It’s been a rough month for Tom Brady, who’s lost three of his last four games behind center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and may or may not have recently lost his 13-year marriage on account of his decision to un-retire earlier this year.
Those frustrations bubbled into a viral tirade during yesterday’s game against the lowly, Mitch Trubisky-led Pittsburgh Steelers, when Brady berated his offensive line in full view of the sideline cameras. “You’re so much better than the way you’re fucking playing!” he screamed. Twitter had an inevitable field day with the rant, and many were quick to point out that Brady seemed less prepared for the bout than the men tasked with protecting him. The 45-year-old skipped practice Wednesday, went to a wedding (Robert Kraft’s) in New York on Friday, was a no-show for Saturday’s team walk-through, and arrived to Pittsburgh alone, via private jet.
This sharp left turn in Brady’s life has captured the nation’s attention, and understandably so — about 20 months ago, the quarterback couldn’t have had more going for him. He’d brought an improbable title to Tampa Bay in his first try (his seventh ring overall, and crucially, his first without mentor/boogeyman Bill Belichick), the entire world of sports agreed he was the greatest quarterback who’d ever played, and his family — Gisele, children Jack, Ben and Vivian — seemed happy and humming along…with a purported net worth of $650 million.
Then he came back in 2021, and probably should’ve won the MVP (virtually all of his passing numbers beat out Aaron Rodgers), though the Bucs eventually fizzled out in the playoffs, losing to the Los Angeles Rams. Nobody blamed the man for stepping away from the game after a loss; there’s been nothing left to prove for years now. Yet, this seems to be a concept that he struggles to understand more than anyone else. He came back for yet another season, and it doesn’t take Page Six sleuthing to determine that that choice has irrevocably punctured whatever familial perfection he had (or was selling, at least) on social media, on podcasts or for the documentary camera crews that record his every move.
All to say, Brady is in a weird place right now, and it’s unsurprising — as he hires divorce lawyers, and prepares for what could be an emotional and contentious legal process — that he’s feeling extra protective of what he does have left, like influence over his kids. But even with that context, an Instagram Story he posted this weekend about his daughter smacked as retrograde and bizarre. Brady uploaded a photo of a tombstone and captioned it “Anyone who dates my daughter. I want to be crystal clear about this.”
Why are men still doing this? Fathers, uncles and older brothers are often characterized as a mixture of playful and protective when they take on this Meet the Parents, knuckle-crunch handshake, “girl dad” trope, but it actually signals a series of strange and unnecessary messages to a daughter, niece or younger sister. Like: “You can’t be trusted to determine the character of others,” or “I’d rather not think about you becoming your own woman some day,” or “Whomever you do decide to bring home better be perfect in my eyes,” and, most alarmingly, “I want to retain control over your decision-making for as long possible” (especially decisions of the sexual variety).
Brady’s daughter Vivian is nine. Obviously, he’s not going to punch her partner in the face when they walk through his door a decade or so from now. And on the flip side, that kid could indeed turn out to be unkind, or a clown, or specifically imperfect for his daughter in some way. That’s none of our business. But this sort of stuff becomes the business of celebrity media when Brady decides to dedicate a post to it online — and particularly at a time when his relationship to his family is under a microscope. Even in jest, how is this sort of behavior fair to his daughter, let alone Gisele? (Is she in accordance with her longtime husband, that Vivian’s first boyfriend better be counting his blessings?)
Family should look out for family. Friends should fill in the gaps where family falls short. If you love someone in your life, you should want them to be with someone who respects, protects and loves that person to the degree that we all deserve. But part of loving someone is also granting them the freedom to pursue relationships that may or may not work out in the end. Here at a crossroads in his life, it’s unclear whether Brady agrees with that line of thinking; but as he clutches to the love of those still around him, he would be wise to save them from the pressure that he can’t seem to stop putting on himself.