Gotham Chopra Talks Working with Tom Brady on Religion of Sports
If you feel like Sunday morning pilgrimages to Gillette Stadium are akin to religious experiences, you may want to check out Religion of Sports. The six-part documentary series by filmmaker Gotham Chopra, son of author Deepak Chopra, explores the cultural and spiritual impact of sports on fans and athletes across the globe. The new show, which debuts November 15 on DirecTV’s Audience network, also features Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and former Giants star Michael Strahan as executive producers. Ahead, Gotham opens up about being a “diehard” Boston sports fan, what it was like working with Brady on the series, and why deifying star athletes can be dangerous.
Where did you get the idea for Religion of Sports?
This is sort of a convergence of my passions. I grew up in Boston, a diehard Patriots, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins fan, living and dying by my teams. I still do to this day. I also grew up with my family, of course my father, and exposed to that world of religion and spirituality and all these incredible people from different wisdom traditions. Probably when I was a teenager, I started to realize and have these debates with my father and say, “Hey look. Everything you talk about in these spiritual traditions of pilgrimages to holy places, about believing in something bigger than yourself, about sacred spaces, superstitions, curses—all these things exist in sports.”
It must’ve been a dream come true to collaborate with Tom Brady. How did that working relationship come about?
Tom used to have a home in Los Angeles not far from where I lived in Brentwood. He spent a lot of his off seasons there. I used to joke that Tom was like Edward Scissorhands, living up in this great house, and really didn’t leave often. So we had mutual friends and somebody knew that I was a huge Patriots fan. I just sort of met him that way and we started talking.
How involved has Brady been as a producer and what sort of perspective did he bring to the series?
I guess where he’s actively involved is, I share all the cuts, I talk to him regularly about what we’re putting together, even some of the curation of the ideas. I bounce a lot of stuff off of him. Tom’s not a television executive or has a lot of experience as a producer, but he lives and breathes this religion every single day. He brings a perspective that’s hard to find.
As you probably know, Brady is treated pretty like a god in New England. Do you think there’s a danger to deifying sports stars?
I absolutely think there is. I think that’s often time more from the fans. You see athletes going out of their way to talk about being human and about the mistakes that they’ve made and all of that. I think that, like most religions, there’s certain things that are worth admiring. I admire Kobe Bryant’s commitment to his craft, his discipline, his desire to be the best that ever was at what he does and everything that goes into that. I don’t even know if I could necessarily do that in my own life. People like Tom are pretty humble. He talks about it all the time, “I’m good at this one thing, it doesn’t mean everything in my life is perfect.” I definitely think there’s a danger in that. We do it, not only in sports, we do it in pretty much every other field as well.
On the flip side, did you discover any positive aspects to being a devoted sports fan while working on the series?
I think it’s more positive than negative. I think becoming a part of something bigger than yourself, [sports] brings together people from all walks of life, all socioeconomic classes, all races. They provide a sense of belonging. What’s great about sports, whether you’re a fan or an athlete, if you participate, generally, miracles happen.
‘Religion of Sports’ airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on DirecTV’s Audience network.
This interview has been edited and condensed.