THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Dan Shaughnessy

The hard truth: He's gone soft

Rubbing noses with Gisele Bundchen in Mexico, Tom Brady is trying the patience of his hard-nosed fans everywhere.
Rubbing noses with Gisele Bundchen in Mexico, Tom Brady is trying the patience of his hard-nosed fans everywhere. (Flynetpictures.com)
By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / January 28, 2009
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I can't take it anymore. Aliens have overtaken Tom Brady's body. He's not the guy we thought we knew.

Yesterday was the last straw. You know what I'm talking about. You opened your newspaper (or perhaps viewed online) and saw the photograph of Gisele Bundchen feeding Brady at poolside in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

That did it. The tipping point. The coup de grace. The shark jumped.

She was feeding him.

We put up with a lot. We were OK with Tom as Gisele's errand boy, Tom bringing home the flowers, Tom walking Gisele's dog. We were good with Tom and Gisele canoodling in the candlelight, holding hands coming out of a restaurant.

But you simply cannot have your quarterback being fed like an infant at poolside. Remember, people - this is a football player we're talking about. This is your quarterback. Think there's any photographic evidence of Johnny Unitas being spoon-fed? Bet Slingin' Sammy Baugh's wife never tried to sling any hash into his mouth.

Gisele was feeding him. Think of Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch. Think of Mike Dukakis in the tank. This was worse.

Ever see a high school player injured in the middle of the game and have his mother run onto the field to hover over him? That's what this is like. A guy might never recover.

Call me jealous. It's true. We're all jealous of Tom. Chicks dig him and guys want to be him. He's delivered from Central Casting, right down to the dimple on his chin. He's too good to be true. Birds suddenly appear every time he is near. He makes all the money and gets all the girls. He's the BMOC. He's the clutch, three-time Super Bowl champ, two-time Super Bowl MVP. He threw 50 touchdown passes in 2007. He buys watches for the offensive linemen. He's a great guy from a great family.

But he's a football player, damn it. And it is not OK for him to be photographed like a little boy eating mushy food spooned out of a Gerber jar.

The balanced view, of course, would be that Tom is secure enough in his own skin to let us see his sensitive side. He's just a guy in love and he wants the world to know. It's not his fault that the paparazzi dog his every move. He should be allowed to have private moments, just like everybody else. He shows tremendous restraint not punching out those TMZ guys.

But enough is enough. We were OK when Tom posed wearing the Stetson, holding the baby lamb. We didn't call him elitist when he endorsed Movado high-end watches and private jets (working-class fans certainly can't relate to that). We applauded when he met the pope and went to the State of the Union Address. We agreed it was none of our business when he broke up with Bridget Moynahan and it turned out she was having their baby.

Tom and Gisele buying half of California? Why not? Interested in a painting by Eugenio Lucas y Padilla, a follower of Goya? All good. We would never suggest that Tom was forgetting his roots and becoming a man of only the finest tastes.

We didn't raise questions when he lost the Gillette Stadium parking space awarded to the guy who arrives earliest, leaves latest, and practices hardest. We didn't hammer him for not sticking around on crutches to help from the sideline. We bought the company line that Tom did not want to create a distraction. We gave him a pass when he failed to grant a single interview about his condition. We didn't rip him when he finally did an interview - a radio spot in Toronto - and it turned out he was just promoting a new sports cream.

It was just one year ago that the Patriots were in Arizona, making their failed run toward perfection. We followed Tom's every move, right up until he was left for slaughter at the hands of the New York Giants defense. Tom was hurt in that game, but he never made an excuse. That's because he's a standup guy. He's a Michigan Man. He's a guy who never complained when he had to wait his turn to get on the field.

Which is why this is so hard to watch. Our quarterback, one of the five most decorated athletes to play in Boston, is looking like a wimp in front of the whole world. The governor of California would call Tom a girly-man. It's like watching Jeter morph into A-Rod. Brady might as well be seen drinking a cosmopolitan from a straw, for God's sake.

We'll forgive him, of course. Because he's Tom. He's delivered the goods. But surely someday he'll look back at that photo and agree that he must have been out of his mind.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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