Brady’s Sad News: Was His Ambition His Downfall?
Sad news broke yesterday that Tom Brady and his supermodel wife have decided to get divorced.
This got me thinking about the complexities of being a human being. Tom wanted to be the best quarterback in the world and that took a lot of time away from his wife and family. He retired last year and then quickly decided he wanted to play again. Was that him being selfish? Not being fulfilled as a husband and father? Not knowing what he wanted to do with the rest of his life?
I don’t know what really happened with his marriage, of course, but I do know that every human being, even super high achievers such as Brady, pays a price for their decisions. It’s nearly impossible to dedicate your life to being great at more than one thing. How can you be a great husband and father when you’re driven to be the best football player who has ever lived?
Either you compromise and decide you want to be a good but not great quarterback and won’t watch film and practice for countless hours to spend more time with your family and kids. But settling for that doesn’t meet your egotistical burning desire to prove all five teams that passed you over in the NFL draft were wrong about your talent and work ethic.
So you have to choose. And those choices aren’t simple and have potent consequences. They tear at your heart.
Brady is like many superstar athletes, such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, who have had a singular focus on being the best. All three have gotten divorced. This is not to say all major sports heroes have failed marriages. Jack Nicklaus and John Wooden didn’t. But it happens quite often with the best of the best.
I have always admired the work ethic of Brady, Jordan, and Woods because of the sacrifices they made, practicing alone, late at night, and early in the morning, to be the best. But they’re obviously flawed people just like the rest of us who never reach professional zeniths, going about our anonymous lives, working to pay the monthly bills.
I watch Brady play football now and wonder what’s going through his mind. Loser of three straight games, he doesn’t look like a happy man. He looks confused, distraught, and absent. Lost, to be honest. There’s a hollowness on his face. He looks beaten in some way. I sense from his expression he feels he’s someplace he doesn’t want to be any more or isn’t sure why he’s there but can’t figure out what decision to make next.
Ambition beats us all, eventually. No matter how high we climb, we fall. All of us, even the greatest. Then what?
We’re just human beings struggling, trying to figure out why we’re here, what all the championships, promotions, money, mansions, and nice cars meant, whether we lived our lives the right way, whether people really care about us or just enjoyed watching us climb the ladder to become the Greatest of All Time or the president of our company.
We watched Brady do this and were dazzled. Now we watch him and wonder what he’s thinking and how he’s going to deal with the rest of his life no longer being on TV and the star of the show, just a man waking up every day, living out his life, with no chance of ever rising as high on the public stage as he has already. Those moments will never happen again.
What will become of Tom Brady? Emotionally, how will he handle this unique superhero life he has lived looking back on it all and the self-centered choices he made? Eventually, we’ll see him on TV broadcasting NFL games. Will that fulfill him? Is there anything else besides football that stirs his heart? Will the lack of competition and pursuit of Super Bowls be enough to motivate him to wake up in the morning and want to live another day?
I don’t know. He probably doesn’t either. Many things in life are unknowable. That much we know.
But I do know this. He lost his marriage and that’s sad. I wonder if he would exchange all seven Super Bowl titles and his GOAT status to have his marriage back and less fractured family life.
Only he can answer this.
I am also certain of this: Having a stable marriage is better than being the greatest at my craft of writing, which is saying a bundle because I do want to be great at this. But I ask myself whether I would rather be the best writer on Earth but would have to lose my marriage as a result.
I’d take my marriage every time. But I admit the decision wouldn’t be without emotional struggles. I would wrestle with the compromise.
Life is about conflicts. Life is about compromises. Life is about winning and losing, championships and divorces, ambition and interpersonal tensions, selfishness and selflessness, highs and lows, football and family, growing up and getting older, looking ahead and looking back, wondering why we’re here and wondering what will happen when we die.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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