Politicians have tested our sense of ethics and decency, but we have built monuments and named streets after them. Celebrities have crashed cars, spoken offensively, and been too often caught on tape behaving badly, yet we still listen to their albums and buy $10 buckets of popcorn while watching their movies. Tom Brady, who gives a comical press conference and wins a lot of football games, may have encouraged some air to be taken out of a few footballs, but his prince charming of football image is safe. Heroes and villains make great entertainment. Deflategate has become a good media story in search of a scoundrel. Tom Brady does not appear to be ready to answer that casting call.
Regionally there is nary a blemish on Brady’s image. He is a New Englander (by way of Southern California and Ann Arbor). The athletic teams we invest our emotion and dollars in create a connectedness that transcends the typical entertainer-audience relationship. When Bob Kraft shouts from the championship podium, “We are all Patriots!” he could not be more right. Fandom creates a shared identity. If there is something amiss about Brady and his actions, there must be something a bit amiss about us. A flawed Brady is a concept with which New Englanders are going to struggle.
Nationally, a bit of schadenfreude is to be expected. The Patriots have won 4 out of the last 15 Super Bowls, leaving a fair number of the 32 other National Football League (NFL) teams wondering, when is it our turn? Brady is the face of this repeated success, the target of both awe and jealousy. This all said, deflated footballs are a weak attempt to cut down a football résumé that will certainly lead to a rapid induction ceremony at the Football Hall of Fame. Sports around the world have shown proficiency in creating passionate clans and cliques, yet when considering the NFL, entertainment is the tie that binds. Were the advertisements good? Did Nike get the uniforms right? Did the game itself provide a few fireworks? As long as there is some storyline for everyone, the games go on and fans move on.
Time heals most competitive slights (sorry, Pete Rose—there are some integrity issues that trump others). As a sporting community, we forgive fairly quickly, excited to move on to the next game and the next season. Furthermore, we love winners. Brady has won time and time again and while doing it he has embodied the quarterback archetype that we seem to love so much—the golden boy with the golden arm. With his cute social media posts, team-focused quotes, efforts at comedic acts in advertising, and a photogenic family, the seedier side of professional sports does not enter one’s thoughts too quickly. Although he has been part of the scheming of his petulant coach, he has not been the crank or curmudgeon. He is a smiling quarterback and a winner—everybody’s All-American.
Time will tell, but Deflategate seems to be a topic more suited to those interested in talking about footballs than about the game of football. Brady is a phenomenal competitor and an accomplished football player. There is simply no denying this. If he continues to lead his team on the field and to bumble in a somewhat self-effacing way, his image is safe and only improving. He is the name on the back of many fans’ jerseys. His achievements have allowed the game to be more than simple Xs and Os, allowing fans to go on a remarkable journey to the top. His play has taken them on an emotional ride that transcends that of regular lives far away from stadium spotlights. His accomplishments have allowed sports junkies to earnestly undertake the Greatest of All Time debate. As the duck boats are readied in Boston, fans and media around the country are looking to predict the next Super Bowl winner, and New Englanders are lifting Tom Brady up even higher than before.
Adam Naylor (SED’97,’01), a School of Education clinical assistant professor of counseling psychology and human development and of sports psychology, has more than a decade of experience educating and coaching Olympians, major and minor league sports professionals, and collegiate athletes. He can be reached at email@example.com.
“POV” is an opinion page that provides timely commentaries from students, faculty, and staff on a variety of issues: on-campus, local, state, national, or international. Anyone interested in submitting a piece, which should be about 700 words long, should contact Rich Barlow firstname.lastname@example.org. BU Today reserves the right to reject or edit submissions. The views expressed are solely those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of Boston University.