Millions of young men idolize Tom Brady. To them, he's the epitome of worldly greatness. After all, on the field, Brady's the winningest player in the history of his sport; and off the field, he's a Trump-friendly father of three with a net worth of a quarter of a billion dollars. But all is not as it seems. Recently, "Mr. Immortal" gave up on his family and divorced his wife of 13 years in order to play a child's game into perpetuity. So despite his virtual perfection on the gridiron, he's a sorry excuse for a man and an unworthy role model.
Tom Brady was born in San Mateo, California and raised as a Catholic in a sports-crazed family. Even his three older sisters zealously pursued athletics, each earning a scholarship to compete at the collegiate level. His mother once recalled, "We used to compete for absolutely everything, and we pushed [Tom] all the time."
As a boy, Brady regularly attended San Francisco 49ers games and, by his own admission, idolized Joe Montana. At 4 years old, he was even an eyewitness to "the Catch" — one of the most iconic moments in sports history. Brady would soon learn to play football himself and entered competitive camps at a tender age. At one of these camps, he learned how to throw the pigskin from future NFL quarterback Tony Graziani. Brady's childhood was dominated by sports, and this paved the way for his success at the high school level.
Brady attended Junipero Serra High School, an all-boys Catholic school in San Mateo, where he lettered in multiple sports. By the time he was a senior, the name on the back of his jersey had become synonymous with athletic excellence. Accordingly, at the end of his high school years, Brady had the option to play professional baseball or division I college football. And despite being picked in the 18th round of the 1995 Major League Baseball Draft, Brady opted to follow his childhood love and accepted an offer to play quarterback at the University of Michigan.
The former high school star warmed the bench for his first three years at Michigan. And if that wasn't humbling enough, the team actually prospered with Brady on the pine. During Brady's third year, the starting quarterback, Brian Griese, led the Wolverines to an undefeated season, which was capped off by a national championship. Ultimately, Brady only held the Michigan starting job for his last two college seasons. For any college football player with NFL aspirations, having just two years to showcase professional-caliber skills is less than ideal; but Brady was unfazed. "You don't get a starting job at Michigan by default," he asserted the same year he won the job, "you go out and earn it."
With Brady serving as field general for the 1998 and 1999 seasons, the Wolverines registered an impressive 20–5 record. On top of that, the West Coast kid stamped his name into the "UMich" record books by finishing his career third in completions and fourth in passing yards. He also took his team to the Orange Bowl his senior year, rallying Michigan from a deficit to beat the powerhouse University of Alabama 35–34.
Brady's collegiate career was a success by any measure — especially the record the team posted and the raw numbers Brady put up. But what's even more remarkable is the unwavering determination and commitment the future GOAT displayed. Most young men in his position would have transferred to greener pastures or quit, but Brady stayed the course. This steadfast attitude would be a trademark of his philosophy as a professional footballer.
The New England Patriots selected Brady 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. Six other quarterbacks were drafted before him (for what it's worth, he remembers each one by name). Although Brady enjoyed success as a college quarterback, pro scouts simply didn't see him as a future NFL starter. So when the Michigan graduate dropped to the sixth round (out of seven), it was no surprise. The scouting report on Brady was candid and devastating: "Poor build, skinny, lacks great physical stature and strength, and gets knocked down easily."
For late-round picks like Brady, becoming a starter — much less a productive one, much less a hall-of-famer — is unlikely. In fact, the average sixth-round pick participates in only 32.5 games throughout his career. To put it in a different light, a player drafted in the sixth round averages only two seasons in the NFL. This was, needless to say, not the case for Brady, who's now in the midst of his 23rd season in the league. And he's effectively been one of the best at his position every single year of his career.
Brady spent his rookie season backing up aging star Drew Bledsoe, and took the starting job as a second-year player, after Bledsoe went down with an injury. In his first year as a starter, at 24 years old, Brady became the youngest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl. And he'd famously go on to win six more, crushing the longstanding record for most Super Bowl victories by a single player (which was previously held by Charles Haley, with five).
But Brady's football greatness goes far beyond even his status as the winningest player in league history. Brady has captured virtually every major quarterback record and notably holds the NFL crown for passing yards, completions and touchdowns. He's never had a losing season and is the leader in career quarterback wins, quarterback regular season wins, quarterback playoff wins and Super Bowl MVP awards.
From high school to the NFL, Brady waited his turn and never complained. When his name was called, he shocked the world and did nothing but win. He's proven himself to be one of the most successful athletes of all time. But this came at the steepest price — the price of an upright conscience. And he got a raw deal.
Although sports can help men cultivate virtue, the opposite is too frequently the case. Research consistently shows a correlation between athletic involvement and immorality. One 1995 study, for example, noted, "The longer an athlete participates at a higher level of competition in sport, the more eroded their [sic] level of moral reasoning becomes." Brady is no exception to this paradigm.
Early in his NFL career, Brady made a habit of cavorting with cover girls and Playboy Bunnies and women with less-than-stellar moral credentials. So it wasn't altogether shocking when one member of Brady's harem, Bridget Moynahan, announced she was pregnant with Tom Terrific's son in 2007. This news caused even more of a stir considering its timing — two months into Brady's courtship with the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen.
The young couple ultimately weathered the birth of Brady's illegitimate son, and married in 2009 at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California. Everything seemed, for a time, to be getting on track. Brady and Bündchen appeared to have at least an outside chance at domestic bliss and, in a strange way, looked, at least superficially, to be adopting a more traditional marriage model. But looks are deceiving.
Brady and Bündchen went on to have two children of their own. And although they had their children baptized into the Catholic Church, they would not train the kids in the practice of the Faith — an obligation parents verbally commit to at the rite of baptism and one that Brady, as father and head of household, had the gravest obligation to see through. But sadly, for those familiar with the star gunslinger's religious bent, this default should come as no surprise.
Tom Brady is, in the final analysis, an apostate from the Christian religion. In 2015, New York Times Magazine reporter Mark Leibovich visited Brady's Boston mansion for an interview. Upon noticing a large glass menorah conspicuously displayed in the kitchen area, Leibovich pressed Brady for an explanation. The quarterback's response was enlightening. "We're not Jewish," Brady insisted, "but I think we're into everything. ... I don't know what I believe. I think there's a belief system; I'm just not sure what it is."
While Brady's incoherent religious worldview could be broadly described as syncretistic, his wife's praxis tends more towards outright occultism, which has had a downstream effect on TB12 himself. Right after his fifth Super Bowl victory, Brady explained that his wife made "a little altar" for him at the game. Brady's also admitted, "I have these little special stones and healing stones and protection stones, and she [Bündchen] has me wear a necklace." "You're lucky you married a witch!" Bündchen once proclaimed.
Brady's been too busy with football to be bothered about true religion, about piety, about his final end or about the eternal destination of his family — the things that are the currency of the upright man.
Brady's acedia in matters spiritual seems to be a close analogue of his indifference towards domestic life. It's well-known that Gisele had long expressed her wishes that her then-husband retire from the all-consuming world of professional football in order to make time for his family. Brady's rejoinder must've stung: "Too bad, babe, I'm having too much fun right now."
What's worse is that Brady was keenly aware of the toll his lifestyle was taking on his loved ones. He's publicly recounted the sacrifices he's made for career, saying, "I haven't had a Christmas in 23 years and I haven't had a Thanksgiving in 23 years; I haven't celebrated birthdays with people that I care about that are born from August to late January. And I'm not able to be at funerals and I'm not able to be at weddings."
In February of 2022, after 22 years in the NFL, a 44-year-old Brady finally gave in and decided to hang up the cleats to make good on his obligations as paterfamilias. The quarterback took to social media to bid his fans farewell, saying, "I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention."
But, in the end, even in the face of his wife's repeated interventions and ardent pleas that he devote more of himself to his marital vocation, he couldn't bring himself to permanently walk away from the game of football — despite holding the bittersweet distinction of being the oldest player in the league. So after a meager 40 days, Brady unretired, sacrificing his marriage and children at the altar of self-indulgence and vainglory (and for what's been a losing season, no less). Brady still had the "appetite to compete," and apparently that trumps everything else. What a broken man.
Sadly, less than eight months after Brady turned his back on family to run around with a ball into the years of his dotage, his marriage formally imploded. Indeed, on Oct. 28, 2022, Brady and Bündchen announced that they had finalized a divorce.
GOAT status in professional sports almost invariably requires a manic preoccupation with worldly glory and success, leaving little to no room for other concerns. And a well-formed conscience and excellence in the moral life are often the first casualties of a pathological lust for greatness.
In the grand scheme of things, competitive sport is only meant to breed virtue and upright morals — such is the telos of competition. In a 1945 address, Pope Pius XII unpacked this concept for a group of Italian sportsmen, underscoring that sport is "closely related to morality" and "goes beyond mere physical robustness to lead to strength and moral greatness." In other words, athletic competition — whether or not it's at the high school or professional level — is only legitimate when it leads to virtue, which, in turn, leads to God.
Man's calling far transcends his etching a place in the record books of a passing world. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: "Man is ordered to a supernatural end" (§367). And it's for precisely this reason that St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, "Only deeds of virtue are worthy of praise."
Tom Brady's commitment, passion and leadership appear to be compartmentalized in one specific area of his life — the realm of sport. If only Brady harbored the same zeal for his marital vocation, his children's salvation and his spiritual life as he does for playing football, he'd be a walking saint, complete with supernatural powers of healing, foresight and bilocation.
A great man, one truly worthy of praise, integrates his honorable qualities into all aspects of his life, into all aspects of his person. That's the essence of a virtuous man. Greatness is a function of the cause a person lives for and the sacrifice he's willing to render to it. Accordingly, a truly admirable man has a noble cause and gives everything for it.
German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper spells this out when explaining the virtue of magnanimity. Drawing from St. Thomas Aquinas, he writes:
Magnanimity is the expansion of the spirit toward great things. ... Magnanimity seeks above all great glory: The magnanimous man strives toward that which is worthy of the highest glory. ... One who is magnanimous completely shuns flattery and hypocrisy. ... The magnanimous man does not complain, for his heart does not permit him to be overcome by any external evil. ... He does the right thing for faith, family and homeland, even when that right thing means physical death or, worse yet, the death of his reputation. ... Such a man, in essence, is capable of standing alone in the world or standing up to the world with Christ as his sole support. [Internal quotation marks omitted.]
A great man habitually chooses the higher objective good over the lower subjective good. Therefore, a man who exchanges his wedding ring for the chance at another Super Bowl ring isn't great. In fact, he's no man at all; he's a child who never grew up. This applies with especial force to a man too busy chasing headlines in temporal history to notice he's become a mere footnote in salvation history.
Brady's "great" cause is football, and he sacrificed Faith and family for it. He never entered into the realm of virtuous manhood and neither will the youngsters who idolize him, which is nothing short of a tragedy.
Football, man-made game that it is, will pass away in short order, while the judgment Christ pronounces on Brady will last forever. Hopefully, the greatest quarterback of all time comes to his senses and reprioritizes his life — before it's too late.