Tom Brady announced he was retiring this week. Again. He did this once before, last February, and then he promptly un-retired, but this time, he swears he means it.
It’s suspicious timing, if you ask me: This news arrives just as a major motion picture centered on a lightly fictionalized Brady is set to hit theaters. 80 for Brady, out Friday, is the story of a group of older female friends and unlikely football fans, played by an all-star cast of Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno, and Lily Tomlin, who make it their mission to see Brady play in 2017’s Super Bowl LI. As soon as I saw the trailer, I was perplexed. It wasn’t just the football as a backdrop for a bawdy comedy about aging ladies—it was the idea that any group of people would bond over their fandom of Tom Brady, specifically.
I’m not much for sports, but I do know that Brady’s golden-boy days are long behind him. He originally played for the University of Michigan and the New England Patriots, so if you’re from Michigan or Boston, I would probably give you a pass for continuing to root for him after Deflategate (or, more damning to me, the whole Bridget Moynahan situation). But Brady left the Patriots in 2020, and the amount of people on Team Brady had seriously dwindled by his Tampa Bay Buccaneers days. I know football fans didn’t appreciate his 2022 retirement reversal. His wife of 13 years didn’t seem to, either: Model Gisele Bündchen publicly questioned his decision to play another season, and the news of their divorce came not long after. I don’t follow these things closely, but I’m told his final season was a disappointment to say the least. Plus, part of the plot of the movie is that all the ladies are horny for Brady? When’s the last time you heard anyone talk about being hot for this guy? The only chatter about his looks I’ve seen lately is people speculating on whether he got his buccal fat removed.
So whose idea was it to make a movie about what a cutie patootie, gifted athlete, and all-around great fella Brady is? I got my answer a few minutes into an 80 for Brady screening. As the opening credits rolled, there it was: “Produced by Tom Brady.” It suddenly all made sense. I was about to watch a propaganda film designed to convince me that Tom Brady wasn’t a guy who blew up his personal life and insisted on playing his sport past his glory days despite already having more money and Super Bowl rings than he knew what to do with. In fact, this film was ready to show me, he is a very nice man who even some of America’s most distinguished and beloved actresses hold in high esteem. It’s one thing to peddle this sort of puffery—which, lest we forget, is also part of a much larger machine of brainwashing about the NFL as an institution—but to use Rita Moreno and Lily Tomlin as human shields? I will not tolerate it.
The movie is loosely based on a true story of a group of women who formed an “Over 80 for Brady” club. Why the movie decided to drop the word over from its title is another discussion. 80 for Brady doesn’t actually make sense as a phrase—I thought the movie might be about one of the women celebrating her 80th birthday at the Super Bowl, which still wouldn’t make a ton of sense (and for which I would offer the alternative title A Very Brady 80). But no, it’s just that some of them are in their 80s, and they like Brady. And not all of the main characters in the movie have even reached 80 yet, as Field’s character points out. (If I were Field, who is 76 in real life, I probably would have insisted on doing the same.) The characters supposedly started their group 20 years ago, when Brady was a new player and none of them would have been in their ninth decade yet, so there’s really no reason that they would call themselves “80 for Brady.” Tom, I know this is your first time producing a movie, but this is just sloppy.
Brady—who, I should point out, in all likelihood probably had very little to do with making this movie—did get a few things right, and as agitprop goes, the movie isn’t a terrible time. Field, Fonda, Moreno, and Tomlin are fun to watch, even when the movie’s plot makes very little sense and I have the feeling that there’s something patronizing about our society’s embrace of the “old ladies ‘n’ hijinks” genre. I did not like watching Brady, who appears several times in the film, offer inspirational advice (“You fight and you never give up”), but I am not immune to the charms of Moreno getting high and hallucinating that she is playing a poker game against a gaggle of people who all have Guy Fieri’s face. Notice how that has nothing to do with football.
With Brady retiring for real, I can already sense some of the animosity toward him fading away: His former team wants to invite him back with a one-day contract, so he can retire as a Patriot. Even Gisele seems to be softening toward him. And here’s this reputation-laundering movie just a few days later. (I wonder if there was an earlier cut of this movie that Gisele appeared in and had to be edited out of.) Well, I’m not buying it. I know you get away with everything, Tom, but you’re not gonna get away with making a movie about how great you are without getting a little shit for it, even if it’s just from me.