Tecmo Bowl games in Tom Bradyfirst apartment In Massachusetts they used to get so fierce and competitive that the loser would have to sneak naked through the flat of the quad. Brady himself has suffered this punishment at least once, running naked through the cold northeastern night among slices of pizza, cans of beer, and heaps of hot wings.
Yes, Tom Brady was once a regular bro who would play the Tecmo Bowl and devour wings just like many of his fans. It was a rough time for him, those early months in New England, the days before he took over as Tom Brady. Back then, in the last few weeks before going national, then international, Brady could just relax and enjoy life… for a few minutes at a time, at least.
Beneath the rear ball cap, the exterior of the Ax body sprayer beat an unsatisfied driven core, even at the time. As Seth Wickersham notes in his book Better to be Feared, his extraordinary autobiography on Brady and Bill Belichick—which includes the aforementioned Tecmo-streaker tale—even then Brady was a relentless worker, arriving at the stadium at 6 a.m. Leave at 7 p.m. for dinner at the apartment, then return at 9:30 p.m. to study a movie or throw balls at the training facility late at night.
Brady spent his entire early life trying to prove others wrong, trying to live up to an absurd ideal of himself. In high school, he vowed to play college ball. In Michigan, he vowed to make his name among the greats. One evening in New England, owner Robert Kraft – who had been mistakenly named “Kyle” – told owner, “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and it’s your choice of me.”
Of course, he was right. Brady hit all his tags — surpassing them, really, by such a wide and incomprehensible margin that he’s the undisputed goat in the NFL. Seven episodes with two different teams, an MVP-caliber player playing against players two decades younger than him, all the fame, adulation, and approval a human could want…at least, in theory.
The thing is, when your entire existence depends on you proving people wrong, what happens when there’s no need to? What do you do when everyone recognizes that you are the absolute best? When you reach the top of the mountain, the only person still there to fight is yourself.
There’s a meme going on right now Shows a pale Brady, cheeks sunken next to Saturn wide-eyed, his consciousness, revolving around Saturn Aaron Rodgers. “It’s not worth it guys,” says the meme, “They ate ice cream.”
On the one hand, it’s a cheap laugh at what two of the best players ever in football have done to themselves at such a late stage in their careers, from drastic diets to mind-altering improvements, depriving themselves of life’s simple pleasures, like ice cream. …and maybe wings, pizza, and the Tecmo Bowl.
But on another level, it’s sad as hell, too. It’s a look at what you have to give up to be the best, and how much you have to give up on yourself in order to conquer any demons raging within you. Look at Brady’s behavior here as he enters Sunday’s game against the Saints:
This is a guy who looks mentally and physically exhausted. And it’s only the second week! What should be a celebratory career victory looks a lot like a flat.
Brady won that game the same way he won the high-profile first-week showdown against the Cowboys: With uncompromising professionalism, hitting the marks, he showed just as much passion and effort as the concert pianist playing “Chopsticks.” The only real times he showed fire on a Sunday in New Orleans was when the Saints got hit by a chibi, or when the Bok’s engines stumbled:
Brady may or may not have marital problems. If you believe the tabloid media and “sources close to” Gisele’s wife, all is not well in the Brady house, and it hasn’t been since he decided not to part with him in the spring. Regardless, Brady was dealing with “personal” issues off the field – his words – and peeked behind the curtain when he returned from a long training absence, looking skewed and exhausted: “I’m 45, man. There’s a lot of things going on.”
Just this week, it was reported that Brady will be exempted from all-season Wednesday practices, a very unusual arrangement. Brady has enough episodes he can do whatever he pleases – he can probably only appear on Sundays and still beat half the teams in the league without even knowing the names of his teammates – but when the man who once worked from before dawn to long after Sunset begins to take entire days off, and somewhere along the line something important has changed.
Marital issues are none of the business but the Bradys family. The problem is Tom Brady that man is now in direct conflict with the Tom Brady Foundation. Like the Rolling Stones, Tom Brady is not just a human, but a whole project of himself – a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback, a future Fox Sports personality with a third-billion dollar contract. And so, like the Rolling Stones, Brady must put aside any personal issues he might have while continuing to play Tom Brady. He has already invested a lot in it. The beast must be fed, even if Brady jumped on Wednesday.
No matter what happens in his personal life, Brady has a long and difficult road ahead. Every professional athlete, driven by forces that those in the stands cannot imagine, faces the moment when the road ends. Brady has stopped him the most, but the end is coming, no matter how angry he is against it. He’ll need to figure out how to gracefully lose this last fight, because the battle against time is one that not even Tom Brady can win.
Brady may still have something to prove to himself, something he still needs to achieve greatness in his mind. If he does, he’s the only one on earth who still needs convincing.
Connect with Jay Busbee at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at jaybusbee.