I know this will probably anger a great number of people. But we are not talking about athletic prowess, we are talking about humanity.
About being down to earth, a person of character, real. In short, we are talking about being a “mensch.” Mensch is a curious word, with derivations both from the German and the Yiddish.
Regardless of which cultural group you believe should take the credit, the definition is the same: a down-to-earth, real good person. In short, a mensch.
To me, Tom Brady is one of the greatest athletes ever, but he sure as hell is no mensch. Brady has always been the All-American boy, even before he became a football icon, a legend, the GOAT. The problem is, when he was a young recruit from California with boyish good looks, stars in his eyes, thrilled to make an NFL team, he was a whole lot more aw shucks, gee whiz real, while now it appears he believes his press to the point that he often borders on acting “entitled.”
Now, I’m not putting all the blame on TB12 ... so much of this is our fault. I’ve railed about this before in previous columns. We build up our movie stars and sports stars and TV personalities and pay them obscene amounts of money and worship at the temple of their fame, until one day, all this heady stuff goes straight to their heads.
Tom Brady has been blessed with youthful good looks, complemented by the body of an Adonis; and he does, to his great credit, take impeccable care of that body with a strenuous diet and regime. But he fell hard to the allure of capitalism, publishing a pricey 300 page book detailing his “method” of fitness. That led to an online store with equipment, supplements, and the like, nearly promising the average guy and gal that they too could look and perform this well with equipment totaling $150.
and up. Then came “Tom vs Time,” a six-episode documentary series billed as “an intimate look at Brady’s home life and family.” It was, in fact, a shameless love letter to ego. Many a celebrity has “branched out,” but few got this greedy.
We won’t get into Deflategate because the jury may forever be out on that, but recently it was the copyrighting of the “Tom Terrific” name, which he quickly walked back with a weak excuse when Mets fans, devotees of Tom Seaver, protested loudly.
Several years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Judge Judy Sheindlin for this newspaper. It was natural to assume her persona might be the same as I had seen on television for years, but happily I encountered a real mensch — a soft-spoken woman with acerbic wit and self-deprecating humor who told me, “I grew up in Brooklyn with
parents I adored and wanted to continually please. I knew what their rules were, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I wanted to do the right thing; I still want to do the right thing.”
What resonated most in that interview was her take on celebrity. “If you’re fortunate enough to have the gift of celebrity, then don’t be a fool. I cannot understand the film stars, the TV personalities, the athletes who abuse their celebrity. You’re supposed to act responsibly. They should have their celebrity taken away.”
Last month I had the opportunity once again to interview Sheindlin since she has purchased a home in Newport, not as a permanent residence, but a place to unwind and kick back. She was warm, funny, forthcoming, and treated me with the utmost respect and kindness, ending our time with, “Thank you, my friend.” Her ego is strictly reserved for TV; she doesn’t buy into her fame, she just treats it as a product of her work and respects it and the fans who bestow it upon her.
Fame is a fickle mistress indeed, and it takes a whole lot more to be a mensch than to be a star. No matter what anyone does, no matter how much money they have, no matter the heights of fame they may have scaled, one day it will lessen, and there’ll always be a waiting line of new someones ready to take their place.
Guess that’s why Judy Sheindlin titled her best-selling book, “Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever.”
I wonder if Tom’s read it?
Postscript: We had the best definition of a mensch here in Westerly for 89 years.
His name was Joe Cugini.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.