Win or lose at this weekend’s Super Bowl, Tom Brady has already cemented his status as Captain America. But not because of the other five championship rings he’s earned.
It’s because of something he did for his five-year-old daughter on Monday. That’s when a wannabe bully, posing as a sports radio host, referred to her as "an annoying little pissant" while discussing the "Tom vs. Time" documentary she briefly appears in.
So Brady, who had regularly appeared on that radio show over the years, called in and told the show — while on the air — that he would not be appearing any further that day. Then he added he might not come back in the future at all.
In short, he was a good dad. And that’s something we have in very short supply these days.
What we have a lot of are boys who can shave, like the guy who thought it was funny to describe a defenseless child that way. Brady himself said this goes way beyond being about just his daughter to how we treat others in general, and he is exactly right.
Men have become a very, very coarsened bunch who, year after year, in both word and deed, shoot from the hip just like a shock jock but without the microphone. They have spent so much time viewing the world through little more than athletic competition, as if making money or status-building trumps their ability to treat others as they would like to be treated. The golden rule has become "he who has the gold gets to make the rules."
And I admit, I've fallen prey to this as well.
When we do, everything becomes an “other” to be conquered in one way or another. Women are supposed to be complementary to our lives, not conquered. Sports are supposed to be supplementary to our lives, not supreme. Money is supposed to be facilitating, not foundational.
When we get all of that wrong, we can't help getting farther from reason and closer to madness. For God has truly been replaced by a pantheon of lesser gods of this material world. Then one day, the men who have zealously lived this way actually get married and have children.
The boys they raise go off to live lives of such shallow meaning that to shout out loud that a five-year-old girl is a pissant doesn’t register on most out-of-bounds meters. Instead it is considered edgy or bold. And the girls they raise, having little idea of what a real man is, still throw themselves after such men with physical and emotional abandon, because what other choice could there possibly be?
We need to stop growing our children to be caricatures and cautionary tales. We must stand up for them from the minute they are born against forces of evil far more powerful than a radio clown. Teach our sons how to be men of courage and conviction. Teach our daughters how to be women of unparalleled strength and dignity.
This can’t happen on autopilot. We must stand for something noble that our children understand to be non-negotiable. And then when the bullies come to break it all down, as they always do, we must step forward like Brady did and show all of them who the bigger man is.
Brady punched the bully in the mouth. And then Brady offered him mercy, saying he hopes this shock jock learns from this and doesn't get fired.
Here's hoping this shock jock takes advantage of Brady's grace, accepts responsibility for this episode, and goes on to learn from this. The mark of a real man isn't that we fall, because we all do, but that we get back up when we do.