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Whitlock: Fame and entitlement are destroying Tom Brady

Op-ed
Douglas P. DeFelice / Contributor, Icon Sportswire / Contributor, Michael Stewart / Contributor | Getty Images

Cameras captured Tom Brady yelling at his offensive linemen during the second quarter of Tampa Bay’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In the last month, the seven-time Super Bowl champion has lost three of his last four games and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen. It’s a frustrating time for the most accomplished football player in NFL history. The Bucs don’t look like Super Bowl contenders, and Brady and his wife have hired divorce lawyers.

It’s no surprise Brady is lashing out. It’s also no surprise that the 45-year-old quarterback is suffering a midlife identity crisis.

You can argue that Father Time finally caught Tom Brady. I’d argue fame is causing the demise of Brady. Fame is undefeated at eroding self-awareness, promoting selfishness, and encouraging entitlement.

Selfishness, entitlement, and a lack of self-awareness are at the root of Brady’s 2022 on- and off-field failures.

Friday, Brady hopped on a private plane to attend Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s surprise wedding. Sometime Saturday, Brady jetted to Pittsburgh to meet his teammates for their game with the Steelers. Brady skipped the Saturday walk-through practice. He didn’t need it. He’s Super Tom Brady.

Brady no longer requires practice. He’s reportedly excused from Wednesday practices, too. Brady wants to play football. He’s not that interested in preparing to play football. His mindset mirrors that of most professional athletes.

NFL play is sloppy and uneven. It’s no surprise. The league has basically outlawed contact practice over safety concerns. Everyone is getting rich regardless of the quality of play. No one cares, including most of the fans.

The NFL and its network partners cater to casual fans, the people who watch the Red Zone channel for fantasy football updates and scoreboards to track their gambling picks.

For two decades, Brady excelled on the football field because he had the courage and self-awareness to stand out from his peers. He bought into and cultivated the Patriot Way, the selfless and team-oriented style of football Bill Belichick evangelizes.

Brady epitomized old-school values.

That Tom Brady died when he moved to Tampa Bay.

Tampa Tom desires the spoils of celebrity. Privilege. He practices when it’s convenient. He briefly retired because he no longer wanted to play for Bruce Arians. He sacrificed his marriage in pursuit of enhancing a football legacy that can’t go any higher.

Brady made a fool of himself Sunday berating his teammates. He can’t yell and scream at his teammates when they can so clearly see that he’s not fully invested in their success. Brady’s mindset and approach separated him from his competitors. The culture he helped Belichick create in New England contributed to his on-field greatness more than his physical gifts.

Brady’s behavior now undermines Tampa’s culture. Todd Bowles, Tampa’s coach, recognizes the problem.

“We didn’t take (Pittsburgh) lightly,” Bowles said after the 20-18 loss. “I think guys that are living off the Super Bowl are living in a fantasy land. You gotta get your hands dirty and go to work like everybody else. We’ve been working hard and we’ve gotta work harder. Nobody’s gonna give us anything. Nobody’s gonna feel sorry. We’ve gotta go back as coaches, as players – the time for talking is over. You either gotta put up or shut up.”

Of course the Buccaneers took Pittsburgh lightly. Injuries decimated Pittsburgh’s lineup. The Steelers’ two best players – T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick – didn’t play. Pittsburgh entered Sunday’s game on a four-game losing streak. At kickoff, the Buccaneers were favored by 10 points.

Forty-eight hours before the game, Tom Brady chose to attend a wedding in New York. That’s a signal to every player on the Bucs' roster that the greatest player of all time didn’t take Pittsburgh all that seriously. Brady’s actions are far more powerful and influential than Todd Bowles’ words.

A spirit of entitlement controls Tom Brady’s behavior at the moment. Fame does that. Constant adulation does that.

It’s great that Brady won a Super Bowl in Tampa. But the reality is that Brady misses Bill Belichick.

Brady should have retired three years ago and focused on his family. He’s not the same person without Belichick.

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