Tom Brady’s favorite book, “The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom,” helped guide him through the tumult of Deflategate, and has helped him deal with the trials of mega-celebrity.
“I take everything from it,” he told the Wall Street Journal four years ago. “There isn’t a wrong word in that book.”
Per the book, the four main agreements to help you find freedom, true happiness, and love are: Be impeccable with your word; don’t make assumptions; always do your best; and don’t take anything personally.
It’s that last one that Brady has taken to heart over the last 10 months since leaving the Patriots for the Buccaneers.
“When you make it a strong habit not to take anything personally, you avoid many upsets in your life,” writes the author, Don Miguel Ruiz. “Your anger, jealousy and envy will disappear, and even your sadness will simply disappear if you don’t take things personally.”
Brady likely will go down as the greatest winner in NFL history. His 10th career Super Bowl appearance this week in Tampa Bay, and his six championships (potentially seven), are records that probably will never be broken.
But Brady leads the NFL in another category this season: graciousness and class. His divorce from the Patriots last March was messy, and several years in the making. It is well-documented by now that Brady didn’t feel appreciated by Bill Belichick and resented the way the Patriots treated him over the final years of his career, even as he won three more Super Bowls.
Yet you would never know it by the way Brady answers questions about Belichick and the Patriots. Brady has had every opportunity to rub Belichick’s and the Patriots’ face in it over the past couple of weeks, yet he diplomatically takes the high road every time.
None of his answers offer even a whiff of “I told you so.” He artfully dodges specific questions about the Patriots and Belichick. He seems very much at peace with everything that has happened.
How does Brady feel today about Belichick?
“I have a great relationship with him,” he said Monday. “I’m just incredibly grateful for what he’s meant in my life as a coach. He was everything you could ask for as a player.”
Does Brady think Patriots fans are happy or sad to see him in the Super Bowl in another uniform?
“I had an incredible 20 years,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything over the course of 20 years that were magical and all the relationships that I developed. Those shaped me into who I am as a person, as a player.
“My kids were born in Boston. I have great affection for the city and everything that Boston has meant to me and my family.”
Does this Super Bowl appearance feel more satisfying than the others, given that he did it without Belichick and the Patriots?
“It would just be cool to accomplish it this time,” Brady said. “I don’t compare them to the other times. Those were all magical moments in my life.”
Biting your lip and avoiding controversy every time isn’t so easy. Brady’s running mate, Rob Gronkowski, has also been magnanimous and diplomatic when speaking about his nine years in New England. But his honesty poked through when asked about the differences between playing for the Patriots and Buccaneers.
“I feel like the biggest difference is just having the freedom of being yourself in this organization,” Gronkowski said.
That answer seems harmless enough, but the subtext is obvious: Playing in Foxborough was often joyless for Gronk, particularly over his final couple of years as the team played hardball with his contract and didn’t show him the appreciation he thought he deserved.
But Brady doesn’t slip. There has not been a scintilla of controversy in anything he has said.
Of course, Brady may not need to taunt Belichick and the Patriots, because his people are doing it for him. His father spoke glowingly about the Kraft family in an interview with the Boston Herald, and noticeably omitted Belichick.
“I’m guessing he’s on a little bit of a hot seat right now,” Tom Brady Sr. said of the coach.
And former Patriots receiver Danny Amendola went on Fox Sports 1 Monday to gloat on Brady’s behalf.
“None of those coaches caught any passes,” Amendola said. “Tom Brady is the ‘Patriot Way.’ That’s why he’s in the Super Bowl, and the Patriots aren’t.”
But Brady has stayed above the fray, not just the last two weeks but for the 10 months since he joined the Buccaneers.
He hasn’t once mentioned the Patriots’ refusal to give him a long-term contract extension the last few years. He hasn’t so much as hinted that they long undercompensated him and gave him a pay raise only in the form of incentives.
The closest he has come to dissing the Patriots was in December when he said, ”You won’t catch me dead living in the Northeast anymore,” because he doesn’t like the cold weather. After the snow and ice that hit our region the last couple of days, do you blame him?
We in the media have tried time and again to get Brady to reveal his true feelings about Belichick and the Patriots. We observed the fraying of the relationship in real time. We know there are bitter feelings there.
But Brady won’t bite. He’s all class.
“It’s not about me, Tom Brady,” he said. “It’s about us, the Bucs, and what we can accomplish.”
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.