U2 and Tom Brady are awesome and resilient and ubiquitous and don’t need to keep going, but do. And yet, you hate Tom Brady like you hate U2. It’s probably just because you hate yourself.
In 1997, U2 launched the PopMart tour, summarily known as the last, loudest and biggest piece of campy shit in rock history.
By design, the tour spiraled far beyond Spinal Tap proportions of ridiculous excess. It featured four Dubliners on stage backed by a 165-food LED screen, Simpsons animation and a lot of postmodern detritus including a giant meta lemon that did nothing but look lemony and malfunction (frontman Bono even got stuck inside during shows in Norway and Japan).
The tour was the companion set piece and visceral embodiment of the band’s biggest bust album, Pop. Audiences, however, seemed OK with the disposable consumer culture statement U2 was trying to make while spoonfeeding them $100 seats and $150 licensed denim jackets. Critics wretched and PopMart was vilified then as now as the tour that rang the death knell of the jumbo rock show.
Even so, 9 million people worldwide turned the turnstiles and the tour netted $80 million. In the two decades since, there’s been nothing close to PopMart’s aspiration, execution and overall spongy worthlessness, unless you count one of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.
And yet, the same type of music scribes who decried U2’s winking gesture of grandiosity now laud the efforts of mega-happenings like Coachella, which, like PopMart, incorporates art, fashion, smarm…not to mention giant LED screens, into its spectacle. Perhaps the only difference is a more tacit nod to the consumerism that plagues the entire gathering.
In other words, what U2 was making fun of, and what people still mock U2 for, is now the norm. Time will continue to prove Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry were right and on the right side of history—even when they were wrong.
The same will be said of Tom Brady and the ‘Deflategate’ moment of his legacy.
Indeed, Brady is in the PopMart phase of his career. He’s done everything beyond excess: He’s made his money, sired two children with the world’s top-grossing supermodel, won four championships and generally solidified his place in history as the world’s greatest and best-looking quarterback ever…including time yet to come.
At this point, all he can do is wink and nod and nudge at the spectacle that surrounds him. No single human should be lavished with that much money or praise for the ability to throw an oblong object accurately nor weather such ire over whether some air was taken from said orb before an important game.
And nobody knows this better than Tom Brady.
The lumpenproles want Tom Brady to get stuck in the metaphorical lemon of his own unmitigable success. We want to see him emerge as a mortal singing off-key in gas station sunglasses. We’ll do anything to drag him back down to Earth with the rest of us, the ticket-and-denim-jacket-buying 99 percent.
We’re willing to instantly jettison the third act of Brady’s career along with his otherworldly achievements hitherto, because we’re jealous. Because we never got to sing in front of a giant LED or bang the actual three-dimensional Giselle or smile like that with a cleft chin and an easy grin.
So we’re willing to accept the word of his employer without question. The tax-exempt league which covers for murderers, then discards them. The league which turns its back on its own humbled retirees living the rest of their truncated days in wheelchairs. The league which has no policy to ban performance enhancing drugs athletes actually use. The league which doesn’t suspend abusers until video proof surfaces. The league which short changes its cheerleaders, dyes itself pink in the name of cancer and exploits veterans…for the good of its own image and profit.
That league is suddenly to be believed?
When it comes to Brady’s legacy, the veracity of the NFL’s Wells Report—garnished with the hedgy legalese that it was “more probable than not” the Patriots’ quarterback was “at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities” happening with his balls—doesn’t matter.
After all, it is a U2 and Tom Brady world. The rest of us are humble bystanders buying tickets to stare at the lemon.