Few people can throw social media into a frenzy like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
In what will probably be the biggest story of the off-season this year, the six-time Super Bowl champion is set to go into free agency for the first time in his career and it is uncertain where he will sign.
But whether Brady decides to re-sign with the Patriots or head elsewhere to finish out his career, it would be unwise to toy with Pats Nation by sharing cryptic posts on social media.
In his latest post on Twitter and Instagram, the 42-year-old appears to be in the tunnel at Gillette stadium.
It is not clear whether he is walking towards the field or walking away from it and, as a result, the whole of the internet has exploded as people try to decode what it could possibly mean.
Some believe he is walking towards the field, signalling a sign he will stay in New England next season.
Others think he is walking away from the field and so obviously must be leaving the franchise he has called home for two decades.
Some people believe it isn’t Gillette stadium at all and have argued it’s the Titans’ stadium in Nashville or the Raiders’ stadium in Las Vegas.
Some believe it is nothing to do with his impending career decision and is a tribute to Kobe Bryant after his tragic death in a helicopter crash this week.
The only thing that is certain is that we have no idea what it is supposed to mean.
Only Tom Brady himself will know whether it’s a hint about his next step or is merely an innocuous post designed with the sole purpose of boosting his social media interaction.
What Brady should bear in mind, though, is that if he does ultimately leave the New England Patriots, it would be unwise to spend the next few months toying with the heartfelt emotions of his loyal fans.
Tom Brady should bear his fans’ emotions in mind
Many members of Pats Nation are heavily invested in his return to the franchise and will be genuinely upset when his tenure with the club ends.
Consequently, they will not take mind games lightly if their hero should leave the team after two decades of record-breaking football and six championships.
Fans are already exhausted by the “will he, won’t he” narrative and the post-season is not even over.
If Brady keeps this up for months and then decides to leave, it’s difficult to see his social media antics being viewed in anything other than a negative light.
Every day comes with a new rumour – he’s talking with Raiders staff, he’s visiting schools in Nashville – and Brady has chosen not to address any of them which, of course, is fine.
But surely he doesn’t have to add fuel to the rumour mill fire by sharing cryptic images on social media…
Unless, that is, he is staying and Patriots fans can laugh it off as a false alarm come September.
If Rob Gronkowski’s retirement and subsequent comeback rumours prove anything it’s that a player’s legacy can be detrimentally affected if it’s not finished in the right way.
Gronk’s fanning of the comeback flames irritated a lot of New England Patriots supporters and it would be awful for Brady’s departure to go the same way.
You can toy with fans about your upcoming documentary series or your next book launch but whether or not you’re leaving the team you’ve called home for 20 years should be off limits.
For the sake of Patriots fans everywhere, let’s hope it is not too long before Brady makes his decision.
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