Byron Kennedy was minding his own business Sunday, acting like a hyperactive child after hours of high-sugar snacks like everyone around him, when Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored a first-quarter touchdown in the Bucs’ 38-3 dopeslap of the Chicago Bears. Evans ran to the stands and handed the ball to Kennedy as a reward for turning up and catching Evans’s eye. Not much work involved there, to be sure, but he got a football. Measure that against the cost of the ticket, parking, food, beer, and psychic price of having to endure the Bears for three hours, and it’s still a considerable net loss, but it beats not having a football from Mike Evans.
Only this wasn’t just any ball, but the 600th touchdown pass of Tom Brady’s antediluvian career, and as such had enough sentimental value for a Bucs equipment guy to fetch the ball and make some vague promise of restitution. Kennedy, being a trained negotiator of minimal repute, declined said offer twice before meekly turning the ball over, to the dismay of brazen opportunists and game show contestants everywhere. But the equipment guy made good, sort of, reporting to his superiors that Kennedy needed a payoff even though he had already surrendered his leverage on a ball loosely valued by memorabilia psychotics at somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000—an amazingly high valuation for something that had been touched at one point by a Chicago Bear.
The offer came back, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times: two signed jerseys and a helmet from Brady, a signed jersey and game cleats from Evans, a $1,000 credit at the team store to stock up on more jerseys, and passes to every remaining home game this season and next. No money had left owner Joel Glazer’s pockets, presumably because the cost of eventually firing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with time on his Manchester United contract was leaving the Glazer family a little cash-thin, and against a potential half-million, Kennedy was getting relatively horsewhipped, dealwise. By any measure, he’d have been better off sprinting to the exits bellowing “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” at the top of his lungs.
Kennedy had given up the swag for three jerseys and two shoes, none of which fit, and tickets for another 18-22 games, depending on whether the ticket offer included playoffs. While unappealing blockheads on radio shows, podcasts, and cruddy old Twitter argued philosophical niceties like Kennedy’s responsibilities to Brady’s third memorabilia home in Coral Gables vs. Brady’s right to be given things of value for no return, Brady saw or had it pointed out to him that poor Kennedy was getting kind of worked.
The Bucs QB announced on Monday night’s Manningcast that he was also going to give Kennedy a Bitcoin worth about $63,000, or would have been worth $63,000 if Kennedy had then sold it right away. The crypto throw-in might have made the day more memorable for Kennedy—who, of course, would have to decide what the toll for watching the Bears would mean come accounting time. Kennedy would also have to live with the disappointment of not getting to play golf with Brady, who bills at much more than $500K for five hours of personal time.
Ultimately, Kennedy got some stuff and the illusion of actual money, Brady got his ball, and someone in the Brady household got one more thing to dust on a high shelf—all because Mike Evans didn’t read the pregame media notes and decided to be a sport to some anonymous guy in a game that will be neither noted nor remembered. In an NFL weekend in which the average score was Way Too Much to Nearly Nothing At All, Evans helped steal the news day.
Frankly, Kennedy would have done everyone a greater cultural service if he’d kept the ball and given it to some kids to kick around a gravel lot until it was unrecognizable. That, after all, is the ball’s actual value.