January 10, 2010 10:00 PM ET
Tom Brady and Derek Jeter are sharing the same career. In fact, they're sharing the same life.
Jeter grew up in Michigan, Brady went to college there. Both are walking oxymorons. Blue-collar uber-stars. Telegenic and clean-cut icons who strive to be one of the guys, and espouse old school values, while simultaneously dating and/or marrying a conga line of starlets and models (best wishes to Derek and Minka who reportedly will marry in November). That's a fine line to walk, and yet they do it without seemingly engendering jealousy or resentment.
2 guys who play critical positions on high-profile franchises in sports-mad Northeastern cities with sweltering media corps. And these guys have been teflon. Bullet-proof. Above the fray. When their career epitaphs are written, gaudy stats won't tell their stories, though each has put up his fair share. They are above all "winners", guys who's true brilliance only comes out when the stakes are at their highest.
Each experienced an embarrassment of riches early in their careers. Jeter won 4 World Series in his first 5 years. Brady won 3 Super Bowls in his first 5. It wasn't reality. The inevitable struggles kicked in for both. Jeter was foiled by Gonzo's broken-bat queue job off Rivera in 2001. Brady turned away by Tyree's stupefying helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII. Jeter went 8 years looking for that 5th World Series title, before finally getting it in November. Brady is still searching for that elusive "next" Super Bowl. Jeter's lack of range became the mantra of those in-the-know. Brady played a subpar Super Bowl against the Giants, lost a year to knee surgery, and hasn't been quite as good since coming back (albeit winning the Comeback Player of the Year this season).
Today's performance against the Ravens shows that Tom Terrific is human after all, but when Brady wins his next Super Bowl, say in 2014, he'll be following Jeter's script to a tee.