Does the Latest Antonio Brown Drama Prove the Patriots Were Right All Along About TB12 Fitness?

I think I speak for a lot of Patriots fans when I say we've always had a complicated relationship with Tom Brady and Alex Guerrero's little TB12 Fitness side hustle. 

On the one hand, you look at Brady doing the physically improbable at an utterly impossible age, and the results speak for themselves. If you saw, say, 2003 Brady, then went into a cryo-freeze pod for 18 years and looked at him again today, you'd assume medical science learned how to reverse the aging process while you were in stasis. And in his case, you wouldn't wrong. Not to mention I've spoken to people personally who got treatment for various soft-tissue injuries at the old TB12 next to Gillette and they swore by the results. 

So it was reasonable to accept that Brady and Guerrero were perhaps onto something. Even if there was an element of weirdness to it. With the $50 Plant-Based Electrolyte and Protein Bundle, the $150 Vibrating Sphere, and the Complete Home Gym Kit of resistance bands that starts at $450. Saying it sounds like a cult is harsh. Way too harsh. So instead I'll compare it to one of those obscure denominations that take up space in the shopping plaza where the K-Mart used to be. With names you've never heard of like The Calvary Fellowship Church of the Erroneous Supposition or something. Where the women all wear gingham dresses and bangs. The kind of place where you know they sell little jars with bone fragments of John the Baptist that if they ever put them all together would be enough to create a herd of Brachiosaurus skeletons. 

Sorry. That paragraph got away from me. 

Anyway, it's well documented that for the Patriots organization, TB12 Fitness was problematic. Outlets like the Boston Globe were constantly implying that Brady having a business venture on the property was tantamount to violating the salary cap, and therefore cheating. Guerrero had full access to the team facilities and a seat on AirKraft One for road games. But then reportedly started overstepping his boundaries by contradicting what the team medical staff (estimated budget of $2 million) was advising. It's common knowledge Gronk was frustrated with the surgical procedures he got earlier in his career and became a TB12 apostle. And when Bill Belichick called him out for all the weight he'd dropped in training camp, Gronk resented it and was miserable from then on.

Eventually, The Pliability War ended in an armistice. A truce that was likely negotiated by Mr. Kraft got him back on the plane, probably in exchange for his pledge to skate his own lane. And he even got a ring for helping to win Super Bowl LIII or something:

Which brings us to present day. Now that Antonio Brown decided he hadn't made enough news so he released texts between him and Guerrero demanding a partial refund of his TB12 gym membership:

On this morning's Toucher & Rich show, Albert Breer said he was at Tampa's training camp and reported there were no less than 27 Buccaneers players that were signed onto TB12. Twenty seven! Assuming they all paid the same up front fee that Brown did, that's 27 X $100,000 = $2.7 million, just from Brady's teammates alone. (Note: I belong to a national chain that charges me 10 bucks a month with no annual fee and I can cancel at any time. For a hundred grand I'd demand the Captain America Super-Soldier Serum and look like Chris Evans for eternity. Or Tom Brady.) Which begs the question, how sketchy is this arrangement?

Sure, you can argue it's all voluntary and no Buc is forced to join. But is it? When you've got a player setting himself up in this business once he retires (in 20 years), isn't it a conflict of interest that he's getting his teammates to buy in? Doesn't that seem coerced? Especially given that he's the guy who decides who gets the ball, who reaches their incentive bonuses and so on? I mean, if there are two bottom of the depth receivers in camp fighting for one roster spot, one has a TB12 card on the key ring in his locker and the other decided to save his money and stick with what the team trainers set up for him, do we just assume Brady's not going to target the former over the latter? It sounds a little:

Giphy Images.

He might not favor one over the other. But that goes against human nature. Like expecting a politician is going to treat a campaign donor and a non-donor equally when they have some zoning dispute. And for the vast majority of NFL players, $100,000 is a ton of money. 

If nothing else, Brown losing what little is left of his shit and demanding his money back from Brady and Guerrero does shine a brighter light on how weird, incestuous, and maybe unethical the whole arrangement is. It's like having a boss who'd "like" you to help her daughter win the trip to Six Flags by selling the most Scholastic Books. Except "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" costs half your salary. No pressure, though. Just because 26 of your co-workers have placed orders. It won't affect promotions any. …

For almost two years, it's looked like the Patriots lost The Pliability War. Brady and Gronk are happy and have another ring and Guerrero it free to practice his, take your pick:

  • A) Groundbreaking advancements in sports medicine
  • B) Quackery

… wherever and however he wants. And if it creates an uneasy situation for the rest of the team, the Bucs organization will take that trade off. I'm just saying that history might be kinder to the Pats in the long run. This arrangement seems destined to blow up sooner or later. And it won't go off in the face of anyone in Foxboro. We may even decide that New England eventually won in this war. Stay tuned.