There was a time in this great land of ours when growing up to be a wealthy and successful athlete who also happened to be dating an internationally famous supermodel was an unambiguous validation of the American Dream. (Hell, it was an unambiguous validation of the Latvian Dream.) It signified a certain level of success in your chosen field. It was an indication that all your hard work was paying off. It was a foolproof measure of your having achieved The Good Life. It was also fun, or so Iím told. Iím obviously only going on uninformed speculation here.
Now, though, there seems to be some concern that our local quarterback has been photographed canoodling in the tropics with his current inamorata, who often is seen wearing expensive skivvies on the cover of very large magazines that come thumping through the door and make the whole foyer smell like a Parisian cathouse. Or so Iím told. Iím obviously only going on uninformed speculation there, too.
The local quarterback stands ó or, more accurately, lounges ó accused of insufficient dedication to ... well, to something, although Iím unclear as to what it is. The rehabilitation of his knee is reportedly ongoing, despite the setback after the initial surgery, so it canít be that. The more I listen to this, the more I think that Tom Brady stands accused most vitally of insufficient dedication to maintaining the unicorn-and-golden-puppies dreams of his most devout fans. Face it. You can be a salt-of-the-earth, overachieving self-effacing athletic superstar and still date a supermodel. It is possible. Iíd be willing to bet that you could go down the street to your local and find 15 or 20 salt-of-the-earth types who would be more than willing to give it a try, and I would win that bet.
What I think is that the problem is cameras.
It used to be that youíd know when your picture was being taken. Some guy in a fedora and a belted raincoat would show up waving something the size of a Hotpoint in your face. That gave you more than enough time to run away, duck behind a potted plant, or throw a raincoat over your head. There was a decent interval between the arrival of the photographer and the explosion of the supernova that would guarantee you a place in the next dayís tabloid newspaper. Cameras got smaller, but the principle obtained; even the paparazzi were easily spotted. They traveled in herds, like caribou come to graze on whatever was left of someone elseís dignity.
Now, though, with all due respect to this wonderful new media age in which we live, every idiot with a cellphone is also a photographer. Now, I know that these guys are famous, and that with the big paychecks comes a certain flexibility as regards personal privacy, but the wonderful new media age in which we live has rather eliminated it entirely. It was once recommended to famous people that they not do anything in public that they wouldnít do in private. Now the lesson is not to do anything in public, period. Some half-drunk dunce across the restaurant can whip out his personal telephone and, the next day, without your ever having known it, whatever it is you did is all over the Internet, which is a device of some popularity among the younger set, or so Iím told.
(A brief aside to Michael Phelps ó your apology is unnecessary. You donít owe me one. You got your picture taken blowing dope and that picture got sold, and a world full of no-life busybodies got into your business. Thatís the way it goes these days. I truly do not care that you undermined all the hard work that your sponsors and the National Broadcasting Company put into creating an artificial You. At this particular time, it might be helpful to you to realize that, generally, there are two types of people over 50 years old in this country: people who have smoked pot, and liars. And, anyway, come on up to Massachusetts, where it is a new day for this sort of stuff anyway, as can be ascertained by our new state motto: ďDude!Ē)
Nobody I know is more of a free speech/free press guy than I am. I know that people doing certain unsavory things is the price I have to be willing to pay for my right to do (marginally more) savory things. I do not wring my hands about the existence of the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News ó how else am I going to know what Bat Boyís up to? ó because their existence helps guarantee the existence of the publications for which I write, including this one. But, having said that, Iím not exactly sure what the public range of motion is for a celebrity these days. It cannot be easy to know that, for you, the entire world is a 24-hour perp walk. In the case of the local quarterback, he wasnít doing anything except canoodling ó which is a great and underutilized word ó with his girlfriend. This is something that almost everyone in his position would probably find themselves doing. This was nobodyís business except the canoodler and the canoodlee, and it certainly wasnít the business of the drooling geeks whoíve set up permanent housekeeping in the maw of the celebrity age. It was not yet illegal. Not even in Utah. Or so Iím told.
OT columnist Charles P. Pierce is a Boston Globe Magazine staff writer.