By Julie Buehler
A lot has been said about Tom Brady in wake of the “DeflateGate” scandal. His illustrious legacy tarnished in the eyes of many, his numerous NFL records in question in the minds of others.
He’s been called a cheat, a liar, a villain, petty, disingenuous and a thesaurus full of adjectives that may or may not be accurate depending on your perspective.
But one thing he hasn’t been called that is clearly evident: insecure.
Oh sure, the immediate reaction is to scoff at such a notion: “Come on Buehler, how can a man who’s married to a super model sporting 4 Super Bowl rings and countless NFL accolades be insecure?”
Because, my friend, that’s what success breeds: insecurity.
But not in the sense that you or I understand insecurity.
In a much bigger, much more suffocating manifestation.
It’s a sinking feeling that once successful you’re not good enough to remain successful. That once the pressure to perform is ratcheted even higher than previous, unforeseen highs, you’ll succumb and be merely mortal.
It’s a pulsating suspicion that you’ll be discovered as average and it’s a deep conviction that unless extraordinary means are exacted, whether that be rigorous physical training, relentless study, difficult personal sacrifice or the like, your best will cease to be enough.
Insecurity is what made Jerry Rice run mile upon mile up the steep inclines in the San Francisco hills and use Stickum to catch extra balls.
It shortened Bill Walsh’s Hall of Fame coaching career. Causing him to retire after one Super Bowl victory and a season before the team he built won another.
Insecurity took a sure-fire Hall of Fame hitter and turned him into a caricature with an inflated head and homerun numbers.
Insecurity is a seething sensation that when channeled effectively, in proper perspective and dosage, can turn a good coach, player or professional into a juggernaut of motivation for success. But when left unchecked, morphs into a steady justification for jumping on that slippery slope of subjective ethics.
A.K.A. It takes a talented person and convinces them they need to cheat.
It’s easy for us onlookers to scoff and mock those caught cheating, seeing how the insecurities of the general population stem around big noses, spare tires and cellulite.
But there’s a darker side to the insecurities beset on those at the highest level of sport. Once at the top of the mountain, the expectations to remain at that level, or achieve the same level of attention as the previous year creates this brooding cauldron of emotional instability that even the most talented players will seek to cool by taking as many variables into their control as possible.
All the while the stark reality of Father Time’s undefeated record makes that quest to remain steadfast atop the mountain impossible. The few and rare individuals that give Father Time a run for his money only make the expectations for others that much less achievable.
So rather than succumb to reality and recognize the boundaries of fair play, those insecure individuals, in order to achieve the perceived unachievable, seek unethical means with which to do so, all the while mistaking their cheating for the “extraordinary means” they recognize are necessary to remain successful.
It’s a difficult concept for most fans to realize: that some of the biggest names in sports, the Tom Bradys and Barry Bonds and even Jerry Rice, who espouse such confidence and supreme ability, are so fragile mentally that they could be convinced that cheating is their only way to succeed.
But much like insecurity can convince a beautiful girl to look in the mirror and see an unattractive, distorted face, it can also cause a hall-of-fame player to look at the rules and see a distorted way to ensure success.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 2-4 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She can also be seen every morning between 6-7am on KMIR sharing the coolest stories in sports. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 2-4 pst at www.team1010.com or watch “Buehler’s Day Off” on Ustream and KMIR.com for her sports reports.