Be gentle with me. It’s hard on me, too. Just…you know… hear me out.
I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. My most formative adolescent years were spent growing up in the Peyton Manning Colts Era. In fact, the owner of the Colts had a daughter my age. The year he signed Peyton Manning, everyone on the team got rookie Peyton Manning jerseys.
I gave it to my brother. I think. He cared about football. I didn’t. I was an average pre-teen girl in a state that worshipped basketball who grew up idolizing in-his-prime Reggie Miller. The Colts had never really been all that good and I didn’t play football. So the jerseys were cool and having the owner be our first base coach most games was cool but, again, I was an average pre-teen girl. I pretty much didn’t care.
Hindsight being 20/20, of course I wish I had kept that sucker.
Under his leadership (and massive paycheck), Peyton Manning would transform Indianapolis sports. He made the Colts worth watching. He was good. We were starting to be good. I learned the rules of football so I could enjoy the games more. We watched them together. Eventually, Reggie retired and Ron Artest (it was his name at the time) punched some dude in the face during a game and the Pacers became the embarrassment while the Colts were the city’s pride and joy.
Anyway, on the east coast a young quarterback was also coming up the ranks. The (evil) Tom Brady had his own team that he started making really good. The (evil) Patriots under the leadership of the (evil) Bill Belichick. Since both teams were in the AFC South, it started to become a little rivalry. Then it was a big rivalry. I knew that even when I didn’t care who was playing, I always wanted the Patriots to lose. It was in my genes.
Seriously, when you form thoughts and habits in your formative years, they stick with you for life.
I remember watching intense games with now-passed family members in their homes. It was often heartbreaking but we always had hope. And sometimes that hope paid off because, as you recall, we did eventually get that Super Bowl win.
Anyway, it’s been years – maybe decades at this point – that I have despised Tom Brady and the Patriots franchise. The cheating. The scandals. Deflategate.* And he has a perfect wife? Psssht. What a dick.
I root against the Patriots no matter who they’re playing – especially in the Super Bowl. And this year it was especially easy when it was against my (now) hometown team, the Rams.
So it was heartbreaking yet again to see a team with some shady dealings in the past take yet another W on the world’s stage at the biggest game. Knowing Brady’s model smile will have another reason to be smug makes my skin crawl.
But something strange happened to me this year. And I’m still not sure how to deal with it.
I don’t think I hate Tom Brady anymore. In fact, I think I actually might respect him.
Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be greeting him excitedly like my dog Clyde does to every dog. I’ll be much more like my dog Bonnie. When she respects a dog, she ignores them. When she doesn’t like them, she goes after them. I’ll no longer be going after him, but he may get a small, subtle tip of my hat.
Here’s the thing: I know and remember all the B.S. the Patriots have done in the past to secure their wins. According to a Patriots fan of mine, everybody does it…they just get in trouble for it. My argument, of course, is: If you’re so good that you always win, perhaps consider not cheating in order to get the win.
But I’m not behind the scenes in these locker rooms. I don’t know the truth of what’s happening in every NFL franchise. So, you know, who knows?
All that aside, here’s why I find myself cultivating the slightest amount of respect for the man. He seems pretty genuine and pretty simple.
Excuse me while I puke from muscle memory. Thanks to years of hating him, it’s hard to give Brady a compliment without the very foundation of my body rebelling against me.
He could have retired a long time ago. He could never work again and be a millionaire forever. He could never take another paycheck from anything and be a millionaire (his wife is worth an estimated $360 million…twice his measly $180 million net worth).
But he keeps playing. He keeps his body in tip top shape. He uses the resources he has available to do the work.
That’s the crux of it. He does the damn work.
He’s been doing it for decades. He delivers in the clutch. He gets the stupid job done and follows through with what he sets out to do. He seems to genuinely be in love and even does sappy posts supporting his (reminder: worth more than him) wife.
There’s plenty to dislike about him. It’s easy to find reasons to hate him. Believe me. I’ve spent years wallowing in them. But as someone who has been finding more and more value in showing up for myself and my own craft, I’ve started to see him in a new light. He seems to really love football. He’s very good at football. He continues to work hard to keep playing football, even when he’s arguably one of the best football players of all time. It’s sort of that simple.
I used to hate that he had this supermodel wife. He must be so out-of-touch, you know? But I’ll be damned if he doesn’t go out of his way to gush about her and to make her (and his kids) feel super special after his accomplishments. This stupid group hug got me freakin’ choked up.
In Indiana, we used to pride ourselves on having a QB that married his college sweetheart and is a one-woman man. She’s a normal, down-to-earth girl who supports him and stays out of the spotlight. But I’ve lived a little. I’ve gained some perspective on what I admire in people. But I heard stories that reminded me that people aren’t always what they seem. And stupid stunning Gisele (who, again, I just love saying it, is worth twice what he is) having a happy relationship with all the pressures of fame and her own incredible career is something I stupidly admire. It’s so stupid.
Sure, maybe they know to put on a good show. They’re media savvy and worth almost a half-billion dollars combined (she’s worth more, subtle reminder). But they also seem to really enjoy each other. And he held his stupid adorable daughter while receiving the stupid awards he got at the stupid Super Bowl while she smiled her cute face off and it was all so damn touching.
And they got that moment because he did the damn work.
Plenty of haters on the sidelines and millions of people judging, yelling at the screen have never known the pressure his stupid handsome face has known. And he’s mentally and physically maintained his ability to follow through and be a champion. Even if you want to go down the (small minded) path of him cheating (which he and his “Dynasty” have been caught for multiple times), he still throws incredible throws. He makes plays. He keeps his aging body in tip top shape. He works on his mental game. And he seems to find time for some balance in his life.
So freaking stupid.
As someone whose team you’ve run over multiple times to get your championships, Mr. Brady, I have to say you actually have my respect. (STOP CHEATING, THO K?.)
But as an athlete and a champion, you have my respect.
I respect the man in the ring more than the critics on the sidelines. Always. And when the man continuously steps in the ring with millions of critics on the sidelines trying to tear him down for over a decade, you can’t help but admire the gumption of continuing to get up and keep going.
But if you tell anyone – I mean anyone – about this, I will deny it vehemently.
Oh, and for the record, Petyon Manning still has the best SNL sketch any football player will ever have of all time. So take THAT stupid Tom Brady, whom I mildly respect.
*for the purposes of this post, I’m not going to touch the MAGA hat. It’s a whole different beast I have super strong opinions about but doesn’t really serve the lesson learned here. But just be aware, I’m aware of it. It’s very easy to dislike him, is my point. Especially when he’s egregious.