When Senator Tom Brady is on the vice presidential short list in 2020, getting vetted by his party's handlers and a couple of dozen PIs on patrol for bimbo eruptions and other past episodes of unwholesome behavior, he'll think back to a speci?c spring night in 2005 and thank himself for not doing whatever wanton thing he could have done when the opportunity presented itself. For as he tells me one evening in April—a week after the night in question—he very nearly got himself into a...situation with some, uh…guys.
"I was in New York City," Brady says, "and I was around some people that... [careful pause] it just wouldn't be good for me to be around. Not that they were bad people. It's just, their agenda was different than mine. And I didn't know these people that well. They were kind of...friends of a friend? And I knew the friend, and I told him, 'Listen, I'm gonna go do something else.' And he understood."
I appreciate that Brady is being strategically nonspeci?c here, but my goodness, he brought it up, this defused potential moment of ignominy. The mind reels. Were these gentlemen heading off to an after-hours bodega back room to wager on cock?ghts? Was a van with tinted windows waiting to take Tom's nonacquaintances to a skeezy gutter palace of mirror balls and methamphetamine?
"Can you give me a ballpark sense of what you're talking about?" I ask.
"Just...the things that were going on with the people I was with," he says. "The things they were choosing to do didn't...?t with my plan."
"Yeah. You could make a thousand good decisions, and you make one bad decision and that's the only thing people will remember."
His plan. For now, Brady says, it is to win another Super Bowl, which would bring his total of championship rings to four in ?ve years, and to be the best New England Patriots quarterback he can be. He offers a lot of rhetoric to this effect, a lot of coachspeak about "getting everyone on the same page" and "taking my preparation to a new level." But the plan is something bigger, too, if not yet fully formed. The very week we're having this discussion, he is furiously multitasking, taking a trip to Washington, D.C., for the requisite championship-team photo op at the White House, schmoozing some new business associates, and rehearsing for his arrival-signifying stint as host of Saturday Night Live just a few days away.
Understandably, then, he looks kind of peaked as we sit in the lounge of his hotel at the end of a long day, his face unshaven, his lank spilling over his chair's arms and cushion like a teenager's. Eating chips and sipping a Coke, Brady is still Tiger Beat dreamy—the strikingly green eyes, the dimple in the chin, the jawline out of DC Comics' Super Friends. But his voice sounds an octave lower than it was during his ?rst ?ush of fame in 2001, the annus mirabilis during which he rose from roster nonentity to starting QB of a soon-to-be-championship team. His out?t, a sort of postcollegiate Abercrombie ensemble, aptly captures the transitional state he's in: The jeans and sneakers say wide-eyed tyro, but the business shirt (untucked) and expensive-looking blazer say polished, seen-it-all veteran.