One of the great truisms of all time is that there is often a close relationship between genius and madness. For example, Van Gogh is the most beloved great painter who ever lived, but he saw the world through the prism of his tortured soul, cut off his own ear to get a woman's attention and took his own life. Mozart is the most celebrated composer who ever lived, when he wasn't writing Leck mich im A[rsch] g'schwindi, g'schwindi! ("Lick me in the arse, quickly! quickly!"). Salvador Dali was an influential Existentialist artist who kept a detailed journal of every poop he ever took. As they put it in "This is Spinal Tap," "There's a fine line between clever and stupid."
Which brings me to the now discontinued cartoon Tom Brady used to post on his Instagram after Patriots wins, "TB Times." Which were, at once, genius, madness, clever and stupid. The odd, cryptic symbolism. The seemingly nonsensical themes. The total non-sequitor of having a crocodile in them, which became so popular among obsessives like me that "Croc" started being included in every one of them.
TB Times is one of the forgotten legacies of his 20 years in New England, just not by me. Or by Charlotte Wilder of Fox Sports, who was actually more obsessed with them than I was apparently. And who just posted an exhaustively researched investigation into them, including talking directly to the creative geniuses/madmen behind it. Seriously, if it wasn't for the terrible inappropriateness of the analogy, I'd compare the journalism on display here to the work done in "Spotlight." So instead I'll say for TB Times-philes like myself, it's like a written version of a good documentary. "Tiger King" or "McMillions" or something.
I won't even hint at getting into the depths of this thing. I'll just summarize by saying the masterminds of TB Times were Brady's creative team, Jeff Fine, Dean Krupka, Ben Rawitz and Kevin Bonner. And they explain the feature's inspiration, evolution and its ultimate sad, all too early demise.
A few highlights:
--It began with Brady's crew putting together photoshopped posts like his instant classics with the eagles on his arm or him as the Hump Day camel. But they wanted something more cohesive. So they came up with a fake illustrated newspaper. And since it was 2016, a year that will only be remembered for electing trump and slingshotting cartoon birds at pigs, the solution was obvious:
“It was about finding a cool storyline for that week,” Krupka said. “And trying to create this incarnation of the other team. Tom saw it as a way to highlight the players around him, to bring some attention to the other folks as well.”
--Then came the first appearance of the crocodile, which made narrative sense since it was after a win at New Orleans.
“Everyone seemed to like Croc,” Fine said. “We decided at that point it would be fun to try to switch it up and try this comics format, which was an interesting experiment. [Croc] would be a perfect narrator to tie these together and tell a story here, because there’s not a lot of space to tell a story.”
--Until it didn't. But he stayed.
“We really were just in a basement,” Fine said, laughing. “Me and Dean would be on the phone, because he was in California, but in general a bunch of my friends and I lived in a house at the period of time in Brighton. We called it Funkoland Theater. At one point we had 12 people living there, but it was usually more like six.”
--Then there was the time they threw in Nellie the Narwhal, who was basically to TB Times what Poochie was to Itchy & Scratchy.
“I was moving apartments,” Krupka said. “So that was the dip in quality you saw that week.”
“We were like, this is not good,” Fine added. “But we have to finish it.”
--And then there was the last edition, after the victory over the Jaguars in the 2017 AFC championship game. Which, if we're being honest, when it comes to final installment in a series, wasn't exactly the finale of "Breaking Bad."
My guess is that after putting up 505 yards in a losing effort two weeks later against the Eagles, Brady wasn't feeling it any more. For all we know, discontinuing TB Times might have been the first signal that this was the beginning of the end of his time in New England. I just know I missed these bizarre treasures during his last two seasons here.
I'm just skimming the surface of the deep dive that is taking place here. Check it out and see for yourself what kind of analysis (psychoanalysis?) went into it. It's certainly more than I ever did on the subject. And maybe, just maybe, as he goes into semi-retirement in Tompa Bay, Brady will be inspired to bring it back. I can dream.