“Free! Fly like an eagle! Let’s go!” screams Antonio Brown, streaking through his backyard in his underwear, miming a bird flapping its wings, filmed by his constantly-rolling camera crew. The joyous cry of a man who escaped the fate of being an Oakland Raider
For days, that felt like months, every sports pundit speculated that the superstar wide receiver formerly of the Raiders had lost his mind. Surely he’d gone crazy, in one offseason alone he: froze his feet getting cryotherapy, allegedly called his general manager a cracker and tried to fight him, went through about 30 different helmets, and probably broke the law by seemingly recording a phone call without consent. Now he’s a New England Patriot and perhaps it was all a ruse.
I mean, if you were on the Raiders, wouldn’t you try to leave at all costs?
Odysseus once tried to avoid fighting in the Trojan War by pretending to lose his mind. He took an ox and tried to plow a field of salt like it was dirt. The man sent to retrieve him, Palamedes, wisely did not buy this act. The Raiders are no Palamedes. Or even if they were, what choice did they have? Either they could play him and look weak, suspend him and let the media storm rage on or cut him and bite the bullet. Brown snared them in an impossible trap, and all it cost him was $30 million and his reputation as a sane man. Now that he gets to play with Tom Brady and Bill Bellicheck, I doubt he cares.
If you needed a football team to cut you, you should do exactly what Antonio Brown did. Sure, there are ways to escape a team that don’t involve dying your moustache blond and almost assaulting your boss, but usually they don’t give the player freedom to choose their destination. Brown never tasted freedom in his entire career up until this point. He requested a trade off one team he didn’t want to be on and they just sent him to another squad he had no affinity for. To defeat the system he was stuck in, he simply had to not play by its rules.
That video, of Brown running around in his underwear? He sent that to the media himself. Things that seemed crazy when there was uncertainty now seem calculated in light of where he ended up. Brown dubbed himself “Mr. Big Chest” for his antics but I think we should call him Mr. Big Brain instead. He’s the guy who turned complaining about a helmet into a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal. He knew what he was doing. He fanned the media wildfire with deliberate intent, and it forced the Raider’s hand. His gambit means that he’ll get a chance at a Superbowl and another mega contract when it’s all over. For all of us, let his story serve as inspiration. Sometimes you will have to take drastic measures to escape a bad situation, but Antonio Brown proves it can be done.
Vincent Rendon can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush. He also would like to be clear that he hates the New England Patriots.