Super Bowl week is upon us, and conversations all across New York City will turn to the game and the Giants, as they try to topple the most hated team since the 1980 USSR Hockey squad. "Eli, put on your Superman cape" is the sentiment that will be echoed through workplaces and Ale Houses citywide. In these upcoming few days, I'll be pouring over sports websites, reading and re-reading the same articles again and again, hoping Plaxico Burress keeps his trash-talking to a minimum and that The Sports Guy on espn.com doesn't write one of his too common "Boston fans only" columns.
I'll also be building up the hate inside me for all things Boston. The fact that people are given a pass to say they're from "just outside of Boston" even if they live in Manchester, New Hampshire, or that you can't go to a bar in the entire town without some jackass on NO Explode trying to pick a fight with you to defend his blue-collar honor, or that even though every bar is ostensibly a crummy sports bar you can't wear sneakers anywhere, these are all things I will be turning over and over in my head like the Count of Monte Cristo, waiting for the Giants to deliver the swift blow of justice. I know I'm also a victim of wrong place, wrong time; in this case, the wrong time was being in college and in my early 20s for the New England Renaissance of the 21st Century, propped up by an NFL Dynasty, the end of the Curse, the Celtics resurgence, and both Affleck brothers hitting their stride.
But as much as I've tried these past 5 months, and the last 5 years, there's really little I can say against Tom Brady. He seems to be living at least three dreams at once, and I've got to hand it to him. The majority of kids in America who close their eyes before bed and dream of what they want to be, what they want to do, what they want to have, are consciously or not dreaming of something Tom Brady has already done. Be one of the best of all time at the premiere position in the premiere sport, leading your team to numerous championships? Check and check. Make millions of dollars for doing something you love? Yes please. Date the most beautiful women in the world? In the eternal words of Wes Mantooth, I hate you Tom Brady, but goddammit do I respect you.
In fact, Brady epitomizes the Triple Threat of American Male Ambition: talent, fabulous wealth, and romances with world-class beauties. He does this so much so, that whenever another figure makes a play for the Triple Crown, in any field, it's safe to refer to him as, "The Tom Brady of ___". For example, my buddy Alex, who works for UBS really did a bang-up job this year and was rewarded accordingly with an obscene bonus. At the same time his girlfriend is a great looking, fantastic girl, and on the right night he can rip jokes with the best of them. It can be said, then, that Alex is currently the Tom Brady of our group of friends. To wit, some other notable Tom Brady's:
The Tom Brady of Music - Justin Timberlake
When I first ventured this comparison, one of my friends told me I was gay, Justin Timberlake was gay, and all his music was lame. And yet I could not back down. The similarities are almost too perfect.
Let's start with the broad category of success: Tom Brady is currently the captain and leader of an undefeated New England Patriots team, going for it's fourth Super Bowl. He was the NFL's Most Valuable Player and broke the single season touchdown record. Meanwhile, in the competitive arena known as Popular Music, Justin Timberlake is the undisputedly most popular male solo act around, with his record Future Love/Sex Sounds making the Top 10 best selling albums of both 2006 and 2007. He has had at least four hit singles and a special on HBO. All this while also gaining kudos for a respectable turn in the movie Alpha Dog. Plus, while he can roughly be termed "pop," and is in fact played continuously on Z100, Timberlake's music, produced first by Pharrell Williams and then by Timbaland, is enjoyed in wider circles (read: by men usually ashamed of such bubbly nonsense) than any pop singer since Michael Jackson. In terms of money I think it's also a safe comparison; they both make millions, very happily.
The other most obvious category is success with the opposite sex. Brady has had two high-profile romances that have instilled bitter jealousy in the hearts of men. Bridget Moynihan, who first fixed herself onto the heart of teenage boys everywhere in The Recruit and Sum of All Fears, was Brady's arm candy until he knocked her up and moved on to Gisele. Gisele! What's perhaps most remarkable about this is that Gisele is from Brazil, a country where football is played with your feet. It then stands to reason that Brady's quarterbacking prowess held much less sway over the South American Beauty; this is no Jessica Simpson, obviously still under the spell the quarterback status that dominates high schools nationwide.
And yet, Brady's accomplishments in extracurriculars pale in comparison to Timberlake. It's as if this guy waits for all of America to crown the Hottest Girl in the World, and then he goes out and nails her. Scarlett Johannsen quickening heartbeats all across the country? I'll put her in my music video and hook up with her publicly. Oh, Jessica Biel, you say? The preview for I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry really did it for you, huh? Well, then, I'll make her my girlfriend. Let's also not forget this guy dated a hot Britney Spears, and ran from the burning wreckage just in time.
Throw in the fact that Timberlake also has his own clothing line and restaurant (another common goal of men), and that even non-fans give him begrudging respect (most of them, at least), and it's entirely appropriate from now on to refer to him only as, "The Tom Brady of Music."
The Tom Brady of Hollywood
This one would have been a lot easier to answer in the mid-90s. Looking for an actor who guys thought was cool, or at least who guys had to give respect to, and who was the object of desire for all women, who made great movies and had established himself as a talent.; to me this is obviously Brad Pitt, circa 1998 - 2000. During this time Pitt had already been in at least four or five movies that a) proved he was more than a pretty face, and b) made men resign themselves to the fact that he was probably a pretty cool guy. A River Runs Through It, Legends of the Fall, Se7en, 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Snatch, Spy Game; most of these are movies that will live on for generations as the personification of male cool (particularly Fight Club and Snatch). Wealth, there's no question. And while Pitt did have some questionable dalliances with the likes of Juliette Lewis, he also got Gwyneth Paltrow at her peak, and of course romanced Jennifer Aniston.
At the moment, the Hollywood landscape is a little more checkered. There are few young actors who fit the Tom Brady billing. The closest I can come is Leonardo DiCaprio. Women certainly love him, what with the Giseles and the Bar Rafaelis (although his peak has potentially passed). With Edward Norton seemingly on the down-low these last few years, he's in the lead to be the pre-eminent Actor of his generation, successfully shaking his teen idol status and winning male friends with Gangs of New York, The Departed, even Catch Me If You Can. Plus, extra points for the fact that he has become the leading man of choice for Martin Scorsese. So, not only is he a Tom Brady, but he's got his very own Bill Belichik.
In the other realms of public life, Tom Brady's are harder to come by. In politics, there hasn't been a true Tom Brady since JFK and RFK (looks, money, talent, adoration from both sexes -- even style icons). Derek Jeter comes close in baseball, especially with his four World Series rings, but he never dominated in the regular season quite like Brady. This leads to my final example, such a strong candidate that he almost puts my terminology on its head...
The Tom Brady of Soccer (and therefore of all Europe) - David Beckham
If I was English I might be writing this article about how Tom Brady was the new David Beckham. Even though he verges a little too far to the metrosexual -- and therefore less acceptable to the American male at large -- Tom Brady's recent shirtless work for Stetson makes it equal footing. Beckham not only is a terrific looking man, a terrific soccer player, a former captain of a World Cup team, husband to international sex symbol Posh Spice, and signee of the most lucrative contract in sports history...well that about sums it up, actually. If he didn't talk like the Geico lizard, he'd have it all.
Hopefully the Giants win on Sunday and the universe begins to course-correct for the last few years like Desmond on Lost said it would. But no matter what happens, even if he throws five interceptions and gets in a fist-fight with Randy Moss on the sidelines, most likely Tom Brady will continue to be the Tom Brady of football. In that case, great successes all over the world can also share the title for their respective fields, whether it's international acclaim as a singer or local acclaim as my friend.