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National Family Week 2022 leads up to National Marriage Day on February 13 — Super Bowl Sunday.
So who better to look to than Tom Brady, who has won more Super Bowls than any other player in history, and has ended his career for the sake of his marriage?
Ordinarily, Tom Brady may not leap to mind as the best example of a family man.
He married supermodel Giselle Bündchen in 2009 in a Catholic ceremony in Santa Monica, California, but has said he does not know what he believes. The couple have two children and Tom has a son from a previous relationship.
But Brady says family is the reason he is ending his storied 22-year career. Like every great athlete, Brady has poured time and energy into his sport, and the rest of his life had to take a back seat.
“It’s been six straight months of football, every day consumed by day in and day out football,” Brady said on his podcast, “Let’s Go.” “The biggest difference now that I’m older is I have kids now too, you know, and I care about them a lot as well.”
One sports commentator, Skip Bayless, says Brady is making a mistake.
Admittedly, Brady is making this decision late in his career — he is 44, well past the age most people in his sport retire. But Bayless makes the point that Brady is also performing better than he ever has in his career.
Bayless described his own first marriage, which became his first divorce. “One reason we didn’t make it is I knew she wanted kids and I knew the deeper I got into my career, I just couldn’t have kids. I am obsessed, to this moment, with what I am doing right here, right now with you. I live for this. It’s my whole life,” the ESPN2 commentator said.
“Brady has been obsessed with football” in the same way, he said, and won’t be happy doing otherwise. “In many ways he’s the greatest over-achiever ever.”
But Brady says his wife has suffered for his career, in more ways than one. “It pains her to see me get hit out there,” he said, “and, you know, she deserves what she needs from me as a husband and my kids deserve what they need from me as a dad.”
Ironically, another elite athlete says marriage helps sports careers.
When Tiger Woods was single and planning to marry in 2006, many, including his dad, warned him not to. “Let’s face it. A wife can sometimes be a deterrent to a good game of golf,” said Earl Woods.
Back then, golfing legend Jack Nicklaus countered that marriage — if he was faithful to it — would improve Tiger.
“It will be difficult for him to keep focus on what he is doing if he doesn’t get married,” Nicklaus is quoted saying. “Who’s Tiger going to play for? For newspaper clippings? Trophies?” he asked. “Who’s he going to talk to in his hotel room after rounds?”
Nicklaus just celebrated 61 years of marriage. Brady’s own father and mentor, Tom Brady Sr., will celebrate his 53rd anniversary with his wife, Galynn, this year.
Tom Brady Sr. might be one major reason his son is choosing marriage over career.
When Bayless explained why he wouldn’t have children, he said, “I just knew if I continued to work nights and weekends the way I do, obsessively, that I’d be a horrible father, I’d be as horrible a father as my father was, for other reasons.”
Brady had a much richer relationship with his dad, a man of faith who has spoken at Catholic men’s conferences. When a fan asked the quarterback before the 2017 Super Bowl who his hero was, Brady choked up and said, “My dad.”
On Facebook, Brady had a public message for his father: “Thank you for being such a great example for our family and teaching me respect and unconditional love. You are the greatest man I know and I hope to be the father to my sons you have been to me. I love you dad.”
Thomas Brady Sr. had made clear that the feeling is mutual.
The father’s love inspired the son.
There was a much-shared touching moment after Brady completed his seventh, and final, Super Bowl victory in 2021. He called out, “Can I say hi to my son?” after the game was over and climbed up to the stands to hug him.
He said it is his kids’ needs that have convinced him to retire.
“It’s what relationships are all about,” he said. “It’s not always what I want. It’s what we want as a family. And, you know, I’m going to spend a lot of time with them and then, you know, figure out in the future what’s next.”
Image: Tom Brady and his children; Paul W, Flickr.