They were the ultimate global power couple, fame and fortune, beauty and accomplishment. They were big deals before they met and it all just grew over the ensuing 13 years of marriage.
Two seemingly ageless icons, the fashion model and the football star, somehow transforming into a future with the promise of even more power and influence, twin business empires to go beyond the brilliance of their youthful pursuits.
Mostly though, they looked like a real marriage, a real partnership, the kind that defies their stature.
Tom Brady. Gisele Bündchen.
This was no Hollywood affair, no match made for tabloid publicity. They were old and established, not young and searching. They were raising three children, including one from Brady’s previous relationship. A life with plenty of well-documented school drop-off lanes and youth sports sidelines, of shared support and celebration, of vacation photos and postgame embraces.
Now it’s over.
Brady and Bündchen announced Friday that they had finalized their high-profile, yet low-spotlight, divorce. Details are scarce because that’s how any couple would want it, and this feels no different than a normal relationship gone astray. This isn’t some wild break-up because it was never that to begin with.
The way they handled the end is how they always handled things.
“We arrived at this decision amicably and with gratitude for the time we spent together,” Brady wrote. “We are blessed with wonderful and beautiful children who will continue to be the center of our world in every way. We will continue to work together as parents to always ensure they receive the love and attention they deserve.”
There is almost never a divorce that isn’t sad on some level, particularly when children are involved. What was full of promise and love had become irreconcilable. No one wants that. No one ever wants that. Still, it happens. Often.
Brady is the biggest sports star of the biggest sport in this country but no matter how big of a deal he became, his core was always rooted in a desire to live a traditional life.
He grew up in San Mateo, California, in a dream of a family; his parents married, three older sisters, all great athletes. Everything revolved around games and practices, from softball to golf to football. There were family dinners and family trips to watch the San Francisco 49ers and family board games where the older girls showed no mercy.
At a Super Bowl media day he once teared up when asked to name his hero.
“My dad is my hero because he is someone I look up to everyday …” he said before choking up, unable to continue.
He saw football as an interesting job, but still sought a regular old life. Everything was still about the wife and the kids, just another dude in his 40s. He would swell with pride when talking about his kids. He would light up when they’d run to him after a game. He would stand by the side of his wife and cheer on her successes.
Maybe it was impossible to have it all, but 90 percent of his non-business social media posts were about family, about simple things even if they were done on the grandest of scales.
Bündchen is reportedly no different. One of six kids to married parents who raised them in a small Brazilian city. The world would eventually become her runway, but to see her in the back halls of NFL stadiums, shuttling her children through crowds and paparazzi was to see any mom and wife.
So, yeah, there will be big headlines and social media jokes and maybe even a sense of schadenfreude from those who traffic in seeing celebrities suffer.
This, though, is just sad. One more couple that didn’t stay together. One more family split in two. One more set of children dealing with the emotional uncertainty of a parental split, only with the details overwhelming the internet so there is almost nowhere to turn.
“[Divorce] is, of course, painful and difficult,” Brady wrote. “Like it is for most people who go through the same things every day around the world. However, we wish only the best for each other.”
Here, on their worst days, they deserve empathy. Brady, as an NFL quarterback, has nowhere to hide and process the loss. He played two NFL games (both losses) the same week his divorce was finalized and the realization he’d no longer have his children with him every day was cemented. Imagine that stress? He looked defeated and exhausted at the stadium, but it’s a wonder he managed to play.
For years they looked like the couple that had it all. From Met Gala red carpets to Lombardi trophy podiums, from family portraits on the beach to hugs with the kids.
In truth, they were just another couple, just another family trying to make it in America. And like so many others less known or wealthy, for whatever reason it didn’t last, it didn’t survive as intended.
It sucks. Every time, for every one, including Tom and Gisele.