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Roasting the G.O.A.T.

Updated: May 22

How groupthink played a big part in sacking the greatest of all time.



We all can agree that Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T.


And it's in that agreement where we find unity, kinship and even some healthy debate. But what happens when agreement leads to an over-evaluation? Welp... that's when we can find ourselves on uneven footing. Even the best of us.


I’m a New England Patriots fan - have been for nearly 40 years. So naturally I'm a Brady fan. Or ... at least I was. Tom was our miracle man for 20 years, and we all loved him. Then he left. Then he got divorced. Then he got roasted. Then he got pissed, struggling to keep up with the front line of a comedic juggernaut that blitzed past his defenses and sidelined him with some truth.




When a rookie QB is sacked for the first time, it's quite common for the defensive tackle to quip "Welcome to the NFL." This is a rite of passage that all quarterbacks go through. But what that flattened QB doesn't do is walk up to the guy and say "Hey, don't sack me again."


Brady, the superstar quarterback used to being in command and on top, stepped into unfamiliar territory when he agreed to be the guest of honor at a celebrity roast. The event, typically a playground for comedians to showcase their razor-sharp wit and brutal honesty, seemed like a harmless diversion for Brady.


However, as the night unfolded, it became apparent that Brady was ill-prepared for the onslaught of jabs and jests directed his way. Unlike the camaraderie and mutual respect that define roasts in the comedic community, Brady seemed perplexed by the aggressive banter and ribbing from his fellow athletes and comedians.


He said later that he was concerned about his children. Okay... but what did he think was going to happen? Perhaps, surrounded by former football friends Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and coach Belichick and owner Robert Kraft, Brady believed he had a strong O-line that would keep him in the pocket. But no.


Groupthink Divide: Comedians vs. Athletes


At the heart of this comedic clash lies the stark contrast between the group dynamics of comedians and athletes. While comedians thrive in an environment of self-deprecation and dark humor, athletes like Brady often inhabit a world of confidence and unwavering self-belief.



Comedians, with their penchant for self-loathing and cynical humor, have mastered the art of roasting as a form of bonding and catharsis. For them, trading insults is not just a game but a way to forge connections and celebrate their shared struggles and insecurities.


Any comedian will tell you that they are a unique and highly dysfunctional group that lives by a particular code: “I love you as long as you’re not funnier or more successful than me.”


This is the awesome insight into the life of a comedian that has always fascinated me, and made the roasts they all participate in so fantastic. Everybody gets it: I’m going to tell you everything about you that can truthfully shred you and it’s okay, because you get to do it to me too. And then we’ll go get a sandwich.



The group dynamic here – one that is universal in comedy circles – is one that keeps the bonds of these traveling jesters together. Misery, jealousy, observations, drudgery...it’s all part of the package. And they all get it. It's part of a fraternity that started decades ago with the Friar's Club, highlighting comic geniuses like Alan King, Johnny Carson, Cid Ceasar, Jack Benny, George Burns, Milton Burle and of course - the greatest roaster of all time - Don Rickles.


From a groupthink perspective, the comedy community is like few others; reveling in each other's misery because: 1. Screw you for being the center of attention and not me; 2. It's funny; and 3. We all agree to the rules... the meaner the better.


This kind of thinking doesn't really translate to other groups, especially athletes - those at the pinnacle of their profession like Brady, who are accustomed to adulation and praise, hard-fought success and glory in achievement.



Their success is built on a foundation of confidence and self-assurance, forged from an early age, making them less inclined to appreciate or participate in the self-deprecating humor that characterizes roasts.


Neither world is better than the other. I love football, I love comedy. So do you, I’m sure. But the difference lies in their group-driven zeitgeist and how the crowd wisdom expectation and limitations of their achievements - especially amongst their peers - can seriously affect the outcomes of their journeys.



In the cast of Tom Brady's roast, the mismatch between Brady's expectations – based on two decades of dominance and the accolades and status it brought him – and the reality of the roast became painfully apparent as the evening wore on. While his fellow roasters dished out barbs with ease and aplomb, Brady seemed uncomfortable and out of his depth, struggling to find his footing in the comedic arena.


After all... Tom Brady off the field is a very different proposition than Tom Brady on the field. And remember, he just retired, so he might still be suffering from the hangover of last night's exaltation.


The disconnect between Brady's expectations and the comedic norms of the roast led to an awkward and at times cringe-worthy performance. His attempts to deflect the insults with a smile and a gracious nod only served to highlight his discomfort and lack of understanding of the comedic context.


He was out of his element.


And then came the moment Brady had enough and attempted to take control of the situation – something no one who’s been roasted has ever done.


Jeff Ross, (arguably the greatest roast master since Rickles), cracked a joke about Robert Kraft and his 2020 charges in Florida for allegedly soliciting sex from a massage therapist, charges, by the way, that were later dropped.


But be that as it may, it is protocol that anyone who attends the roast is also fair game. In fact, it’s common to spend more time trashing the other roasters and folks in the audience than it is to spend time on the man / woman of the hour.



Ross’s joke landed, but honestly didn’t really seem that mean, drawing a few laughs. Likely most people weren’t aware of or forgot about Kraft’s issues way back when. Nonetheless, Brady didn’t like the joke. And he’s Tom Fucking Brady. So, he stood up and got in Ross’ ear.


“Don’t say that shit again!” he warned.


Because he’s Tom Brady. The GOAT.


Comedians as a whole will tell you that these days most people can’t take a joke and it’s harder and harder to be funny in a world where entitlement overrules humility, hubris overrules humor.


This was on full display live on Netflix. And Tom once again put himself in the QB position and tried to call an audible.


It was, to say the least, ridiculous. And wholly out of place. A pure example of a man out of his league. Literally.


So, what can we learn from Brady's comedic misadventure? Perhaps the most valuable lesson is the importance of knowing your audience and staying in your lane. Just as Brady wouldn't expect a comedian to excel on the football field, he shouldn't have expected himself to shine in the world of comedy without the necessary preparation and understanding of the dynamics and spirit of the roast.


From a shared experience perspective, where groupthink unites a set of individuals under a common understanding, where better to witness a display of it than on the stage of a roast?


Maybe Brady's been sheltered too much in the glow of his own legend. Maybe he’s not funny. Maybe he thought a roast was really a feting? We may never know.


It’s a lot easier to believe something when millions of others support that belief. That’s the“Agreement” I spoke of above... the epitome of groupthink. The force in play that occurs in highly competitive areas like sports is a perfect example of this. And as we’ve seen many times, often the result is the glorification of someone who is, after all, only human.

 

I often wonder, as I delve deeper into the groupthink / crowd wisdom scenario, if people truly understand the effects of mass agreement upon them. I ponder the ‘chicken and the egg’ conundrum of whether Tom Brady brought forced our allegiance, or did we collectively decide to laud him. We may never know. But while he may be a legend on the football field, his foray into the world of comedy proved that none of us can sustain an idea if that idea is challenged.



And where better to have your halo ripped off you than a roast?







What do you think... did Tom Brady overreact to his roasting?

  • No, it wasn't fair how mean they were to this hero

  • Yes, he's a man baby with chiseled cheekbones and no humor

  • Maybe, afterall, he's too gorgeous to be funny, right?

  • Who's Tom Brady?


 

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