HOUSTON — Heroes are human too. Sometimes we forget that. It has been driven home by the illness that Tom Brady’s mother, Galynn, is dealing with becoming public during Super Bowl week and the uncertainty surrounding whether his parents will be able to attend Super Bowl LI. Brady is a concerned son first and the greatest quarterback of all time second.
The Brady we see on the football field and in press conferences is a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional person. We’ve seen that third dimension this week, as he teared up during Super Bowl opening night on Monday talking about his father and alluded to the challenges of dealing with his mother’s undisclosed illness on Tuesday.
This has been a Super Bowl week unlike any other for Brady, as his measured, unflappable mien with the media has melted away in a few shows of touching emotion and affection for his parents. One member of Brady’s inner circle admitted, “It has been a tough time for him.”
Brady’s record seventh Super Bowl isn’t about making history or burnishing his legacy by becoming the only quarterback to win five Super Bowl titles. It’s about family. They’ve been with him every step of the way. His triumphs are their triumphs. To his parents and three sisters, Maureen, Julie, and Nancy, he isn’t the G.O.A.T. He’s simply Tommy, the Brady boy who wants his parents in the stands for the big game.
Whether that will happen or not was unclear on Wednesday. After saying on Tuesday that his parents were going to be here in Houston for the game, Brady sounded less certain on Wednesday. His parents have been at all six Super Bowls he has played in.
“I hope so. I don’t know. I’m planning for it, but we’ll have to play it by ear,” said Brady. His mother would need medical clearance to fly to Houston.
Brady didn’t add any detail to what exactly his mother is stricken with.
“Um, my mom has been dealing with some health issues. Those are personal things that our family is dealing with,” said Brady.
But Brady did take us behind the curtain of his life a little bit and just how much those close to him sacrifice for and contribute to his success.
“My wife does everything for the kids in the morning. I’m out of the door at 6 o’clock. When you do that for five months it gets tiring for them,” said Brady. “You owe so much to your family and your wife and your spouse or people who support you because they’re bearing the burden at home for us to live our dreams. Our dream is so important, but it’s not their dream. They’re sacrificing a lot of their lives for what we do, and you want to be able to reward them as well. That’s what makes it such a special day.”
The situation with Brady’s mother also explains why he has been loath to discuss Deflategate and any animosity for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who at his State of the League address on Wednesday once again failed to admit any mishandling of the air pressure imbroglio. Life is too short. There is obviously Brady family animosity towards Goodell. But Brady’s motivation has more to do with affection for his ailing mother than antipathy for Goodell.
During his Deflategate suspension, Brady went home for five days to spend time with his family. There was a family golf outing at Pebble Beach.
Dealing with a serious illness puts the triviality of Deflategate into perspective. It puts football into perspective. There has never been a shortage of diligence and dedication from Brady when it comes to his craft. His preparation and voracious appetite for film have become legendary. But at the end of the day football, like any job, has to have the proper place in life’s pecking order.
“I think there are a lot of things that change your perspective on football over the years,” said Brady. “When you come in the league and you’re 23 years old it’s everything. It’s still incredibly important because it’s my job, but you know my family and the relationships I have are ultimately the most important thing . . . This year has just been a very challenging year, but a great year. We’re at this great point, and we just have to go finish the job.”
Although the health situation that Brady’s mother is dealing with was revealed publicly this week it’s something he has dealt with each of the last two seasons.
Doctors diagnosed her illness in the spring of 2015. That season he went out and led the league in touchdown passes with 36 and set a career high with 402 completions with the weight of the personal matter, as well as the ongoing legal battle surrounding Deflategate.
What makes Brady’s performance this season even more incredible is that he has done it with the stress and anguish of a parent dealing with an illness that has not allowed her to attend any of his games and has limited Brady’s father, Tom Sr., to just one. All Brady did was author an MVP-caliber season and set the NFL record for touchdown-to-interception ratio with 28 touchdown passes and just two interceptions during the regular season.
Brady’s laser-like focus and attention to detail are among his defining traits. He is able to project both outward intensity and inner peace. He is a master at compartmentalizing the personal and the professional. This week of catharsis won’t detract or distract from his preparation for Super Bowl LI on Sunday.
“I think that is an important thing for all of us. We all have busy lives,” said Brady. “You guys do too, and we all know that when you deal with one thing you have to put everything else aside and be focused on those things that you’re dealing with. As a football player, a lot of different things come at you at different times. When I’m dealing with football that’s where my focus needs to be, and I think over the years you just learn about compartmentalization and what your life has to be because you can’t bring things from the outside to your job because everyone is counting on you.”
Brady seems to be in a more reflective and open mood in his seventh Super Bowl. He is enjoying the journey.
One he’s more open to sharing with the public, and hopeful to share with his parents on Sunday.