Emma Teitel: Tom Brady's generosity proves that forgiveness is not yet dead
The quarterback forgiving a radio host who said something unsavoury about his daughter shows that people can come back from mistakes, Emma Teitel writes.
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There’s a lot to dislike about Tom Brady, the seemingly perfect chiselled-by-God-himself New England Patriots quarterback, who is headed into yet another Super Bowl this weekend. I know this and I’m not even a football fan (I prefer to watch sports where the game is in play for more than 11 minutes).
Brady is not only an alleged cheater — see “Deflategate” — he is a personal friend of U.S. President Donald Trump. He is annoyingly handsome, he is married to a supermodel and, as Adrienne LaFrance writes in the Atlantic, he appears to be “some kind of football-savant Benjamin Button who ages in reverse and physically cannot stop winning.” In other words, if you enjoy begrudging the success of others, Tom Brady’s your man.
But this week, I learned that contrary to popular opinion outside of Boston, there’s actually a lot like to like about the guy.
For example, the quarterback managed to do something recently that so few people in the public eye do these days. He forgave a person who offended him. That person is a 24-year-old Boston radio host named Alex Reimer, who made an inexcusably unkind remark about Brady’s 5-year-old daughter on the radio last week.
Here’s what happened: while opining about a new documentary featuring Brady, Reimer referred to the quarterback’s daughter, Vivian, who appears in the film, as “an annoying little pissant.” Understandably, outrage ensued from Patriots fans and Brady himself. (I mean, honestly, what kind of adult picks on a 5-year-old?)
This week, the football player, a regular guest on the radio station that employs Reimer, criticized the host for his comments and suggested he might cut ties with the station. The station in turn apologized to Brady and suspended Reimer. But here’s where things get interesting — where they diverge from the typical narrative of call-out culture. When asked about the incident the other day, rather than double down on his outrage, Brady turned the other cheek.
“Sometimes we say things that we shouldn’t say or we make mistakes, and that happens,” he told the press in reference to Reimer. Brady also expressed hope that “the guy isn’t fired.”
“I would hate for that to happen,” he said. “We all have careers and make mistakes.”
Wow. Who knew: Tom Brady, a modern-day Jesus.
Relax, I’m only kidding. But you have to admit, it is rare to witness this kind of generosity of spirit emerge after an incident like this, especially when a kid or otherwise vulnerable person is involved. The story tends to go: person X says something stupid or offensive he deeply regrets. Person X is skewered in press and online by the offended party and, of course, by thousands of indignant strangers.
But Brady’s generosity in this instance is so refreshing because it provides hope in the era of online shaming that forgiveness is not dead. Not all poor choices are irredeemable. People can still say stupid, offensive things and be absolved, rather than trolled to the point of clinical depression or suicide. The quarterback’s apparent willingness to move beyond the incident is powerful because it gives permission to Brady’s more zealous fans and followers to lay off Reimer. If Brady isn’t hurting, they can put away their pitchforks. Of course many of them won’t, but at least there is incentive to do so from the offended party himself.
Of course Brady isn’t the only celebrity to throw a wrench into the outrage machine. In 2016, rapper Vince Staples behaved like the mensch that he is when he refused to react negatively to a viral video critical of his music. The video in question was uploaded to YouTube by a deeply concerned white Christian woman who decried Staples’ politically charged, profanity-laced rap lyrics, and mourned for the simpler, paler pop days of Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync. Rap fans pilloried the woman online, but Staples refused to take the bait. Instead, he said this: “It’s not right to attack someone over their stance, their opinions, and their religion. I think that’s very immature.”
Of course, some opinions deserve attacking. But it’s important to know when it’s time to hold your fire. This week Tom Brady held his. He decided to be the bigger person, instead of the louder one. And there you have it: another reason to hate the guy.