The fan who refused to cash in on Tom Brady's 600th TD pass should be commended, not criticized

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Byron Kennedy was enjoying a front-row seat to a Tampa Bay victory on Sunday when great fortune gifted him a potential great fortune.

Tom Brady threw a 9-yard pass to Mike Evans in the Buccaneers' 38-3 shellacking of Chicago. Kennedy was videotaping it on his phone from behind the end zone when he noticed someone approaching.

“Here comes Mike Evans out of nowhere,” Kennedy told Ryan Bass of CBS 10 in Tampa.

Evans handed the football to Kennedy, who was wearing Evans' jersey.

No big deal, except the ball was a big deal. It was Brady’s 600th career touchdown pass, the most of all-time.

A slew of sports memorabilia dealers told Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg that the ball could fetch a “minimum” of $500,000 at auction. Some estimates rose to $750,000. Even if that is only half right, it’s a LOT of money.

Kennedy didn’t take the ball to auction. When he was explained the situation – namely that Brady wanted the ball – he gave it back to the Bucs in exchange for other memorabilia.

That led to all sorts of criticism that he was dumb for not playing hardball with the football.

But Kennedy sees it differently, and good for him. This wasn’t about money, this was about an experience. This wasn’t about squeezing every last dime out of something, it was appreciating how much he was unexpectedly given.

Bucs fan Byron Kennedy (holding phone) was given the ball from Tom Brady's 600th career touchdown pass. Him giving it back isn't an act to be criticized. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Bucs fan Byron Kennedy (holding phone) was given the ball from Tom Brady's 600th career touchdown pass. Him giving it back isn't an act to be criticized. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

“Tom is the one who earned the ball,” Kennedy said. “I just happened to be here and got lucky.”

It’s a big distinction. He didn’t catch the ball. He didn’t fight for the ball. He was mistakenly given the ball. And it was a ball. A ball used to score a touchdown by his favorite team. Not a bag of cash, even if he didn’t realize how big a bag of cash it could fetch.

“I knew it would be valuable, but not half a million dollars,” Kennedy said. “Either way, I would have kept the ball. I wasn’t going to sell it … it would have sat in my office.”

Call Kennedy old school, or applaud his perspective, or appreciate that he apparently isn’t cash-strapped to the point where money is everything.

Contentment, as the old saying goes, is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.

For Kennedy, that ball wasn’t something to sell. It was something to cherish. So not having the 600th ball – which he didn’t even know was the 600th ball – sitting in his office but another game-used ball from Sunday is good enough.

It wasn’t all he got anyway.

He was also provided two signed jerseys and a helmet from Brady, a signed Evans jersey plus Evans game-worn cleats, a $1,000 credit at the Tampa Bay team store and two season tickets for both this year and next.

Plus, as Brady noted Monday, he was giving Kennedy an undisclosed amount of bitcoin.

“At the end of the day,” Brady said, “I think he’s making out pretty well.”

Kennedy also got all the fanfare and media attention from the exchange. By the looks of his local and national media interviews, he’s enjoying every moment of the spotlight.

His one additional request is the chance to play golf with Brady at some point, a deal that TB12 ought to be able to make happen.

Is this really a bad deal, or a guy who has different values than just what is monetary? Is he really getting ripped for doing something nice for the quarterback who revived his favorite team and delivered a Super Bowl title?

Maybe for some people, money isn’t just everything, it’s the only thing. For others that isn’t the case. Those people still exist in America.

So don’t hate on Byron Kennedy for being generous after getting lucky that Mike Evans didn’t know the significance of what he was handing out. Don’t call him a fool.

Maybe consider that he’s the one who actually has it all figured out.

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