Tom Brady makes more money than you, married a supermodel, and plays for his fifth Super Bowl ring a week from Sunday. Jealous?
“We hate it when our friends become successful,” Morrissey once crooned. When strangers become successful, we hate that more.
The Supreme Court broke up Standard Oil when it became too powerful. The commissioner of the NFL treated the New England Patriots similarly, suspending its quarterback for a quarter of the season and docking them a first-round draft choice.
But just as Exxon and Mobil reunited to dominate stateside petroleum, Brady returned to lead Roger Goodell’s least favorite team to the big game. For some, this represents comeuppance for the commish; for others, a profound injustice.
The 39-going-on-29 QB prepares for his seventh Super Bowl. Unless you root for the Steelers, Cowboys, or Broncos, the Patriots quarterback hogs more spotlight on football’s grandest stage than your team enjoyed during its entire existence. Think on this: the Chicago Bears, present in 1920 at the creation of the NFL, have mustered seven fewer playoff wins in their existence than Tom Brady. In fact, Tom Terrific owns more playoff victories, effectively playing two seasons in the postseason, than 25 teams do during their history of the league.
People resent other people who make them look bad in comparison. “Best” is an offense against egalitarianism. Rather than admire greatness, we knock it. “No fair!” “You cheated!” Translation? “I’m a loser.” We punish the rich the more they make through taxation. A similar mentality despises dynasties—Steelers, 49ers, Cowboys. If nobody hates your team, you root for a loser.
Tom Brady never electrocuted a dog, knelt for the national anthem, killed two club-goers and a friend, shouted “I hope you die tomorrow” at cops, spit in J.J. Stokes’ face, or engaged in an impromptu intergender fistfight in an elevator. He just wins, which strangely infuriates more than other transgressions.
Number 12 entered the season as the league’s fourth most hated player, according to one poll. What accounts for this?
Brady displaying a red “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker offended the easily offended. “If you’re friends with Trump, you’re friends with racism, bigotry and misogyny,” Seth Walder wrote of Brady earlier this week in the New York Daily News. “Just like if you voted for Trump, you voted for racism, bigotry and misogyny.” The Deflategate and Spygate controversies lead Brady’s detractors to label him a “cheater.” And behind his aw-shucks demeanor, cynics see an Eddie Haskell.
But mainly, it’s winning. And, of course, to win is no sin.