Tom Brady's 600th Touchdown Ball and Other Sports Ephemera
NFL Week 8 - Andrew: Hello and welcome to another edition of Scramble for the Ball, where this week finds your humble Scramblenauts crossing yet another boundary of nerddom as we try to put a price on things money can't buy.
Bryan: The Buccaneers' 38-3 win over the Bears was pretty void of drama on the field, but there was plenty of drama off of it. During the game, Tom Brady became the first quarterback to ever throw 600 touchdown passes. He also became the first quarterback to ever throw 599 touchdown passes and 601 touchdown passes, but because we live in a decimalized world, the big round number felt more important. Well, at least it did to everyone but Mike Evans, who caught that touchdown and then promptly tossed the ball into the stands to a fan who clearly had spent the morning picking four-leaf clovers and polishing horseshoes.
Andrew: Just as an aside, throwing the ball into the crowd is another one of those celebratory traditions that never quite made sense to me, as a complete outsider. In baseball, at least, I understand that a home run almost by definition means the ball is landing in the bleachers, where a random fan is likely going to get his mitts on it. In football, the only player who is regularly throwing the ball into the crowd is Jameis Winston targeting a go route. It's an oopsie, not a feature of the game.
Bryan: Well, people do like their souvenirs, and while a game-used football isn't something I'm particularly interested in, I get liking to have something tangible to memorialize an experience. Generally, I like it when the balls go to little kids rather than adults, but I get wanting to have something a little special. And, unlike the 1940 NFL Championship Game, it's not like the game is going to run out of footballs, so no harm, no foul.
Unless, of course, that ball was special in some way. Pity the poor Buccaneers staffer who had to go up to the crowd and ask for the ball back, or the assistant coach who had to tell Evans what he had just done.
Mike Evans' reaction after realizing he gave away Tom Brady's 600th TD ball pic.twitter.com/0LSuLYjnvR
— NFL on CBS 🏈(@NFLonCBS) October 24, 2021
Andrew: It turns out, the Pro Football Hall of Fame would be really interested in having that ball, given the sheer roundness of the numbers involved.
Bryan: And speaking of sheer round numbers, a lot of people apparently were interested in having that ball. A sports memorabilia expert told the UPI that the ball would be worth "at least" $500,000, considering that Brady's first touchdown ball went for $430,000 earlier this year. Now, obviously, someone who sells sports memorabilia has a lot to gain by saying sports memorabilia is worth a ton of money; it's priming his audience to be prepared to spend a lot of cash. It's just like how we're assuring you that this article will be humorous in some way—it's a very clever deception we're getting away with here.
Andrew: It pains me to report that the sums of money involved in our deception pale in comparison to the sums involved in his. Though if I can interest anybody in a game-worn Football Outsiders t-shirt, please do feel free to ask me for PayPal details. I'll even sign it, or indeed not sign it if that increases its value.
Bryan: There has been a lot of discussion on what the fan should have done once he realized that he got the golden ticket, as it were. Mike Florio led the pack saying that the fan should have taken the ball, left the stadium, and held it for ransom/auctioned it off. Even Brady himself, during the Manningcast, noted that the fan lost all his leverage as soon as he handed the ball back to a Buccaneers staffer, promises of future goodies be damned. I get the argument, as well as the "hey, that rich and famous person wouldn't do something nice for you" counter-argument, but eh, I don't know. It feels like the ones beating the drum the loudest that the fan was ripped off would be most at home tying damsels to railroad tracks.
Andrew: There's quite a lot of moving parts to that discussion. Our lucky fan had leverage, sure, but he is also a fan of the team and that gives the team leverage over him. In isolation, the rewards he gained were not too shabby. Not half a million dollars, right enough, but still a heck of a profit for a guy who paid to get in.
Bryan: In particular, the rewards were:
- Two signed jerseys and a helmet from Brady.
- A signed jersey and game-worn cleats from Evans.
- $1,000 credit at the team store.
- Two season tickets for the remainder of 2021 and all of 2022.
He's also getting a Bitcoin from Brady himself (or, rather, from Brady's sponsors), which at time of writing is worth $62,000, and by the time you're reading, will be worth $90,000. Or $30,000. Or $2.7 million. Or 27 cents. Or somewhere in that range.
Andrew: As I said, a nice haul for a guy who paid to get in. There's a tricky balance to strike between making sure you get something worthwhile without pricing yourself out of getting anything at all. I do think I'd have held out for lifetime season tickets. Then promptly died in a car wreck, thus guaranteeing me immortality on Alanis Morissette's next live album. The memorabilia is nice and all, but the ball is a once-in-a-lifetime reward and needs a once-in-a-lifetime substitute.
Bryan: It helps that there's some cash coming his way. With just what the team offered him, I think I'd agree that the reward wasn't enough, unless they could somehow guarantee that one of those season tickets was a Super Bowl victory. I don't think I've ever, in my life, owned $1,000 worth of team merchandise, and I have not exactly felt put out by the experience. But when you add five figures to the haul, then I'd be happier with the outcome.
Andrew: I also wonder whether he could parlay that into some further profit down the line. I'm thinking some kind of "there are some things in life money can't buy" tagline, as was used by a certain large payment processor in the recent past.
Bryan: Really, the one thing it sounds like he regrets is a lack of personal contact with Brady himself—he has asked for a round of golf with him and heard nothing. I don't play golf, and I have no interest in it, but I get the desire there. Season tickets, the Bitcoin, and the ability to hand the ball to Brady and talk to him for 15 minutes would hit that "money can't buy" note for me.
Andrew: That's the sort of thing, yeah. You can buy signed memorabilia. You can buy season tickets. You can even buy Bitcoin if you happen to be clinically insane. (Yes, I'm kicking myself for passing on the craze in the early 2000s when I had the chance.) A round of golf with Brady lands in an entirely different price range. Heck, even pitch-n-putt would do it for me, though I say that as a very determined non-golfer.
Bryan: And, look, I get what Florio and the others are saying about punting too easily on a potential six-figure payday (I'm trying to buy a house over here, and a few hundred grand would make my life significantly easier), but it's those things that simply aren't available that mean more to me in a case like this. I don't care about Brady's 600th ball, any more than I care about his 400th or 800th or 323rd. And even if I were a Brady fan or a Buccaneers fan, I think I'd feel the same way. Give me something in return that I can't otherwise get—and, admittedly, a decent chunk of the raw value, cause man, I've got bills to pay—and I'll gladly do a "bad deal," especially for a windfall I had no way of expecting.
I'm perverse, in the sense that I'd much rather have something much less valuable but unique. The sharpie that T.O. used to sign the ball. The $3 check the NFL had to pay the USFL when they lost the antitrust lawsuit. Tom Landry's hat!
Andrew: I have a friend whose prized piece of NFL memorabilia is a Tennessee Oilers hat, from the time between the relocation and the rebrand. A little less unique, but in a similar vein. It's the uniqueness that makes it special, rather than just another signed jersey or whatever.
Bryan: I've got a number of old board games and whatnot from the 1970s that kind of hit that same itch—it's a piece of the past, something that doesn't really exist anymore that triggers those same kind of nostalgia buttons for me, despite the fact that I wasn't alive for the period they're nostalgifying. I'm still trying to convince the Powers That Be to play a game of NFL Strategy on the FO livestream; I've even got the original version with the spring-loaded decision-making bead that they stopped making because it was expensive and impractical. Maybe this offseason. But that's the kind of stuff I care a lot more about than an autographed picture or something.
Then again, I'm weird. That's why I'm writing Scramble.
Andrew: I take it the reason you went with NFL Strategy instead of Blood Bowl is that the in-season roster progression in Blood Bowl reminded you too closely of the recent 49ers?
Bryan: Could be worse. I could bust out the ol' Electric Football and be reminded of the carefully organized offensive structure of the recent Seahawks.
Andrew: Did they have electricity when the Pete Carroll Seahawks were devising their offensive scheme?
Bryan: It predates the invention of the quarterback, as does Carroll's general philosophy!
What about you; do you have any weird football stuff? I imagine it's much harder to find in the UK without a big pool of garage sales to pilfer from football fans of 50 years ago (sorry, "car boot sales" and "47 pounds and three shillings" ago.)
Andrew: I do have a 1990s-era Scottish Claymores jersey, which I wore in my debut appearance on the FO livestream. For some reason, I have a Drew Bledsoe Patriots jersey and an AFC Champions January 1997 commemorative t-shirt. My dad spent a few weeks that January working in Acton, Massachusetts, and apparently they were sold out of Ninja Turtles. Beyond that, only really some Buccaneers flags and paraphernalia from the Wembley game against the Patriots. Most of the actual memorabilia I have is either from soccer or music. As you astutely note, there's not quite as much opportunity over here to pick up football trinkets. My friend with the Tennessee Oilers hat has been married to a woman from Nashville since long before the Titans relocated.
Bryan: I've been trying to think about what I would want the most, the piece of memorabilia that I would love to put in a place of honor, realism of getting it be damned. Once you get past the super-obvious Greatest Moment in NFL History-type stuff, I think it might be The Helmet. In 1991, the 49ers announced they were going to do a complete redesign of the team's uniforms and logos, the whole 9 yards. They were going to modernize everything to bring the team of the 1980s into the surely timeless trends of the 1990s. They unveiled this helmet at the press conference announcing it.
49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and coach George Seifert unveiling team's new helmet (which was never worn) in 1991. pic.twitter.com/P9B4qpCHqK
— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) February 22, 2016
It looks like the 49ers were trying to join the USFL. It looks like they were trying to lay the seeds for the 49ers leaving San Francisco by removing "SF" from the branding. It looks like a hodgepodge of some of the worst design impulses of the decade, mashed into one. It was cancelled six days later (which, when converting from pre-Twitter to post-Twitter, is about 45 minutes). It's hideous. It's terrible. I hate it. I want it so bad. The history involved with it is so much more interesting than "Tom Brady threw another touchdown pass, and this one happened to be a round number."
Andrew: I don't have the first clue what I would want. The most precious piece of sports memorabilia I have is the signed photo of my son's favorite player that Clyde F.C. gave my son as a gift for my wedding. (He and I were both season ticket holders.) That's the memorabilia that matters to me: not the big events, but the events that have personal significance. It's why I'll always have a soft spot for the Buccaneers, despite them being a division rival: my first NFL game was a Buccaneers home game at Wembley.
Bryan: And that's it, exactly. The point of memorabilia isn't "look at this shiny thing I have," but the stories attached to the shiny things—personal stories or historic stories or what have you. Buying a signed Brady jersey off of Ebay gives you the story of "this is the time I spent three grand for a shirt with some ink on it." I'd much rather have my ticket stubs from the first game I ever went to, or the 1940s-era leather helmet from my grandpa's school, or a piece of 1970s kitsch that tells me something about the culture of both the NFL and the world around it in 1970. So yeah, I'd trade that 600th touchdown ball for season tickets, because the more games I go to, the more chances I have for those kinds of unique memories and experiences.
... and $50,000 please, OK, thank you.
Keep Choppin' Wood
Followers of our Audibles at the Line regular feature will be familiar with our ongoing battle to crown the worst interception of this young season. Carson Wentz made his latest contribution on Sunday night:
Not ideal for Carson Wentz
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 25, 2021
This is such a bad decision, even the league office couldn't accept that he would do it deliberately, as they changed the on-field interception call to a fumble during the usual weekly stats cleanup. The Colts are deep in the red zone, so a sack is not a disaster. What a franchise passer absolutely cannot do ... is exactly what Wentz did: try to battle through pressure, then flip the ball straight to a linebacker for the easiest pick of his life. Or the easiest fumble recovery, if for some obscure reason you prefer the official narrative.
Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game
If there was a lot to question about Dan Campbell's initial press conference, there has been a lot to love about his approach to his team's season. Against the Rams, Campbell's Lions took a surprise 7-0 lead on their opening possession ... then immediately tried a surprise onside kick, which they recovered for their first possession of the season with a lead. Alas, they went three-and-out ... then pulled out a fake punt, converting for the first down on a Jack Fox pass to Bobby Price on fourth-and-7. That led to a field goal and a 10-0 lead. The Lions later converted another fake punt on fourth-and-8 in their own territory, though this time they were trailing 17-16. They may have still lost, but we love to see underdogs attack favorites with underdog strategies, and this is not the first time Campbell has taken this approach.
John Fox Award for Conservatism
Contrast Campbell's approach with Texans head coach David Culley, who had his team punt on fourth-and-8 from Cardinals territory, trailing 28-5 with 2:27 remaining in the third quarter. This came one drive after they punted on fourth-and-2, albeit from their own 33, also down 28-5. The Lions may be bad, but they're at least trying. The Texans, like their fans, appear pretty much resigned to their fate.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching
If there's one thing Bryan wanted, it was for the 49ers-Colts game to last even longer on Sunday night. And so we have to give this award to Kyle Shanahan, for one of the dumbest, longest challenges we can remember. The Colts had just converted a fourth down, clearly and obviously. There was a fumble on the play, but the Colts recovered beyond the first-down marker anyway, so there was nothing to challenge. Shanahan heard the sideline screaming that it was a fumble, and his headset was out so he couldn't hear the coaches in the booth telling him that the challenge was a waste of time. Frankly, eyes might have been enough to see that the fumble wasn't behind the first-down marker, but that's neither here nor there. Shanahan claims that the officials were going to let him pick up the flag because of the technical difficulties, but the NFL made the challenge go through anyway, costing the team a timeout. This entire mess took seven minutes to resolve, and I hated every second of it.
'Two If By Land' Fantasy Player of the Week
We're going to split this award between Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor, backup running backs for the New England Patriots. It turns out, in a 54-13 win, there's a lot of time to air out the bottom of the depth chart. Bolden took over the James White role with six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Taylor took the role of backup runner from the inactive Rhamondre Stevenson, rushing nine times for 21 yards and a pair of touchdowns. You probably weren't starting either of them.
J.J. TAYLOR SCORES HIS FIRST CAREER TOUCHDOWN! pic.twitter.com/mcuF1Fsvz4
— Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) October 24, 2021
Garbage-Time Performer of the Week
Frankly, either Bolden or Taylor could have gone here too, as they got their work in garbage time. We do like highlighting players from losing teams, however, so we're going with Michael Carter, as all eight of his receptions for 67 yards came with the Jets hopelessly behind—which is new for him. Not the being behind bit, no, but being the Jets' primary receiving back. That's something to keep in mind in PPR leagues, as it means Carter will have value when the Jets are losing, and the Jets are quite frequently losing.
Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week
Jets quarterback Mike White threw a touchdown on the first pass of his NFL career, emulating legendary names from recent history such as Matt Ryan and, er, Trey Lance. For one brief moment, that touchdown gave the Jets hope, pulling the score back to 17-7. It didn't exactly last, and now that the team has brought back Joe Flacco, it may be a long time before White throws another pass. But for one brief flicker of a candle, White's career was perfect.
Game-Changing Play of the Week
So, anyone still worried about Ja'Marr Chase being unable to catch?
JA'MARR CHASE CANNOT BE STOPPED. #RuleTheJungle
— NFL (@NFL) October 24, 2021
The third quarter is admittedly early in a game for a Game-Changing Play, but in a week with plenty of blowouts, we take what we can get. And the Ravens-Bengals game wasn't a blowout at this point! While it ended up as a 41-17 victory for Cincinnati, Chase's slant-and-go-go-go was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. The Ravens tried to control Chase with just Marlon Humphrey; over 200 yards receiving indicates that that may not have been the winning strategy they hoped for.
As a result of the win, the Bengals are the top team in the AFC—they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Ravens, and their 3-0 conference record tops the Titans' and Raiders' 4-1 marks. Flip the result of this game and they tumble down to sixth, winning the tiebreaker against the Browns, and you'd have the 6-1 Ravens as the top team in the conference. I don't think anyone had Bengals-Ravens circled as a potential playoff preview when the season began, but through two months, at least, that's where we are.
Bryan: A perfect week? You'd better believe it. All four Survival picks went through (Arizona for me, New England for Andrew, the Rams for both of us), as did both Andrew's pick of New England -7 and mine of Seattle +5, thank you very much for the poor game management, Mr. Sean Payton. Never mind that I'm still 2-5 in the Lock of the Week; the road back to respectability starts here.
Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week
Records to Date:
Andrew: In a normal year, I would be extremely wary of a week like this one, with fully a quarter of the league's teams playing in games with at least a 10-point spread. This year, though, I see very clearly why all those spreads are so high, and I fancy all four favorites to cover in isolation even though I also don't think all four will. That means I'm stuck trying to figure out which of the four favorites has the best chance to come through. Given that the Bengals just blew out Baltimore, and are playing a Jets team missing its starting quarterback, I think I'm leaning with the "pick against the Jets" strategy for the second week running, even with a Bengals team I don't entirely trust yet. Cincinnati (-10) over N.Y. Jets.
Bryan: The Tennessee Titans are riding high after back-to-back wins over the AFC's preseason elite in Buffalo and Kansas City. Never you mind that the Bills were a fourth-down away from winning, or that the Chiefs defense appears to be the quality of tissue paper, and not even deluxe quilted tissue paper, wins are wins. Or so, at least, in the eyes of the bettor. Before the last two weeks, I would have taken Indianapolis at home against the Titans (and vice versa; home field advantage is weaker now but it's not dead yet). I'm now more nervous about it, but I'm still taking Indianapolis (+1.5). An educated pick, going against the pull of the masses after a careful look at the advanced stats? Or desperately picking the teams the 49ers have lost to, trying to salvage some dignity for what is rapidly becoming a lost season? You be the judge.
Double Survival League
Records to Date:
Bryan: ARI, BAL, CIN, CLE, DEN, DET, GB, LAR, MIN, NE, NYG, WAS
Andrew: ATL, ARI, CIN, DEN, DET, GB, IND, LAR, MIN, NE, NYG, WAS
Andrew: I'm nervous about both of this week's picks, for different reasons. Kansas City endured a disastrous performance against Tennessee last time out, but they're still far, far better than the Giants. Looking at the rest of their schedule, they really need this to be a game where they put some things right, or it's going to be a rough back half of the year.
However, it's my second pick that I really hate. Carolina completely submarined their season by handing the starting job to Sam Darnold, and they're wasting a playoff-caliber defense on the third-worst offense in the sport. Atlanta is one of just two opponents they have yet to play who rank below them in DVOA, but if I had any confidence in this pick I'd have taken it for Lock of the Week. This is purely an "I need to pick them sometime" play.
Bryan: Well, let me put you at ease, first by agreeing with one of your picks, and then by taking an even riskier one for my second selection. What a good guy I am.
I no longer have the Kansas City Chiefs in my playoff predictions, which is probably the first time I've had then penciled out since Patrick Mahomes established himself as a confirmed decent starting quarterback—so, what, his third start in Week 2 of 2018? That doesn't mean I think the Chiefs are dead, mind you, but their hole is getting deep enough that even Mahomes might not be able to dig them out. The Giants, on the other hand, are dead, win over the theoretically-still-kicking Panthers notwithstanding. If the Chiefs can't beat them, we can change the Kansas City Season Watch from "disappointment" to "panic."
But even if the Chiefs lose, they'd still have time to turn things around. Not so the Seattle Seahawks, sitting at 2-5 and on the brink of having the competitive portion of their season over before Russell Wilson can even attempt a comeback. If they lose this week, they'll join teams such as the Lions, Dolphins, Texans, Giants, and Jaguars that are just playing out the stretch of the season. Fortunately for them, they're playing one of those aforementioned dead teams in the Jaguars this week. I have enough faith in Pete Carroll's general coaching abilities (as opposed to his Sunday duties) that I think he'll be able to get his team up for this one and beat an inferior team, on paper at least. If not, well, maybe the Seahawks weren't so superior after all.