After all he’s done for me as a Boston fan in general and a Patriots fan in particular, it would a lot for me to have a single negative word to say about Tom Brady. I mean it; anything short of him giving nuclear secrets to Iran or selling humanity out to a race of evil alien overlords or, God forbid, playing for the Jets, and he can do no wrong in my eyes.
To give you an idea of the unhealthy depth of my Brady mancrush, I’ll tell you a true story; though I’ll clean it up for print. Last year my brother calls me out of the blue and without as much as a “Hello” says “Here’s the deal: You could be Tom Brady, sleeping with Gisele Bundschen, or you could be Tony Romo, sleeping with Jessica Simpson. Who would you rather be?” And without hesitating I said, “Out of those four names you mentioned, I think I most want to be Gisele…” to stunned silence on the other end of the line. I tell that story not to disturb you (although I’m sure that’s the net effect … sorry), but to make the point that I’m not prone to criticizing the one of the greatest, most successful athletes of my lifetime.
But I’m also obliged to say what I’m really thinking here. And if I’m being perfectly honest, something came up this week that has me maybe beginning to question Brady for the first time ever. He said some things a few days ago that at the very least has me concerned. At most, downright terrified. The statements he made, if true, could be THE worst-case scenario if the Patriots are ever going to continue this dynasty.
I’m worried that Tom Brady could be turning into … a normal, well-adjusted human being. The horror.
In Peter King’s SI Monday Morning QB column, Brady talked about his changing priorities now that he’s living on two coasts and raising his two little genetically perfect superbabies:
“He made it clear he’s not going to give short-shrift to either of his sons, and if he has to work on his own for a good part of the offseason, away from his teammates, so be it. ‘It’s a balancing act,” he said. "I don’t want the next 10 years to go by and to say I wasn’t there for my sons. I wish I could be there [in Foxboro daily in the offseason] the way I was when I was 24, but life is different now.’”
I mean, as a Pats fan, am I wrong to be petrified of what I’m hearing? All this talk about short-shrifts and balancing acts and life being different now? I don’t want to come across as selfish and make it sound like it’s all about me.
But what about me?
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway — I want nothing but the best for the Brady children. I’ve got two sons of my own and I know being a father is about the best thing in the world. But I’m just a sports columnist and a comic. If I neglect my work to go make Kraft Mac & Cheese and watch Spongebob, no one suffers. And besides, when Tom leaves the kids to work out in Foxboro, they’re taken care of by their preposterously hot mothers and a battalion of nannies. When he neglects us, we get Brian Hoyer (with all due respect).
But to speak to a larger point, virtually all of the most successful figures in Boston sports history have been maladjusted, one dimensional, single-minded maniacs focused like laser beams on the pursuit of perfection. In fact, it’s the obsessed ones, not necessarily the most gifted, that have brought us the most success. In the words of 20th century philosopher Eric Hoffer, “We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense desire creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.” Which sounds like he was talking about a certain 199th draft pick who was driven to prove everyone wrong so he lived in the film room, outworked everyone and turned himself into one of the all time greats.
Think about it. How many highly successful sports figures have we had in this town whose lives seemed “balanced”? Success has always belonged to the unbalanced. Obsessed kooks with a preternatural desire to win. Ted Williams was a great hitter, fighter pilot and fisherman. But he had the parenting skills of reptile, a point borne out by the fact that right now his head is frozen in Carbonite like Han Solo on the wall of Jabba’s palace. Larry Bird was legendary for his commitment to being the first to show up, the last to leave, and the one least likely to participate in “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day.”
Please understand that I’m not saying you have to be a crummy family man to be a success. Save your e-mails. But I am saying that the most successful people tend to be insanely focused on nothing but their success. The guys who pour their hearts and souls into the pursuit of excellence are the ones who become great. Just to stick to Boston examples, Red Auerbach was too obsessed with winning to build a 22,000-foot mansion in LA. Bill Russell was too preoccupied with collecting rings to lecture anyone about what kind of light bulbs they should use. Bobby Orr’s interests ran the gamut from hockey scores to scoring hockey groupies and nothing else.
And it seems to me, that goes with every facet of life. It’s the ones who compulsively pour everything they have into a single pursuit that get ahead. Where you work, the promotions go to those who have no life outside the office and will work til all hours. Your union, your town government, your kids’ sports programs, the clubs you belong to, every league you join … are all dominated by those who make it the focus of their universe. Generally speaking, having “balance” in your life just tends to help you achieve mediocrity.
And besides, don’t we as fans prefer to think of our athletes as being obsessed with the relentless pursuit of perfection? Even if it’s to the detriment of all other things? Personally I loved those stories about Wade Boggs’ legendary batting cage sessions, ten times more than I did hearing about Curt Schilling’s video game company. Granted, Schill was a champion with a nice family and Boggsy spent most of his time trying to hit with women in scoring position, but still.
I guess it’s just a little unsettling to hear Brady talking about balancing his work and his family life because that’s what the rest of us do. That’s ordinary schmuck talk. And the quarterback of the Patriots is not supposed to be an ordinary schmuck (at least not since Zolak). We get plenty enough “ordinary” in our own lives, thanks. When the Greeks invented the myths, they weren’t about the gods making urns and herding sheep. They were about Cronus eating his young and then throwing them up and then his oldest kid Zeus tossing him into the underworld. I’m not saying that’s what we want out of our gods, the athletes. But I’d at least to imagine Tom Brady spending the offseason trying to figure out how to wipe the field with the Jets defense, not wiping baby poop off his kids’ bottoms.
Look, I’m sure I’ve got nothing to worry about. There have been plenty of great winners in this town who somehow managed to balance championships and family. Bill Belichick helps coaches his kids’ lacrosse teams. Tedy Bruschi played with his kids on the field before a Super Bowl then went out and won it. The list is endless. So I’m sure I’m just being paranoid. But I can’t help noticing that the Belichick doesn’t have a special, coveted parking space at Gillette that’s labeled “Father of the Year.”