When I was a kid I hated green beans, Danny Ainge, and Larry Bird. They all nauseated me. In the case of Bird and Ainge, as a maniacal Julius Erving/Mo Cheeks fan growing up in rural northern New York, I naturally despised those cheating, fouling, traveling uber-Celtics. They played dirty, and they got all the calls. It was juvenile, immature, and a waste of energy, but I was a kid, and a fan.
Now, though, I’m neither. I feel that old feeling creeping in again.
I feel it when I see the Thursday Night Football promo for Tom Brady’s 302nd regular-season start, which will tie Brett Favre’s record. I feel an irrational resentment toward Tom Brady. Despite all of my precautions against prejudice, I secretly root for Tom Brady to fail. Given his chronic successes, this is a frustrating pursuit.
I’m not jealous of Brady. Yes, he’s rich and he’s gorgeous, and his wife, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, is even richer and gorgeous-er.
Yes, he’s won a record seven Super Bowls, and he’s a savvy businessman, and he’s unlocked the secret to perpetual youth, and he’s the cleverest superstar follow in Twitter history.
Maybe there’s a little bit of “Oh, come on!” but no, I wouldn’t trade his life for mine. He just makes me ... grrr.
You can hate TB12. I cannot. I’m a journalist. My greatest strength – my superpower, if you will – lies in my complete indifference toward the fortunes of the athletes and the teams I cover. I get accused all the time of being a “hater,” be it of Carson Wentz or Ben Simmons or the Sixers’ failed and foolish “Process,” but, really, I couldn’t care less. I’m supposed to call out injustice and inanity, and that requires objectivity. Fandom by journalists is entirely unacceptable, whether you root for a team or against them; this is true no matter how many times you hear some TV host or radio jock go all “rah-rah” for their favorite teams or players.
But now, to some degree, I am building just such a glass house.
What about ...
My despisement of the GOAT is not unique. Brady consistently ranks as the most-hated NFL player, though Aaron Rodgers’ descent into long-haired eccentricity has them neck-and-neck. But Rodgers’ dissatisfaction with Green Bay and the world at large doesn’t compare with Brady’s chronic, compulsive transgressions.
He benefited at least twice from cheating – SpyGate, then DeflateGate – and those are just the times he and the Patriots got caught. He destroyed evidence at least once. His general disposition of entitlement is, in a word, repellent.
He screams at teammates. He disrespects opponents; he notoriously wouldn’t shake Nick Foles’ hand after Foles outplayed him in Super Bowl LII, and then, as if to make sure we knew it was intentional, Brady dissed Big Play Nick again last year.
He’s even worse off the field.
Brady is worth more than $250 million, and he’d just signed a new, $50 million contract, but his TB12 business received nearly $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the U.S. government during the height of the pandemic last year while smaller companies collapsed around him.
He spit in the face of the players’ union, and his new home in Tampa, by violating COVID-19 recommendations jointly issued by the NFL and the NFLPA when he trespassed to practice in a park during lockdown. He then joked about it on Twitter.
He broke the law, as the biggest star in the state that now has fourth-most COVID deaths. Then, shortly after his irresponsible, drunken behavior during the Bucs’ Super Bowl parade, he contracted the disease himself.
He claims he’s now vaccinated, which is big if true; but Brady has been, for two decades, an example of what not to do.
Still, none of this warrants my encroaching desire to see him fail.
Mine is a conflicted dislike.
No player in sports history elicited more from their modest abilities than Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr. He owns a slew of records, chief among them passing touchdowns in the seven Super Bowl wins. He needs just 364 completions and 1,155 yards to pass Drew Brees to own those records, too. Rodgers is a better quarterback, but Rodgers has a lot more to work with both in terms of talent and character. Tom Terrific literally could not be better than he is.
He seems to have maximized intangibles, too.
Brady wants to win. He holds his teammates accountable, even if his methods aren’t ideal. He holds himself accountable. He prepares like a maniac; I’ve actually bought some of his TB12 health and wellness products, and I’ve subscribed to the online programs. I now hate avocados.
Brady also is a football genius. He understands facets of the game than most people don’t even consider, and he bemoans the decline of elegant passing.
For example, he recently issued a captivating lecture on how new on-field safety rules that are intended to protect quarterbacks and receivers actually have led to less responsible quarterbacking; chiefly, throwing passes today that you never would have thrown in yesteryear, because they would have put your receivers in peril.
That’s next-level insight and honesty. So, yes, I respect Brady for what he’s done and for what he can do. It’s who he is that makes me cringe.
Worse, the same sorts of feelings are creeping in toward other athletes.
Bryson DeChambeau’s vaccine hesitancy and vaccine ignorance – he thinks there’s a vaccine shortage in America – it’s getting harder to watch the dude in the Jeff cap without wishing for every shot to find a hazard or, better yet, a highway. When he hits his 360-yard drives offline toward crowds he doesn’t even yell “Fore!”
This season he abused a cameraman for videoing him destroying a bunker, saying the TV types needed to protect his “brand.” He wrangles with rules officials, he plays so slowly that the PGA Tour had to change the definition of slow play, and he wears metal spikes that damage greens, to his peers’ dismay.
The thing about DeChambeau is, ever since I had a pleasant conversation with him under the boughs of the famous oak tree when he was still an amateur at his first Masters tournament five years ago, I sort of rooted for DeChambeau. He was refreshing. Smart. Different.
I hoped that his innovative, one-length club system with those huge grips, his willingness to try any legal means to gain an edge, and his general nonconformity would help attract folks still intimidated by golf’s buttoned-down stuffiness and exclusion. And if he wanted to bulk up by 50 pounds to render 7,500-yard golf courses obsolete, so what. I’d still be playing from the white tees.
But then, two weeks ago, I found myself hoping that a relatively anonymous robot, Patrick Cantlay, would bury the Incredible Bulk in their six-hole playoff at the BMW Championship. I then delighted in DeChambeau’s pedestrian showing at the Tour Championship, at which he finished in seventh place, at 13-under par, despite beginning the tournament in third place, having begun the handicapped event at 7-under. I felt no sympathy for him, either, when PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan issued the edict that anyone heard hollering “Brooksie!” at Bryson would be ejected; DeChambeau and four-time major winner Brooks Keopka have an ongoing feud. I have taken sides.
I didn’t feel bad, either, when a fan swiped DeChambeau’s ball on No. 18 on Saturday. Of course, DeChambeau got a free drop and made birdie anyway. He’s that good.
DeChambeau would have taken home an extra $15 million had he won the Tour Championship, and, with it, possibly won player of the year awards, too. Instead, he got $1.3 million. Cantlay won it all. I have no feelings regarding Patrick Cantlay. Really, nobody does. That might include Patrick Cantlay.
Anyway, it has to stop. It’s completely inappropriate for me to root against Tom Brady, Bryson DeChambeau, or anybody about whose performance and character I am compelled to write.
There is hope. I’ve come back from this before.
Ainge is out of work right now, but he ran the Celtics pretty efficiently for 19 years. Bird has helped run the Pacers for the past 25 years. I’ve never cared a whit about either of them for almost 30. Godspeed, former nemeses.
However, I still hate green beans.