It’s not surprising that Tom Brady has signed a contract that will continue his employment by the New England Patriots until 2017.
It would have been surprising if he had announced his intention to do something else, such as raise soy beans.
It is news, sort of, that the value of the three-year contract extension is $27 million. According to Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King, whose business is to know about such things, this figure is “eye-poppingly conservative.”
It might be kind of fun to imagine other things that are “eye-poppingly conservative,” but I won’t.
Whether or not you agree that Brady has granted the Patriots what’s called a hometown discount, the $3 million bonus he got for signing and the $70.6 million he’ll reportedly be paid from now until 2017 is “eye-poppingly conservative” only in the whacky context of the games we have collectively chosen to underwrite at such a spectacular level.
Only of course the context isn’t whacky. It’s logical. Players are paid just a little less than what owners figure they will generate if the players perform according to expectation. Sometimes owners are wrong in their assessments. The least efficient of them are wrong a lot. But they operate on the assumption that you have to spend money to win, and winning enables them to make more money selling everything from tickets to stadium naming rights.
A dozen years ago, shortly after then-Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe had signed a 10-year contract that would have paid him $103 million over 10 years if the work had gone better, I was making the rounds to promote a book that had to do with baseball. One stop was a retirement home, where I spoke about the lyrical nature of the game. Some people seemed to be paying attention. Others slept.
When I’d finished, I invited questions. I anticipated baseball questions.
A woman in the back raised her hand. Actually, she didn’t just raise it. Her hand shot into the air, as if she’d been barely tolerating the time until she’d have a chance to ask what she wanted to ask.
“Yes?” I said.
“Is Drew Bledsoe worth all that money?”
She sounded angry then, that lady in the back. Perhaps she’s not as angry this week.