Should Tom Brady hang up his cleats?
My adult children and I agree on many things, but sports is not one of them. They root for teams. I root for individuals.
Asked if I watched the latest big game on TV, I will usually say yes. Then I will launch into a detailed analysis of how my favorite player performed.
“But don’t you CARE who wins and loses?,” my son will typically ask.
“Not really,” I will reply. There follows enough eye-rolling to sink a few ships.
Which leads me to the amazing, unsinkable, indefatigable, relentlessly excellent Tom Brady.
In case you’ve been living under a giant rock for the last 23 years, Brady is the most successful quarterback in the history of professional football.
He has won seven Super Bowl titles. He has done that even though he wasn’t a highly touted player coming out of college.
He has proven — and keeps proving — that will and determination will take you a long way on the football field. Also, anywhere else.
Amazingly, Brady is still playing at the age of 45. I barely remember being that young, but I will tell you this:
The prospect of ferocious 300-pound tacklers bearing down on me, intent on putting me in the hospital, would have chased me into a rocking chair long ago.
Not Brady. He shows up every Sunday, and still wins his share of the time. He is still performing at a high level. And he routinely swats away questions about how long he can keep going.
Until he’s 48? Fifty? I wouldn’t put it past him. And I wouldn’t expect the great debate about him to disappear any sooner than he does.
To wit: How old is too old for a professional football player? There’s no set figure. However, the average career in the National Football League lasts five years. So anyone playing into his late 20s and beyond has already beaten the odds.
And he has defied the power structure. Professional football is full of authority figures, none of whom wears a uniform on Sundays.
Coaches and general managers always think they know best, even after they are fired for not knowing best. They counted Tom Brady out before he was 24. So much for crystal balls.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady soldiers on. He works out as compulsively as he did at 22. He concentrates on scouting reports as well as ever.
If he says he can still do it at 45, who is any armchair quarterback to argue?
The answer to that, among my pals, is…all of them. They want Tom Brady gone. Right now. Even when his team (at this writing) is leading its division.
In a conference call the other day, every friend (average age north of 70) declared that Brady should stand aside right now — or preferably yesterday — before his body gets carted to the morgue.
A major argument: He should be satisfied with what he has achieved, because no quarterback has ever achieved more.
The counterargument: Winning begets the desire to win more. Can you really blame Tom Brady for still wanting to succeed, any more than you would blame a young person for the same thing?
Another major argument: He is not as good as he used to be.
Counterargument: Who is?
A third major argument: Brady is being piggy. He has already made multiple millions. He is a cinch for the Hall of Fame. Why stand in the way of someone younger?
Counterargument: Because he can.
These questions and answers apply to any industry and any person. Youth is wonderful. But experience is just as wonderful — maybe more so.
Why shouldn’t a person who would ordinarily be well past his pull date continue if he can? Why do we insist on applying blanket rules to someone who is obviously exceptional?
In football, as in life, avoiding mistakes is just as important as notching huge successes. Tom Brady exemplifies that, in spades.
When he drops back to pass, study his upright carriage. Always the same. Study the way he surveys the field. Always methodical and disciplined. Study the way he releases his passes. Like a great dart-thrower — never too high, never too low.
The guy is still playing because the guy can still play.
Couldn’t Rupert Murdoch say the same? Couldn’t President Biden? Couldn’t Dr. Anthony Fauci?
To argue that Brady should sit because of what his birth certificate says is to mis-aim. If football is all about winning, then a team should use whichever players get them there.
Brady gets his Tampa Bay Buccaneers there.
Yes, I will be surprised if he is still playing at age 89, as Murdoch is. But there’s a first time for everything. Tom Brady has been shattering expectations for a long time. Long may he continue.
Bob Levey is a national award-winning columnist.