Tom Brady Rings, Twitter


So, the New England Patriots are officially the most hated team in football (really, there's a poll!). So what?

First of all, the worshipful reverence that Patriots fans—the ones within just a few square miles of their home base in Foxborough, Mass., alone—have for their team and their golden god quarterback Tom Bradyeasily outweighs any animosity radiating their way from other corners of the country.

There's also the inarguable fact that the Patriots are so widely despised because they're that good and have been that successful. There are of course pockets of Patriotism dotting the landscape all over the place, but to love them from anywhere other than Massachusetts is almost dishonorably clichéd. If your city doesn't have a team, pick Dallas. Route for Green Bay. Bet $10 on Cleveland winning the 2018 Super Bowl and stand to win millions. Don't just hop on the Brady bandwagon.

National politics aren't doing much for the Patriots this year, either. Then, of course, there are the scandals that make them easy to hate.

But whether or not you fall into the fairly large camp that thinks the Pats are cheaters, that doesn't make the cornerstone of their franchise any less of a human miracle.

Deflated balls has not Tom Brady's success made.

The veteran NFL star will be gunning for his fifth Super Bowl ring this Sunday when his Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons, who are hoping to hoist the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy. 

Brady has appeared in seven Super Bowls—more than every current Falcons player combined. If the Patriots win, Brady will have more rings than any NFL quarterback ever, adding another talking point to the ever-raging debate over who's the greatest QB of all time.

And at 39—unlike Peyton Manning, who retired at 39 and won his final Super Bowl thanks to the Denver Broncos' defense (capping off a brilliant career, but he was no longer in his prime)—Brady, the oldest player on the Patriots' roster, is going into Super Bowl LI as the driving force on which the team's fortunes rest.

Just as he has been for the past 15 years. Which is nearly unheard of for quarterbacks, most of whom simply aren't at the top of their game anymore in their late 30s, if they're even still playing by then. Brady, meanwhile, just finished the 2016 season with the best ratio of touchdown passes to interceptions—28 to 2—in NFL history. And unless he blindsides everyone and announces his retirement after Sunday, he has shown no sign of slowing down.

"If you can play that good, that consistently great year-after-year-after-year-after-year, game-after-game-after-game-after-game, nobody's ever done that," Jim Harbaugh, football coach at Brady's alma mater, the University of Michigan, told ESPN this week. "Nobody's ever done it like Tom Brady has. He's the best of all time."

Brady only missed his shot at a third regular-season MVP title because of the four games he missed at the beginning of the season, his suspension for his still-technically alleged role in the Deflategate scandal.

And yet, could that theoretically shameful scenario have been any less of a blip on the Brady radar? The worst thing that really happened during those proceedings was a sketch artist giving his Armie Hammer-meets-Matt Damon features the Edvard Munch treatment.

Frankly, there's a reason he's been called "Teflon Tom." But surely something has marred his journey from hero to hero at some point along the way...

Tom Brady

Tim Warner/Getty Images

Brady hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, the youngest of Thomas Sr. and Galynn Brady's four children and the only son. He grew up idolizing San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, though in a press conference this week, he emotionally named his dad as his true hero.

He was a three-sport athlete and he was actually drafted by the Montreal Expos out of high school in 1995, but knowing he wanted to play football, he committed to the University of Michigan, where things went...pretty good. He was the backup QB for two years before becoming the Wolverines' full-time starter, going 20-5 in the two seasons he started.

After graduation (he also interned at Merrill Lynch during the summers), Brady entered the NFL Draft. And waited. Finally, he was unceremoniously drafted in the sixth round, the 199th pick, by the Patriots.

While that might not have felt incredible at the time, Brady saying years later in a tearful interview that he had to leave the house as his family watched his stock drop lower and lower...the rest is history.

Brady was initially the fourth-string quarterback when he joined the Patriots in 2000, a rookie living in a motel during training camp, but he became their starter in 2001 after franchise QB Drew Bledsoe was injured in game two. Then, inexplicably, they won the Super Bowl and Brady was MVP of the game, having rebounded from a knee injury suffered in the AFC Championship Game.

Tom Brady


His second Super Bowl win came in 2004, then he got his third in 2005 and, remarkably, his fourth in 2015. He's been named Super Bowl MVP three times.

Whoever ultimately decided to go with Brady over Louisiana Tech's Tim Rattay in the 2000 draft must have started feeling pret-ty proud of himself at some point.

And thanks to genetics and the unbelievable shape Brady's in (which he makes sure of with one of the most notoriously regimented lifestyles in the league), he's still an MVP candidate nearly 17 years after turning pro.

Sure, that level of success requires a single-mindedness that at times makes personality fall by the wayside and he was "only" the 15th-highest-paid athlete in the world last year, according to Forbes, with an estimated $44.1 million in earnings, including "only" $8 million in endorsements from the likes of Under Armour, Movado and Uggs (but NFL players traditionally make millions less in endorsements than, say, golfers and soccer players).

But a teammate told ESPN before the 2012 Super Bowl, "Everybody has this image of Tom Brady being this passionate, tough guy on the field. But off the field, he's one of the nicest guys I've ever been around." True story: He gifted all of his teammates watches and Uggs.

Oh, and he gives back to the community. In September, Brady, who has been active with Best Buddies International and Boys & Girls Club of America, helped launch the TB12 Foundation, to help disadvantaged young athletes get proper training and medical care to treat sports injuries.

So about that glaring flaw he must have... Hmm...

Tom Brady

Desiree Navarro/WireImage

Well, he does sound absolutely no fun to eat with, as Brady's strict diet and training program, which includes cognitive tests and meetings with a neuropsychologist to make sure his head space is ship-shape, are legendary.

Sports Illustrated reported in 2014 that the athlete's dessert of choice was an avocado base with cacao mixed in, as he sticks to a largely raw diet (oh, but that's in the summer, when he eats "cold property" foods. In the winter, he'll indulge in "hot property" foods like red meat).

Though while that sounds like a glaring flaw to us, his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen is all about it, indeed even partaking in the whole grain-and-plant-based thing. Of course, that's part of why she looks the way she does, and could probably kick a door down while standing on her hands.

Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen

Larry Busacca/Getty Images

But about the ridiculously heightened version of the star-quarterback-marries-hottest-girl-in-town trope: Yes, they're picture-perfect. And even though that the most common thing said about Brady in the sporting press is that "football is Tom," as in, that's all he thinks about, he at least seems perfectly able to hang with the celebrity set, regularly attending the Met Gala with his wife, hanging with pals like diehard Patriots fan Ben Affleck and hosting Saturday Night Live in 2005.

The business-savvy couple (yup, they're smart, too) purchased a mansion in L.A.'s fancy Brentwood area for $11.75 million, converted it into the French chateau-style retreat of your wildest dreams, complete with a koi pond moat and solar panels, and sold it to Dr. Dre for $40 million in 2014.

Before he locked into football this fall, Brady and Bündchen appeared as their glorious selves at NatGeo's Years of Living Dangerously premiere at New York's American Museum of Natural History in September.

It's not as if they haven't had their troubles. When they were first dating and on the verge of getting serious, Gisele found out that Brady's ex Bridget Moynahan was pregnant.

No suspense, we know how it all turned out, but that certainly came as a shock to her then.

Bridget Moynahan, Tom Brady

Peter Kramer/Getty Images

"It was a challenging thing because here I am, you know, thinking, I'm dating this guy, we met, and we started dating and everything is great and then this happens," Bündchen told Charlie Rose for CBS This Morning in November 2015. "So, then I felt like I didn't know what to do. It was kind of one of those moments of like, 'Do I just run away?'"

And while his girlfriend switcheroo put Brady temporarily in cad territory... Everything's great now! He and Moynahan, who married Andrew Frankel in 2015, went on to co-parent their now 10-year-old son, John Edward Thomas Moynahan, and the actress publicly congratulated Tom and Gisele when they welcomed their first child, son Ben, in 2009. Daughter Vivian was born in 2012.


A photo posted by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

Brady benefited in this case by both of the women in his life being incredibly understanding, with Bündchen embracing John as if he were her own and Moynahan ultimately forgiving her ex.

"Going through that traumatic time of being heartbroken and then being pregnant turned my whole life upside down and inside out," she admitted to Harper's Bazaar. "But now I have a child, and it's the best thing in the world."

Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Super Bowl XLIX

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Just another day in the life of the charmed Tom Brady. He and Gisele did, quite understandably, hit a rough patch amid all the Deflategate drama, but that ties back to football being—still for now, anyway—embedded in Brady's soul. When that's not going right, we wouldn't quite know what to do with him, either.

But just as she was ready to plant a victory kiss after Brady's most recent Super Bowl victory in 2015, so she'll be there this Sunday, upping the glam factor for the 100 million people tuning into watch around the world.

Congratulations my love! @tombrady #gopats ??????Parabéns meu amor! @tombrady

A photo posted by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

Even when it came to Deflategate, he got lucky in that it came down to a face-off between him and already rather reviled NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who handed down the suspension.

"Somebody that has Roger Goodell's ethics doesn't belong on any stage that Tom Brady is on," the quarterback's father, Tom Sr., told the Bay Area's KRON recently. (Goodell chose to attend the NFC Championship game between the Falcons and Packers and missed the AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and the Steelers, and sportswriters are predicting awk-ward-ness at the Super Bowl.)

While folks love to hate on Brady, Twitter and many fellow players rejoiced when the suspension was initially struck down by a federal judge at the beginning of the 2015 season. And with the scandal seemingly behind them, fans were pissed when a federal appeals court reinstated the punishment in April ahead of the 2016 season.

So Brady gamely served his suspension, the Patriots going a neutral-eyebrow-placing 3-1 in his absence. And then he came back and they went 14-2 overall, won their division for the eighth year in a row, and now they're going to the Super Bowl—an NFL-record ninth appearance for the franchise.

Tom Brady

Sam Riche/Mct/MCT/

"Tom is pushing back the aging process," Brady's throwing coach, Tom House, told Sports Illustrated two years ago. "There's no reason he can't do at 45 what he did at 25."

This Sunday, he'll be going against a Falcons team that's led by their ace, 31-year-old Matt Ryan, who cut his teeth in Brady country (at Boston College, between 2005 and 2007), married his college sweetheart, Sarah Marshall, and is the decidedly lesser-known of the two quarterbacks taking the field at Houston's NRG Stadium.

Yup, things have turned out pretty swell for ol' Tom Brady, who while an elder statesman in the NFL is just 39 in people years.

But being the kind of guy who always has to win, whose competitive fire burns hotter than most, it's likely that Brady is also the type who isn't easily satisfied. He might look like someone who has it all, he might be someone who has it all, but aside from his family who'll be by his side long after the game is over, the rest is only so much window-dressing.

Agreeing in 2014 that he was stronger and faster at 37 than he was at 22, he told SI, "I'm more durable, too. But given where I started, I wouldn't say that like it's some great accomplishment."

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