METTLE: to have strength, courage, fortitude

tom brady

Something happened in the sports world recently that deserves the attention it is receiving.   Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots NFL team negotiated a three year contract that will take him to 2017 when he will be 40 years of age.   That will make him one of the “older” players in the NFL and maybe even someone who will retire before his body is destroyed.

Now, let’s be clear about something.   The contract that Brady and his agents negotiated is for many millions of dollars.   If he’s the smart business man I think he is, Tom Brady is securing a future, which could be for forty or fifty years during which he and his family will want for nothing.   For people who are unemployed, minimally employed, or retired on a substistance pension, that is enviable.

But what Brady did was unheard of in the NFL.  He negotiated the contract for far less than he should have received in terms of what star quarterbacks receive.   Granted, it gave him a secure contract for several years instead of a year-to-year contract which might not have been unusual for someone his age.   But in finalizing the contract as it stands, he assisted the franchise in being able to spread some of its massive resources further, assuring them of the possibility of recruiting additional star-quality players.

I say this negotiation took a lot of mettle on his part.  By that I mean that Brady demonstrated strength and courage in putting his team before himself.   There is no question that he is worth more to the Patriots than that which they agreed upon.   And there is little doubt that he could have gotten more.   But his affection for the team, its management, and the industry came before his greed.  To show mettle is to stand out from the pack.

Mettle is actually a word that comes about through mis-spelling.   It is an alternate way of spelling the word metal, dating back to Shakesperian-era writing.   For many years the words were interchangeable, mettle being simply an alternate spelling.   But by the time the mid-18th century rolled around the word meanings had somewhat separated, mettle being distanced from the industrial matter and becoming a personality term which describes someone with fortitude, personal strength.

I heard an NPR discussion the other day about quarterbacks in the NFL, in which the commentator pointed out that a transition had taken place in the personality types of quarterbacks.  Whereas these players in the past (and sometimes the present) were grizzled, hard-core athletes with lots of muscle and brawn about them, the Tom Bradys of today are more metro-sexuals.    That means that they are fashion-conscious, socially active, and significally focused on physical appearance.    There is no question that Tom Brady is an attractive man who dresses well, styles his appearance to catch attention, and makes a worthy partner for his wife, Giselle, a fashion model.

But Tom Brady is also one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.  He is strong, talented, and smart.  And above it all, he has mettle.

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Photo Credit:  Greg Mitchell

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