The biggest officeholder around
By managing to stay above the fray no matter what's thrown at him, Tom Brady has proved to be our most skillful politician.
There’s a sparkle on the airwaves now and that can mean only one thing – the election is over and all the political commercials are gone. No more Photoshopping bloody fangs onto your opponent’s old prom picture. No more baritone cave-dwelling voice-overs creating the unmistakable impression that you are being addressed by a stalactite. No, nothing now but clear, refreshed radio breezes on which are carried the latest pitches for auto glass replacement, hair-loss potions, and all those masculinity-based nostrums that make all of us over 50 say, “Hey, remember when you couldn’t even talk about that stuff on the air?” All of the campaign ads are gone now, and there is only one thing we’ve all learned from them, and from the agonizingly banal campaign season for which they were shilling: There is only one great politician in this state, and his name is Tom Brady.
Nobody has navigated the swells and troughs of public life the way he has over the past three-plus years. Nobody else has managed to keep his head while all around him were losing theirs, even though, in the case of his offensive line, that meant that Brady might well lose his anyway, through no fault of his own. Nobody has kept an important public institution from going completely off the rails the way he has. If you consider the New England Patriots to be a public trust, and Bob Kraft would like it if you did, then nobody kept that kind of public trust the way that Brady has, even though, for a while the last few years, it looked as if his campaign was falling apart at his feet. He blew out his knee, his best oppo-research man on his offensive line took a walk, his defense was a bunch of raw kids with no experience at this level, nobody could seem to hire him a competent running back, and he got all over the news one morning because somebody leveled his car in Back Bay. Meanwhile, he was able to finesse his own contract negotiations and subtly call out his own constituents without alienating them in the least for an enthusiasm gap he’d detected at home games. All football, as we know, is local.
And then there’s the prolonged farewell of Randy Moss. Three years ago, Brady and Moss put up the greatest offensive season in the history of the National Football League. That it fell a minute short of a Super Bowl victory is no matter. Ask Al Gore about how history can vindicate favorites who lose cliffhangers. For the next two seasons, nobody was better at spinning things forward than Brady, who kept praising Moss, and, after getting back on the field, throwing him the ball. (He might have fired one last pass down the jetway as Moss was leaving for Minnesota.) He even managed to survive an anonymously sourced hit piece about an argument he and Moss supposedly had concerning Brady’s new hairstyle. Politicians are done in by anonymous hit pieces all the time, but Brady sailed serenely on, regardless of what may actually have happened behind the scenes, and came through the whole thing unruffled. Which brings us to his . . . hair. This can be an issue in our celebrity-soused political culture. Just ask John Edwards. Brady has heard about his new coiffure from the wise guys on the Sunday morning preview shows, denizens of talk radio, and beery fashionistas in Foxborough. Nevertheless, last month, after getting popped marginally late by Baltimore’s huge Haloti Ngata, Brady got up and straight into the grill of Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. Since we can assume there probably was some dialogue concerning Brady’s hair interspersed with various 12-letter arguments, jumping ugly with Suggs was a masterpiece of rapid response.
More to the point, Brady has grown his hair, fathered a child with an actress, whom he did not marry, and then married a supermodel, with whom he has had another child. Bring Candidate X to a political strategist with that kind of domestic resume, and he will tell you to wait a second until he can attach the drip-bottle full of bourbon to his arm. The attack commercials write themselves, he’ll tell you, and then his eyes will roll back in his head and he’ll begin to sing.
And yet, Brady has thrived as a public figure, his image still shining, through the simple fact that he does his job professionally and as well as anybody else ever has done it. That’s a tough case to make in a political age in which trivia too often trumps substance, but he makes it most every day, and usually at least twice on Sunday.
Charles P. Pierce is a staff writer for the Globe Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.