The Tampa Bay Buccaneers knew they would have to be secretive about their pursuit of Tom Brady. In an attempt to throw others off their scent, the team concocted a code name to use so they wouldn’t have to mention Brady’s name, according to ESPN.
That codename: Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson.
That’s a “Field of Dreams” reference, in case you were curious. It applies to Brady in a couple ways. Like many around the NFL, the Bucs thought Brady leaving the New England Patriots was impossible. In that sense, they viewed Brady coming to the Bucs like Shoeless Joe Jackson walking out of the cornfield in “Field of Dreams.” The Bucs also used the phrase, “If we build it, he will come,” in reference to Brady.
It’s kinda dorky to imagine adults skirting around saying a player’s name, but the plan worked, so the joke’s on us, apparently. We do wonder how much members of the team actually used the phrase “Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson” in public. If a rival executive heard it, they would immediately know something was up. And given Jackson’s iconic status in baseball, that rival exec would probably assume the Bucs were talking about a legendary player. There weren’t many legendary players available on the free agent market, so the rival exec could have put two and two together.
The whole thing seems silly, but maybe that was the point. The pursuit of Brady must have felt impossible, and if the Bucs needed an inside joke to add levity to the situation, why not? In the end, Operation Shoeless Joe Jackson was a success, after all.
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