom Brady likens NFL to ‘going away on a deployment in the military’" (Military Times); “War is hell — and so is leaving for football, according to the NFL quarterback” (Today.com); and my personal favorite: "NFL World Tells Tom Brady To ‘Go F*ck Himself For Comparing NFL Season to Military Deployment" (Essentially Sports).
The ego! The audacity! The complete lack of respect for the very people who fought and died to protect his right to say something so incendiary and offensive! Too bad it's bullshit. Yup, Tom never said that. But don’t tell that to the various news outlets twisting his words into clickbait headlines aimed at pissing off veterans and driving traffic to their sites.
Look. I’m not a Bucs fan, nor am I particularly fond of Tom Brady. Tampa is way too balmy, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Brady is a robot. But I am a fan of the truth and calling out bullshit when I see it. So then, what did Brady say to cause all of this finger-wagging and pontificating about the frivolousness of professional football in a world where American soldiers are off fighting conflicts in distant lands?
When speaking with Jim Gray and Kevin Durant about work-life balance and the commitment required to stay competitive as an athlete, Brady said that he “almost” views a football season like a military deployment (key word: almost). The rationale behind Brady’s statement seems fairly obvious: Not unlike a military deployment, a season in the NFL is an all-encompassing, challenging experience stretched over an extended period of time, during which the players can focus on little else beyond the mission at hand. It was the best analogy Brady could come up with at that moment.
And here’s the thing: Brady did not actually compare football to war.
He said, "I almost look at like a football season like you're going away on deployment in the military, and it's like, man, here I go again."
And that’s fucking it. He never said that a football season is like going on a deployment. He never said football is like war. You and I both know what the guy is trying to say; he’s just not articulate enough to say it. You know damn well he doesn’t think football is just as physically and psychologically taxing as life-or-death combat, and even if he did, who gives a shit? Charlie Mike and get on with your life. Brady plays with (partially deflated) balls for a living. Good for him.
The real moral of this story is that it’s imperative that we learn to take people at what they said and not at what we think they said. When someone says they don’t like tacos, it doesn’t mean they hate Mexico; it just means that they shit their pants once after eating tacos. (Kidding; it means they don’t like tacos.)
See!? Tom did deploy! All jokes aside, wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a society where we decided what our words meant as opposed to other people telling us what they actually meant? It's like the whole world turned into my ex from high school. Hey Whitney, if you're reading this, I didn't call you fat. I just said those pants were a little tight around your cankles. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton.
It’s equally important for you as a consumer of information to take all forms of media that you read, see, and hear with a grain of salt — even this article. News is rarely objective, especially these days. Sift through and call out misrepresentations of material fact when you see it — such as a quote taken out of context — and be cautious about interpreting someone else's opinion as a fact.
The media is at least smart enough to know that remotely disparaging comments about US military veterans will ignite outrage and, subsequently, a shit ton of website traffic. If you’re a vet reading this, understand that these sites are poking you with a stick for their own benefit. Don’t buy it. Fuck those sites. Go to another site, like Coffee or Die Magazine for example, and get mad about something actually worthy of your righteous anger, like politicians blocking your benefits, VA employees murdering veterans, Russia bombing civilian targets in Kyiv, or how objectively terrible my jokes are.
Read Next: Behind the Photo: The ‘Heroic Beauty’ on Omaha Beach
Eric Miller is a former Army Combat Medic from Parkersburg, West Virginia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and has worked with homeless populations and veteran services throughout the state. He is an avid outdoorsman and has recently become interested in woodworking.
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