In Defense of Gisele Bündchen and Strong Sports Spouses

The supermodel was right to defend her husband Tom Brady after being heckled by a Giants fan

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Tom Brady of the New England Patriots talks to his wife Gisele Bündchen after a Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants on Feb. 5, 2012, in Indianapolis

There is no doubt that being a spouse of a top athlete is tough. If you want to spend a lot of time with him or her, you most likely have to put whatever personal goals you have for yourself aside to be available in those rare moments when he or she has true downtime. On the other hand, if you are trying to maintain your own career, then the time you’ll be able to spend together decreases greatly. That time is precious.

So you can imagine the demands on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen’s schedules. They’re both elite entertainers and are expected to perform as such. Their work is front and center, it is noticed, and you can bet that the paparazzi doesn’t give them much of a break when they do decide to decompress. They have no off time.

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Post–Super Bowl, Tom Brady made his way through the press conference in a daze. His wife was on her way to see him for the first time after a disappointing loss on one of the biggest stages in all of sports. She was looking for her moment to just be there for him. But before she could reach him, a fan began to heckle and taunt her, saying, “Eli owns your husband.” She didn’t go off directly at the fan, but she did say, within microphone’s range, that her husband can’t both “f—ing catch the ball and throw the ball.”

Bündchen has gotten a lot of flack for her comment, but I was fired up, in a good way, about her putting that heckler in his place. People forget that in her profession, she knows about fans who make you uncomfortable, she knows about the peanut gallery that pipes up in the most inopportune time. What critics are missing is that it’s different for her when taunts are directed at someone who you’re supposed to be supporting, the person you don’t see as much as you would like because both of you are crisscrossing each other’s itineraries.

That split second, that moment when you want to tell your spouse that all is well, home is good, I got your back, is something you want all to yourself, and the last thing you need is someone to throw a bag of salt in the wound out of insensitivity, ignorance, boredom or just pure jealousy. In theory, these superstars should be able to let it roll off of their backs, ignore it, tap past experience and proceed with the loving embrace, but there are some moments when you just need to respond.

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Never mind the fact that she was correct in her football assessment. Brady did his job, as he has for years. He made some good enough passes that his receivers did not catch. Some of the throws were tougher to catch than others, but they were passes that have been caught in this big of a game before. Brady did not bash his teammates, and Wes Welker, one of the receivers, even acknowledged that he should’ve made the catch and that “he let the team down.” But Manning and the Giants simply outplayed Brady and the Patriots.

The only issue Bündchen should be facing right now, following her passionate comments in defense of her man, is that she also has relationships with other team spouses and family members, who could be related to one of those wide receivers. In that case, she has a p.r. problem in the family room. But I doubt she thought of that in the moment when her husband’s honor was being challenged.

Of course, some may still think that an athlete’s wife should be seen and not heard (let alone use profanity or actually weigh in on an athletic performance), look pretty on the arm and have no opinion about the game. In Bündchen’s case, she’s supposed to be a supermodel on the arm who doesn’t get into the playbook even when she actually knows better than fans what’s inside that playbook.

These women go through a lot to sustain their relationships and, in most cases, they don’t work out in the end, so we should admire her for doing what she needs to do to protect it. And if nothing else, she deserved to have a moment with her husband in peace because even Brady needs to know that everything is going to be all right.

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