The Brady Mystique
Many Americans can’t wait to retire so they can play more golf, kibbutz with their friends at the pool or sharpen their bridge skills. Others worry that they have not saved enough, failed to develop outside interests or realize that retirement will force them to spend more time with their spouses than they have for the past forty-some years. Then there are those who really, truly love their jobs and can’t imagine doing anything else, especially nothing.
I can’t quite figure out which of these applies to Tom Brady, the non pareil NFL quarterback and owner of seven Super Bowl rings who has announced that his “retirement” of six weeks or so is over and he will return for at least one more year as quarterback for the Tampa Bay Bucs. Surely it can’t be that he worries that he and his Brazilian supermodel wife, Gisele Bündchen, the mother of their two perfect children, actually share little in common and he will soon tire of her hair in curlers and her face without makeup at the breakfast table and she will grow annoyed at his unshaven puss and the dad jeans he will wear while puttering around the garden.
It also is not likely that Tom and Gisele are worried about money, with her career shelf life far exceeding his as she continues to pull in a cool 40 mill a year, adding to her reputed $400 million net worth. While Tom himself supposedly has $250 million in the bank, maybe he frets that he will have to swallow his pride and admit that he faces a lifetime of being supported by his better earning wife. Or maybe he decided that, when he needs to get of the house, a part-time gig at Home Depot just isn’t going to do it.
At age 44, Tom is a freak of nature, which he attributes to his Spartan diet and lifestyle. But, despite being as well protected by massive offensive linemen as any quarterback in history, he still takes a pounding from 300 pound behemoths who render him one hit away from making his retirement completely involuntary. So, why is he coming back for more?
Professional athletes are a different breed, and, if they are being honest, would prefer to be carried off the field, like Greek heroes, on their shields than to admit that their skills have diminished. I don’t doubt that Brady loves what he does, and he has done it better than anyone in football history, but there comes a point where one must face his own humanity even if that means having an extra (or even one) bagel for breakfast.
Brady is long past the time when he needs to prove anything else on a football field and he will certainly remain on a pedestal to his adoring fans for the rest of his life. Maybe the continuing drive to win overcomes all other considerations including the threat of CTE since he likely has already incurred all the damage he ever will. Maybe he believes he is truly a demi-god, like Achilles. But even Achilles had his heel. And paid the ultimate price.