By Larry Fine
HOUSTON (Reuters) – Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is the man who has everything — leading man good looks, super model Gisele Bundchen as his wife, lovely children and hundreds of millions of dollars in earnings.
Everything, that is, except the fifth Super Bowl ring he is fiercely determined to win on Feb. 5 against the Atlanta Falcons.
For Brady, this has become a quest as personal as any in a 17-year career that has already brought him four Super Bowl titles.
It comes after serving a four-game suspension this season from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over the controversial underinflation of balls in the AFC title game two years ago, a punishment he fought in the courts.
“Deflategate and being accused of cheating, any athlete will want to prove everybody wrong and say ‘if you think that’s what let me win, you’re wrong,'” mental game expert Dr. Joe Parent told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“His feud with Roger Goodell about that is one of his motivations to show everybody it’s not about the footballs. Athletes want to remove doubt about their accomplishments.
“Nobody wants an asterisk by their records,” added Parent, author of ‘Zen Golf’ and ‘Zen Tennis’.
Brady has already rewritten the postseason record books as he makes his record seventh appearance in the Super Bowl, and at age 39 played at a level as high as ever this season.
“For Brady, his personal integrity has been questioned. That made it personal. That’s more fuel to use as motivation,” said Parent.
Inspiration is perhaps the most common motivational factor, according to Dr. Matthew Lorber, a psychiatrist at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, but other emotions can be effective tools.
“Anger is a major emotion tied into motivation in people who are successful,” Lorber told Reuters. “Anger has to be turned into the drive to fix what you’re angry about.
“A big thing I work on is what can patients control in their lives,” said Lorber. “Tom Brady, the moment he is suspended, he really cannot control. But he can control his motivation.
“He can control if he lets up a bit in the gym or if he grinds even harder. Motivation is something we have control over.”
Brady has shrugged off suggestions that he has been using his suspension as motivation, but his competitive fire has clearly been ablaze this season.
“There’s a certain amount of energy devoted to getting your head geared up to play in a very serious, fierce fashion,” Dr. Victor Fornari, a psychiatrist at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, told Reuters.
“Tarnishing that sense of greatness would be met with tremendous resentment and upset.
“I think we see that not just with athletes, but with people who have a very strong opinion of themselves. The truth is that everyone needs a healthy amount of narcissism. That you look in the mirror and feel good about what you see and who you are.”
Parent does not think the fire will abate regardless of the outcome of Super Bowl 51 in Houston.
“Three things about champion athletes. Champion athletes hate to lose. But they love to compete. They love to test themselves against the best. That makes it special,” he said.
“Brady needs something to play against. Maybe he’s playing partly against Goodell.
“That’s to get the adrenalin going and the intensity of focus, but it can’t be a fire out of control. Brady has what I’d call cold fire. He can show his fire but not at the moment of the play. He channels the fire, ice-cold focus.”
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Andrew Both)