Dear Tom: I came to the United States after a childhood spent in hero-worshipping British soccer players. Whether from Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal, these teams contained individuals who were nothing less than divinely inspired in their extraordinary athletic abilities, heroic gamesmanship and the adulation they inspired because of the stratospheric standards of play that they brought to the game.
Then I came to America, and I saw American football. At first, I viewed this sport as a game fit for elephants and bears. I just couldn’t understand how anyone with a slightest sense of athletic ability could ever call this game a sport. Not only did it welcome an entire litany of physical violence, which, out of the field, would have created a rap sheet of creative assaults as long as your arm, but it also seemed to stop every few moments just when you thought something was actually moving.
And then, Tom, I watched you and the Patriots. Already a rising star, not only in American football, but also in the eyes of those who knew of your great potential, discipline, uncommon abilities and great athleticism. And not just in the football world, but in the greater ESPN world of sports everywhere. I saw how people worshipped you, elevated you, spoke with such esteem about you. I became a great fan of yours and an even greater fan of the Ravens. You made me a believer, and for this you were my secret tutor and teacher.
But now you entered the very sordid and sorry world of cheating. The scandal of Deflategate is possibly the most insignificant, stupid and, at times, laughable incident to hit sports news in a long, long time. After all, it’s not wife beating or criminal assault. And, Tom, as you yourself admitted: It’s not ISIS.
But it is the need for even a most adulated player to do something illegal in order to attain a high level of adoration even at a cost to standing, character and integrity.
You have it all, Tom. Did you really have to demean yourself, put your entire life’s sports successes in such jeopardy as to do this and then lie about it? In this regard you are no different from anyone else. Despite it all, you just showed how low you have come from the extraordinary heights of adulation to the ordinary depths of self-preservation. You have now not only a very questionable record on which to hoist your life, but now the question is: Do you
deserve to be called a Patriot? For in this behavior, you have acted in the most unpatriotic of ways.
I do hope that my own personal sports hero, whom I have virtually ebraced and followed these past 20 years, tennis star Roger Federer, allows me a lifetime of adulation as a true hero, who never compromises that admiration and hero worship by an act that will deflate my esteem.
Tom Brady, you have so much more to learn.
Rabbi Chaim Landau is rabbi emeritus at Greenspring Valley Synagogue.