By Steve Keating
(Reuters) - Tom Brady gave competition-starved sports fans something to talk about other than the coronavirus on Tuesday when the six-time Super Bowl winning quarterback tweeted he was leaving the New England Patriots after 20 years for a new home.
Even for New England fans saddened by Brady's announcement, the news was a respite from the daily deluge of postponements and cancellations by leagues and events as the pandemic decimates the sports landscape.
At a time when basketball, hockey and baseball spring training would normally dominate U.S. sports headlines, Brady put the dormant National Football League in the spotlight, bringing some of the chatty fun back to a sports world reeling from the doom and gloom of a global pandemic.
Moments after his tweet, Brady was trending on social media. CNN cut into its 24/7 coronavirus coverage with the breaking news that the three time NFL most valuable player and four-time Super Bowl MVP was leaving New England.
"Although my football journey will take place elsewhere, I appreciate everything that we have achieved and am grateful for our incredible TEAM accomplishments," Brady wrote on his social media accounts.
For North America's all-sport television and radio stations starved for content that post was nothing short of pure gold providing days of endless analysis, discussion and dissection while the future Hall of Famer decides where he will play next.
Brady's departure would normally be a hot topic in sports bars across the United States. But many fans had to communicate electronically since the coronavirus has forced a shutdown of taverns and restaurants in much of the country.
Facebook, Twitter, sports talk radio and fan websites were full of chatter about how NFL free agency begins on Wednesday; speculation about where the 42-year-old quarterback will land and who is to blame for Brady's departure.
The smart money is on the Buccaneers, who have an elite receiving corps, a top defense and may give Brady the best chance to join Peyton Manning as the only quarterback to win Super Bowls with two different teams.
While amateur and professional sports leagues around the world have spent days dispensing nothing but unwelcome news suspending tournaments and schedules, the out-of-season NFL has skated by virtually untouched by the pandemic.
The football season does not start until September. So other than the April draft which will go on without fans, it has not yet had to deal with any major coronavirus fallout.
Fans cannot bet on games, because none are being played, but they can wager on where Brady will end up.
Turning 43 in August, Brady has a lot of miles on him for an NFL quarterback but plenty of teams are still kicking the tires of the iron man who last season became the only 42-year-old to start all 16 games on an NFL team's schedule.
Apparently Brady's wife super model Gisele Bundchen has let her husband know she would prefer somewhere with a warm climate.
"When I look at a possible landing for Tom, and it is kind of crazy I'm not talking about Tom Brady being the Patriots quarterback for the rest of his life, I look at teams like the Tampa Bay Bucs or maybe the LA Chargers," said former-Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss, now ESPN NFL commentator. "Between the two of them I like the wide receiver corps of Tampa Bay.
"Tom Brady has always wanted a weapon to have, he Gronk (Rob Gronkowski), he had myself, he Julian Edelman and I think Tampa Bay would be a good fit."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by David Gregorio)