Tom Brady has, by any sane measure, a preposterously tough job. On 16 Sundays a year, many of them frostbitten and snow-blighted, several monstrously large men attempt to crush him, stomp him, rub him into the grass, upwards of 60 times in an hour. But eluding or surviving that onslaught (hardly a given, as the 2008 season showed) is the merest of Brady's duties. For him, that's just showing up at the office, parking his coffee on the desk. No, he's got to close the deal, to win, every time, or else face another assault wave: the second-guessing and fist-pounding and bellyaching from a million-plus blowhards—sports-radio callers, ESPN commentators, paunchy saloon savants, you, me—spouting coulda-woulda-shoulda analysis from every beery corner of this vast republic. So it's tough, Tom Brady's job.
Nevertheless: Tom Brady thinks his new wife, Gisele Bündchen, has the tougher job. Exiting a four-hour fashion shoot at the Pier 59 Studio, in Manhattan's Chelsea Piers complex, Brady says, "That's harder than playing for 85,000 people."
Stop there. For real? Well, few would know better than the Patriots star: he of the molten stare in the Stetson ads, he who flirted last year with becoming the new face and bulge of Calvin Klein's underwear ad campaign (but who eventually declined), he who can be seen hobnobbing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual Costume Institute Gala, that beehive of fashionistas, with Gisele on his arm. With his cleft-chinned, lantern-jawed, comic-book-hero face and dandyish flair for style, Brady is no stranger to the modeling life, to the tinsel of high fashion. Sure, Peyton Manning gets his picture snapped once in a while, but God forbid anyone ask him to flash his bedroom eyes. No, Tom Brady owns this particular overlap of football and fashion, of athletics and aesthetics (or co-owns it, anyway, with David Beckham). So we trust him. He knows.
Unless he's just kissing a little ass. His wife's, to be specific. He's already admitted that he's not the top dog in the Brady-Bündchen household—that honor goes to Vida, the Yorkie that Brady sometimes pedals around Boston, Toto-style, in a bicycle basket, or walks around downtown New York, dutifully scooping up its dainty turds. So maybe that comment is just a squirt of grease in the marital gears: Of course your job is tougher, honey. Let me do the dishes. It's a thought, anyway.
And since we're spinning silky theories, here's one more: Maybe Tom Brady has forgotten, amid all those white-hot flashbulbs, just how tough his job is. It's been a while, after all, since he's done it—since September of last year, when his left knee's ACL was mangled by a low hit by the Kansas City Chiefs' Bernard Pollard in the Patriots' season opener. In that forced meantime—during which the Patriots, on the heels of an almost-perfect season, went 11-5 and didn't even make the playoffs—Brady hunkered down and got to work rehabbing his injury and, once off his crutches, married Gisele, whom he'd been dating since late 2006. They traveled to Vancouver, where they fed pigeons downtown and hit the tourist attractions, and to a resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where they lounged poolside. Pats fans and pundits (see blowhards, above) began worrying: Has Tom Brady . . . gone soft? "I can't take it anymore," the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy wrote earlier this year. "Aliens have overtaken Tom Brady's body. He's not the guy we thought we knew." This after Brady was photographed eating out of Gisele's hand in Mexico. "Think there's any photographic evidence of Johnny Unitas being spoon-fed?" Shaughnessy ranted. "Think of Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch. Think of Mike Dukakis in the tank. This was worse." Well, memo to the Shaughnessys of the world: Tom Brady just said modeling is harder than pro football.