New England Patriots QB Tom Brady is annually rated as one of the most hated players in the NFL, right alongside the likes of Greg Hardy (domestic violence), Michael Vick (dog fighting), Ben Roethlisberger (sexual assault allegations), and Jameis Winston (rape allegations).
The charges associated with Brady aren’t anywhere near as damaging or serious. If you’re willing to ignore reality, some might say (DeflateGate). Some might say (crybaby) when he looks for calls or shouts at the officials, but to put him in the ranks of Vick and Hardy for this reason seems extreme.
Others might say (smugness) or (liar), but the former is likely reserved for Ravens fans who disliked Brady telling head coach John Harbaugh to learn the rulebook, and the latter is only for those who believe the Wells Report was worth more than the paper it was printed on.
There’s no real reason to dislike Tom Brady other than his success on the field, as Bleacher Report’s Jeff Pearlman discovered in his article Why You Really Hate Tom Brady.
And that’s okay. That’s why football is fun and it’s why “Eli” or “Peyton” are inexcusable names for children in New England. That’s why it’s adorable when “Yankees Suck” are the first words of babies around the region.
It’s fandom and it’s because Eli, Peyton, and the Yankees (and Kobe and LeBron) are responsible for the lowest lows of New England sports fans over the past twenty years.
When asked why people dislike Brady, the immediate reaction is to project some great unsubstantiated reason.
“It’s nothing personal,” Lakers owner Jeannie Buss says to Pearlman. “I just find him annoying.”
When asked why she thinks he’s annoying, she struggles to come up with an answer.
“You…ah…it’s…um…um…it’s probably…eh…well, I don’t know,” she says. “Maybe it’s a holdover from my dislike of the Celtics from the Larry Bird time. Or…mmm…um…I don’t know what it is. He’s just too successful, too smug, too much of a winner.”
“Honestly,” she says, “I’m sort of ashamed to admit it. Because he’s probably a nice guy. But I hate Tom Brady.”
I’d like to think New England fans can verbalize their dislike the aforementioned players. LeBron left Cleveland to join a super team in a ridiculous display during The Decision (although I think there’s more begrudging respect now that he went back to Cleveland and won a title). The Yankees won too much while the Red Sox were cursed. Eli ruined two amazing Patriots seasons.
Peyton was the Patriots biggest rival during his career and his teams had rules changed to make it easier to throw after he was embarrassed in the playoffs (defensive pass interference, illegal contact, and defensive holding rules after the Patriots beat the Colts in 2003, and again a decade later after the Seahawks beat the Broncos in 2013). Peyton also managed to remain a media darling, portrayed as a humble everyman, impervious to most criticism, despite being football royalty.
And for those pointing towards the Brady rule, there’s a big difference in a safety rule about low hits and a rule that makes it easier to throw the ball.
But Patriots fans can also admit that Peyton is an incredible quarterback that had an amazing career, and was a part of two teams that took two more chances at Super Bowls (2006, 2015...2013 really just saved the Patriots from embarrassment) away from the Patriots. There’s never been a quarterback that gave the Patriots more pause than Peyton.
Pearlman runs through all the reasons people gave for disliking Brady and some are more reasonable than others.
Some dislike Brady’s association with Bill Belichick and consider him a cheater for the (usually unfounded) accusations against Belichick. Of course, it’s not Brady’s fault that he was drafted by the Patriots and it’s the equivalent of hating someone because their coworker took your parking spot once upon a time.
Others dislike Brady because he’s the avatar for the New England region, which is generally regarded as smug by the rest of America (that’s actually how we’re perceived, folks) and has its own under-discussed history of racism (last baseball team to integrate, players like Ken Griffey Jr. had “contractual language stating they couldn’t be traded to Boston”).
Brady, himself, is a California kid that went to school in Michigan, so the fact that he has become the face of New England is laughable- although his Make America Great Again hat won’t do him any favors with concerns about regional racism.
A lot will point to DeflateGate. Others will say that he’s a jerk, without having met him- and anyone who has spent more than a few seconds with him will admit that he’s a great guy.
But the most popular reason was jealousy, with 95% of people interviewed saying “jealousy” was the number one “reason for Brady’s general unpopularity.” Pearlman compared Brady to a fabricated WWE villain.
“What made [WWE villain Rick Rude] unique is that he had the body, he had the looks, his character had a lot of money, he got the women, and when push came to shove, he delivered,” WWE wrestler Tommy Laughlin says. “He had a hot wife, and people envied him. It’s exactly the same thing with Tom Brady. People don’t hate Tom Brady just because he’s a quarterback or because he’s a Patriot. No. It’s envy, and it’s jealousy. We want what he has, only we can’t attain it.”
Brady has played in 10 conference championship games, more than all but the Cowboys (16), Steelers (15), 49ers (15), Raiders (14), and Broncos (10) franchises, and he has 4 Super Bowl titles.
He’s made hundreds of millions of dollars over his career. He selects high end products to sponsor, instead of flooding the market with Papa Johns and (albeit usually hilarious) DirecTV commercials. He married a supermodel that has been the highest paid in her field for the past 14 years. Gisele makes more than Brady does.
When criticism is hurled in Brady’s direction, there’s the usual cheater and crybaby material, but a lot comes down to his hair or his fashion- which is really no different than anyone adopting an interest in their significant other’s career.
Despite being the ultimate underdog story, despite living the dream of every sports fan on the planet, despite remaining humble and saying all the right things, Brady is despised with the likes of accused rapists and domestic abusers.
Jealousy is an ugly thing.