Jan 20, 2011, 2:30 PM EDT
I have to admit that I’m kind of biased here: I was one of Tom Brady’s coaches in high school. Freshman basketball, to be exact … which is probably why he ultimately chose football. Back in those days, at Serra High in San Mateo, Calif. (home of Barry Bonds and scorching 75-degree summers), Tommy Brady was known as a friendly, unassuming kid with a big smile and a lot of athletic ability. He didn’t have an enemy in the world, even amongst those he played against. He was like a young Andy Rooney in shoulder pads, dispensing footballs like homespun monologues. Can you imagine someone “hating” Andy Rooney? Sure, I’d like to hire two large Samoan men to hold him down while I mow his eyebrows. But it would be a gentle mowing, filled with love.
Brady is just like Rooney, only with a smaller prostate and a cleaner office. If he were stuffed and made of fabric, you’d find him amongst other toy animals on a preteen girl’s bed. There hasn’t been a less threatening male since Goober Pyle. Tom Brady makes the Jonas Brothers look like the Coen Brothers. So why, then, does the world outside of New England — and San Mateo County — seem to hate him with an intensity usually reserved for Bernie Madoff, or any various Kardashian?
The latest manifestation of this came in the trash talk bonanza that was otherwise known as the AFC Playoffs, as the Jets’ Antonio Cromartie called Brady “an ass****.” From the New York Daily News:
“We see that a lot. He does it a lot,” Cromartie said of Brady pointing at the Jets’ sideline following a touchdown. “That’s the kind of guy he is. We really don’t give a damn, to tell you the truth.”
Okay, what kind of guy is Brady?
Brady denies pointing to any Jet at any time for any reason, and indeed no photo has ever surfaced of him doing so. But this goes beyond the bitterness of those he plays against. There are entire web sites devoted to Brady Hate, such as Brady Hate Nation (NSFW), which features a photo of Brady in a dress. In the site’s “Why Hate?” section, they list two of the reasons as “Endorses Uggs,” and “Makes Justin Bieber look cool.”
As weighty as those reasons may be, compare them to two reasons to hate a certain other playoff quarterback: “Accused of raping a woman in a hotel room” and “Recent sexual assault charge in a restaurant bathroom.”
Yes, where is all the Ben Roethlisberger hate?
There really hasn’t been any.
While Brady is mocked for his hair and his complaining to officials and his TV ads, Big Ben is viewed by his peers and the general public like your cooler older brother. He rides his motorcycle without a helmet, and gets into trouble in bars! He’s like Gary Busey in, well, every Gary Busey film. But mostly Silver Bullet. Rothelisberger is the relative who will build you the cool motorized wheelchair that will go 65 on the back roads … but only after he wakes up at noon amongst a hooker and three empty bottles of Grey Goose.
Just before the Ravens met the Steelers in the playoffs earlier this month, Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs praised Roethlisberger as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, while saying that Brady’s three Super Bowl victories “were questionable.”
“He’s got the tuck rule incident (in 2001 playoffs against Oakland Raiders) and you got the videotaping of other teams’ practices,” Suggs said. “It’s like “Oh OK what’s going on here?
Of course, Brady wrote the tuck rule himself, and ran the camera in the video controversy. Oh wait, no, apparently he didn’t.
According to my independent research, Brady is also more hated than:
- Dog Torturer, ex-con and Philadelphia Eagle Michael Vick.
- Alleged nightclub stabber Ray Lewis.
- Sexting flip-flopper Brett Favre.
- Current Graybar Hotel resident Plaxico Burress.
It’s a double standard embraced by both NFL fans and players alike, and most certainly has its roots in the thorny emotion of envy. Brady invokes this each time he flashes (a). His three Super Bowl rings, (b). His good looks, (c). His wife. I imagine that people also hate him for his association with the Patriots and Bill Belichick. After the same team routinely beats you flat with a circus mallet, they’re easy to despise. And as the quarterback, Brady takes the brunt of the vitriol.
It’s kind of unprecedented, though. Joe Montana had Brady’s success — more, really — and the hot wife and all of that. And while he was a target of NFL defenses everywhere, no one really hated him personally. The only near equivalent to Brady hate that I can find is Tim Tebow hate, which has the added religious element. But even that doesn’t quite measure up.
We seem to have entered an era where love for the antihero is the new currency of the realm. Black hats are in, white hats are yesterday’s news. If you can make huge screwups in your life, and then attempt to come back from them, you can enjoy much greater popularity than someone who never screwed up in the first place.
Ricky Gervais has a great bit in his latest HBO special in which he talks about losing weight. He mentions that he’s lost 25 pounds, and the audience applauds. “No!” he says. “Don’t applaud that! You’re praising me for doing something that I should have been doing all along!”
So, enjoy your Brady schadenfreude. And if you’re attending the Jets-Steelers game, make sure your wives and daughters are sitting a few rows back. Ben can get grabby.
Rick’s Cafe Americain appears each Thursday. Contact: Rickchand@gmail.com.
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