A throwaway remark aimed at thanking his parents for supporting his career has made Tom Brady "the most-hated man in Buffalo."
During a media session on Wednesday, the New England Patriots quarterback was asked to describe the commitment made by his father, Tom, Sr., in the early days of his career. Brady had no idea he was about to stumble into a storm of controversy -- at least in the proud New York city by the Canadian border.
"My dad was always there to support me," Brady said. "He's been there every step of the way. Then I went to school a long ways from home (University of Michigan) and he and my mom were there at every home football game that they could possibly be at and a lot of road games, too.
"And even when I started my pro career, he traveled to Buffalo. I don't know if you guys have ever been to the hotels in Buffalo -- they're not the nicest places in the world -- but he would still travel to those. It was just great to grow up in a house like that and feel so supported by your mom and dad."
Realizing that he had perhaps made an insensitive comment, Brady continued: "No, they're fine. Don't go writing that and getting me in trouble."
Too late, Tom.
Before long, reports of Brady's remarks had made their way to the 716 and 585 area codes and the reaction was immediate and hostile.
"A lot of people are up in arms about it," said Ted Shredd of the 'Shredd and Ragan Show' on Buffalo radio station 'The Edge.' "People are saying that here is a pompous, overpaid athlete on a national stage, taking shots at Buffalo. And for what? Sure there are bad hotels everywhere but there are good ones too. Is the Hyatt not good enough for you? The Marriott not good enough?"
Co-host Tom Ragan weighed in: "We think he is being cheap," he said. "At this point he should be paying for his parents to come to games. If he is not putting them in nice places, it means Gisele (Bundchen, Brady's wife) is controlling the purse strings a little too tightly. Maybe he is bitter too, after the game earlier in the season."
The Patriots and the Buffalo Bills are divisional rivals in the AFC East, and the Bills pulled off a dramatic 34-31 upset at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the third week of the season. Although Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski – one of Brady’s favorite targets – hails from Buffalo, most residents of the city will be rooting for the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
Brady's comments even gained a political audience when they reached the ears of Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY). "Hey, Tom, why not ask Rob Gronkowski how great Buffalo is? Good luck getting him to catch your passes," Schumer wrote on Twitter.
Gronkowski wouldn't be drawn on the matter when asked Thursday. He just gave a wink and a smile when asked about it.
Brady tried once more to backtrack. "I apologize for saying that," he said. "Buffalo was tough on us this year at Buffalo. I should have picked on a non-NFL city for that."
Buffalo natives are sensitive to criticism of their city after two athletes previously voiced their displeasure at its amenities -- or lack thereof. Joffrey Lupol of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Emerson Etem of the United States national junior hockey team tweeted critical remarks recently.
However, local businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, came out firing. "It is not like stepping into a room and you are in 1977," David Carroll of the Hotel Motel Association of Western New York told the Buffalo News. "Every room has a flat-screen TV, wireless Internet. Everyone has upgraded to their brand standard.
"We are not in Las Vegas where they remodel every year, but we take it seriously. When Tom Brady says that, it is just another guy who doesn’t know what he is talking about."
In the streets and offices of Buffalo during wintertime, the days may be short but the memories are long.
"We didn't like him before and there is even more reason not to right now," said Buffalo office worker Tonny Whelan. "You know, at this moment, he might just be the most hated man in Buffalo."
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