Gisele’s Super-Sized Super Gaffe

Regardless of who you were rooting for in Super Bowl XLVI, this is a very funny and very poignant piece…

Gisele’s Super-Sized Super Gaffe


For this column, I will defend Gisele Bündchen.

I know: how brave! Tomorrow I will stick up for four-day weekends, vintage Scorsese movies and sun. I will endorse melted cheese over tomato sauce over flattened dough. I will champion Mustang convertibles and cold beer at the end of a 12-hour day.

Associated Press

Here’s a question: What kind of person would heckle this woman in the first place?

But Gisele is under a blustery siege, and somebody’s got to stand by the world’s most famous supermodel.

Here’s the "controversy": Moments after the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, defeating the New England Patriots—an outfit that includes Gisele’s husband, quarterback Tom Brady—a camera caught Bündchen in a corridor leaving Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium. As Bündchen passes, Giants fans call her by name, and a man off-camera bellows: "Eli owns your husband!" As Bündchen waits for an elevator, she says something, not clearly at the heckler, perhaps to friends, but loud enough to hear:

"My husband cannot (nonfamily newspaper word) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times."

Oof. The video aired on "The Insider" TV show and off it went. Now a couple of things:

1. The first thing I want to know is: What adult on the face of this wondrous planet sees Gisele Bündchen—the Brazilian Venus, the protector of all Victoria’s Secrets, a style icon and entrepreneur who has been on the covers of nearly every magazine in every language—walking several feet away, an ethereal fantasy come to life, and the greeting that comes to mind is: "ELI OWNS YOUR HUSBAND!" I am 100% for New Yorkers being New Yorkers, unimpressed by fame, but this was an odd, abrasive choice. It’s like seeing Angelina Jolie on the street and yelping "CLOONEY OWNS YOUR LIVE-IN BOYFRIEND!" There was an opportunity to take the high road of courtesy, of saying something classy. Don Draper never would have yelled "Eli owns your husband!" Don Draper would have reached out and firmly clasped Gisele’s hand, looked her square in the eye, paused 40 seconds, and then whispered softly, "You’ll be back in this game soon." This guy could have done that. It would have been a great moment—a story that would have melted hearts, that he could have told his grandkids. Instead, he’s That Guy.

2. The other thing is, it’s not actually true. Eli doesn’t "own" Gisele’s husband. Not even Eli thinks this. Eli Manning and Tom Brady are never on a field together, not assigned to stop each other, never in a position to compete one-on-one. It’s like fabricating a duel between a salad spinner and a leaf blower. Now, the Giants may "own" Brady, and the Giants defense certainly does, and Justin Tuck has a compelling case. I know that "Quarterback Versus Quarterback" is a common sports media gimmick, but it’s basically nonsense, and if you’re going to zing a supermodel, you need raise the zinger bar.

3. Now of course what Gisele said is impolite. It’s 10 out of 10 on the cringe index. She reacted to a regrettable taunt with a regrettable comment. It sounds petty and ill-considered and yet…exactly like the kind of petty and ill-considered thing that about 80 million people were saying at the exact same time. Brady did not play his best in the closing moments of XLVI but his receivers did drop passes. At that very moment Wes Welker was downstairs in the stadium, moist-eyed, putting the blame on himself. That was magnanimous of Welker but unnecessary. Brady’s pass was also off. It’s a team game, and a team loss. There are a zillion ways to assign fault.

By now Gisele surely knows that blaming the teammates is not what you’re supposed to do. It’s terrible form. But there’s been a lot of easy sanctimony this week about how "public figures" like Bündchen—as if she’s running in the Arizona primary—need to watch what they say. She’s no novice, but there’s a long road of difference between getting snagged in an unguarded moment and standing at a podium or sitting for an interview. Celebrities like Bündchen and Brady live in a bizarre universe where every public interaction is now fair play, and while the spoils are many, it’s a standard few can live up to every second of every day. I’m not saying it excuses the language, and I sure wish she hadn’t put it like that, but if you think it’s unforgivable and never should happen, you ought to walk a mile in those UGGs.

4. The last thing I thought was this: Wow, Gisele Bündchen really loves Tom Brady. She loves him in the irrational way that people who are in love love each other. She loves him blind.

This is a comforting, uncynical thing. Maybe you’re married, maybe not—maybe you were married once—but one of the things you want in a union is that kind of unconditional, unrestrained, forget-everyone-else support. Everybody should be lucky to have a fierce advocate in their corner, and you should be a fierce advocate in their corner too. Leave the measured consideration and the caveats to the friends and the shrinks. You want your spouse to tell you it’s going to be OK. To defend you when nobody else will.

Even when it’s wrong. Even when it sounds like lashing out. Even when it’s the absolute incorrect thing to say. Because they’ve got your back. Because you’ve got theirs. Because that’s love.

I’m not saying she was right, I’m not saying she shouldn’t regret it. But the supermodel loves the quarterback.

The fairy tale is actually a fairy tale. It’s so unfair, but it’s also pretty sweet.


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