The Women We Love to Hate
Dana, Rebecca, Newsweek
Byline: Rebecca Dana
Losing streaks, bungled plays, men off their game. The athletes fumble--and we always blame the wives.
Not that it matters, but Gisele was right.
"My husband cannot f--king throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time," said the Brazilian stunner, worth an estimated $150 million, as she stalked through Lucas Oil Stadium last week after the New England Patriots' devastating collapse in the last minutes of the Super Bowl.
That foulmouthed and wholly accurate bit of postgame analysis, prompted by taunting New York Giants fans, was as astute as anything Terry Bradshaw ever said. Gisele's take on the game: her husband, human Ken doll Tom Brady, had thrown several nice passes; his butterfingered wide receivers had flubbed them. As she said, "I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times." A locker-room photo taken later that night showed the former Victoria's Secret angel forehead-to-forehead with Brady in what appeared to be a beautiful alien mind meld. A tabloid report had them jetting off to Costa Rica in time to watch the sun rise.
In the week since, Gisele "the Body" Bundchen has come to represent, for Patriots fans, all that is evil. She is a rich, globe-trotting interloper who violated the sacred code of professional athletics in calling out individual players, if not by name, then by clear implication. However unwittingly, she stole the show.
And that only scratches the surface of her villainy. She also stole her husband away from his ex, actress Bridget Moynahan, while Moynahan was pregnant with their child. She dragged Brady to New York, enemy territory, and to California, which is so far from Boston, it may as well be Russia. Look at the umlaut in her name, for heaven's sake. The couple is photographed so often gallivanting around--dancing in Rio, mugging at Fashion Week--that it is hard for loyal fans to believe his head is really in the game. She has wiggled her way into the bromance of professional sports, disrupted the burly gladiator culture, dressed her man in Tom Ford, and hauled him off to the Met gala. In the five years since Gisele came on the scene, the Patriots have not won a championship. Who do you think is to blame? She is Yoko Ono, fans say. She might even be a witch.
In fact, she is just a WAG, the British term for the "wives and girlfriends" of professional athletes, and, for practical purposes, the easiest object of rage for fans who would rather not turn on their (losing) teams. The prettier, more famous, or more successful the WAG, the easier it is blame everything on her. Soccer fans love to hate designer and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, wife of David, who often sat stony-faced through his games. In one view, she has systematically softened her tattooed husband, especially in the years since his 2004 affair, when he was forced to take time out to rebuild their marriage. Beckham made his own appearance during the Super Bowl in a nearly pornographic black-and-white commercial for his new underwear line at H&M.
It's no easier for American WAGs. Fans have brutally attacked Kristin Cavallari as a distraction to her fiance, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. They virtually immolated Jessica Simpson every time Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo made a mistake during their relationship. Bundchen, among the prettiest and most successful women on the planet, may as well be Satan.
"She's a convenient lightning rod," says sports psychologist Charlie Brown, who specializes in athletes' romantic relationships. "You've got all this pent-up frustration, this emotional intensity, and she's a safer target" than the athlete himself. Brown compares it to family members attacking ambulance drivers at the scene of a medical emergency, which he says is common.
Contemporary WAGdom emerged as a phenomenon as the press swarmed soccer wives during the 2006 World Cup. In Britain, WAGs attend matches under a kilo of makeup, wearing their highest patent-leather platform stilettos and Herve Leger bandage dresses tight enough to explode their breast implants. …