Not that he ventures out much. As Brady puts it, "I think my wife and I, we probably enjoy staying home more than most." The initial hope for this interview was that Brady would consent to getting, say, a beer or two at a sports bar—regular guy, regular setting. But Brady's rep insisted that the talking take place at, or exceedingly near, the Chelsea Piers studio. In retrospect, it seems somehow appropriate: a safely unoccupied café, several stories above the whirligig Manhattan streetscape, at a fashion studio tucked inside a giant sports-and-entertainment complex—a metaphorical nexus of all things Brady.

Yet such a conceit implies, however obliquely, that there's something empty about Tom Brady, something shallow and vaguely corporate. It isn't the first time the implication has been made. Some say about Brady what Gertrude Stein once quipped about Oakland: that there's no there there. It's easy to see why—Brady can come across as more CEO than QB, speaking in loose generalities, hyperpositive platitudes, guarded imprecisions. "You wonder," he says at one point, "how bad is bad? Is bad really bad? Because bad ends up being great after a little bit of time." Asked to clarify with an example, he says, "You know, things in my personal life, obviously, and in my football career," which narrows it down to... everything.

But here's the rub: Those are earnest generalities, that's genuine positivity. "He's very naïve, almost like a child," Gisele recently told a reporter. "He is innocent. He sees the world with colored glasses." Brady "really is an open book," says Alex Guerrero, a Utah sports therapist who became friends with Brady after treating him seven years ago. "He's a very philosophical person, a very deep-thinking individual. He feels things deeply."

One thing Brady is alluding to with the Zen koans above—presumably—is the 2007 birth of his son, John Edward Thomas Moynahan, known as Jack. For a man who cherishes organization and control, which is reflected in what friends say is a clutterless home and an impeccably arranged closet, fatherhood arrived as an epically disorderly jumble. Two months after he'd ended his two-year relationship with the actress Bridget Moynahan, in 2006, Moynahan revealed she was pregnant with Brady's child.

By this time Brady was already seeing Gisele, whom he met on—of all things—a blind date engineered by a mutual friend. "This friend told me he knew a girl version of me," Brady tells me over the phone in early July, after our conversation at Chelsea Piers. Gisele, in the background, chimes in: "And he said to me he'd found a boy version of me." If there's a certain absurdity to the concept of a "blind" date between celebrities, so be it. They had dinner together in New York City—"I think the place is closed now," says Brady when I ask him where—following a Patriots-Dolphins game. The blind date worked. The pair stuck. And then came fatherhood, with his movie-star ex. The tabloids, naturally, went berserk: Hot actress! NFL icon! Supermodel! Baby! The exclamation-point potential was infinite. "That's not how you envisioned your life, that's not how you envisioned having children," he says now, "but it happens.