Maybe he really is just different, wired in such a way that the usual worries of middle age — or, sportingly speaking, old age — will simply never affect him. Maybe Tom Brady really is immune to all of this, and he’ll be spiraling blissfully tight until he starts receiving literature from AARP in the mail.
Maybe his guardian angels protect him better than a five-man front of Anthony Munoz, John Hanna, Jim Otto, Bruce Matthews and Forrest Gregg.
But before we just assume that Brady can be Brady forever — since we really have no evidence to the contrary — maybe it’s time to ask another question.
Instead of: Why shouldn’t he play forever?
Perhaps we should ask: why should he?
What remains to prove? What’s left to win? And look, we’re not just talking about him risking the embarrassment of being another great athlete who stayed at the party an hour too long. Willie Mays battling the sun, Michael Jordan struggling with aching knees, Wayne Gretzky adjusting to life as just another star instead of a deity: it was all hard to watch and, like yourself imagine being even more difficult.
But there was a difference.
There wasn’t the weekly risk of serious, permanent damage lurking on the other end of a bolt of lightning, a mess, or just one wrong step. football is different. Contact sports are different. It would have been nice if Jordan retired after breaking Byron Russell’s ankles in Salt Lake City and winning the 1998 NBA title. His return as a wizard was disappointing. It wasn’t sad.
Muhammad Ali, that was sad.
There were half a dozen instances where Ali, with his legend and his senses at least halfway intact, could have stayed away from boxing. He walked away a bunch. He kept going back. Maybe stepping into the ring with Larry Holmes or that awful last fight with Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas was already on his way to Parkinson’s.
But we’ll never know. What we do know is that his final retirement was at least one retirement late. The same goes for Sugar Ray Leonard, who could never stay away and paid a penalty for doing so. Just like any one of a hundred glorious boxing names scattered over time, tough guys who never quite got up to life in the gym until it’s solved for them.
Look, in the end, a weakened Peyton Manning could barely pass a ball, let alone throw one with any semblance of accuracy. His final moment came amid a shower of Super Bowl confetti, but he will forever be known for being carried there by his Broncos teammates, not the other way around. And listen to Brett Favre’s stuttering rhythm; You have to wonder if those last two years with the Jets and Vikings have really paid off.
Or you could just watch “Concussion” again.
Again, maybe Brady is invulnerable to all of this. You can understand why someone still playing at the MVP level might be reluctant to fold permanently on Sunday afternoon. You can understand how addictive life as a GOAT is. You can certainly appreciate the salary that comes with such a trade, and the flattery and camaraderie with teammates that no athlete can ever replicate again, whether the final game is in CYO or the NFL.
But those wondering how Brady’s retirement might impact his legacy are missing the point. For one thing, it’s already safe, just like Mays was despite Oakland’s sun field, just like Jordans when he was playing closer to the ground than on the edge, just like Alis after the Rumble in the Jungle or the Thrilla in Manila.
It’s his knees that are in danger. And his shoulder. And his skull. Life in the NFL means always being one hit away from the hospital. And that’s a shorter trip at 45 than at 25. With longer consequences.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/14/tom-brady-risks-unnecessary-consequences-with-nfl-return/ Tom Brady risks unnecessary consequences with NFL return