As former cross-country coach, I think that football gets way too much attention in American life. But Tom Brady on Sunday impressed me far more than anything I’ve seen happen in our national politics for the past five years — and it wasn’t on the field.
As any sports nut knows, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ talented, troubled wide receiver Antonio Brown shed his jersey, pads and shirt and danced off the field in the third quarter, waving good-bye to the crowd — apparently unhappy with being benched, even for a minute. He was summarily fired, and (minor point) the Bucs came back to win without him.
It was not the first, second or third troubling incident in his career, previously with the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots. This year Brown was suspended for three games for violating Covid-19 protocols.
Brady, his former teammate with the Patriots, was instrumental in bringing him a third chance this year with the Bucs, so, of all people on Planet Earth, Brady could have been one of the angriest to see him throw a childish tantrum and dance off the field, kissing millions of dollars, and the game, and season, good-bye.
So what did Brady say after the game?
“I think everybody should hopefully do what they can to help him in ways that he really needs it,” Brady said. “We all love him. We care about him deeply. We want to see him be at his best. … I think everyone should be very compassionate and empathetic toward some very difficult things that are happening.”
Say what you will about Tom Brady — and I’m so-so about him — what a decent man. What an intelligent person. While sports reporters around the nation were hooting and hollering and dancing around Antonio Brown, Brady saw a talented man in deep trouble. And tried to help.
Now, pardon me for being obvious, but contrast this with the venom spewed daily, hourly, by the minute, from our so-called leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives, who are tearing our country apart, with malice prepense.
Ladies and gentlemen: The future of our country is far more important than the outcome of any football game — even the Super Bowl. So why can’t Members of Congress today show even a smidgen of the class of Tom Brady?
Let me pause for a moment to introduce myself. I was never much of an athlete (3:03:24 marathon best). But I coached high school distance runners for six years on an Indian reservation, and we had some success. I’m still in touch with some of my old runners, 40 years later. In those years I learned how important sports can be in the lives of young people.
Sport can be an escape, if only temporary, from a tough life.
It can be a reason to say No.
It can encourage excellence and abstinence.
It can give a teenager a reason to build herself up, rather than tear herself down — and think about why she’s doing it.
And I tell you what else: It gave me leave — as a coach, not just a teacher — to say, “Dude, you do that one more time and you’re off the team. Do you hear me?”
As a teacher I couldn’t abandon them if they screwed up. As a coach, I could. And they didn’t want to be off the team. So they shaped up or dropped out.
And most of them shaped up.
Now look at Congress: 535 people, all of them allegedly adult, 265 of them Republican. And what do they do? They piss on the other team with words — even on members of their own team.
The minority threatens violence against the majority. They even endorse murder of their opponents. And in doing so — pardon me for saying this — they piss on the American flag, which they claim to love.
Well, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Bobert, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn, Jim Jordan, Louie Gohmert, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, et al.: After you piss all over the flag, I guess it’d be harder to burn it. Right? Unless you throw some gasoline on it.
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