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NFL

Not Even Tom Brady Could Play Forever

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Tom Brady wanted to play forever, knowing that even for him that would probably be a tall ask. He wanted to play until he was 50, which was only ridiculous. Now we learn that he has reportedly tapped out at 44, with half of those years spent destroying all those “best quarterback ever” conversations that make taverns, sports talk shows, and chats around the outdoor grill so tedious.

There won’t be any regrets for him, unless and until he finds out the price he made his body pay for the desires of his head and heart. His family is probably just sick of killing endless weekends in a hermetically sealed stadium suite eating fried whatever, and he also is at least moderately aware that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to whom he bestowed the last of his crown jewels, are embarking on a rebuild that they delayed because they wanted a Super Bowl to make people forget how awful the franchise has been. In that way, the Glazer family who own the Bucs are modeling their redo on their other big sports purchase, Manchester United, which tried to recreate the Brady Experience with Cristiano Ronaldo, to much less effect.

But it worked, for him and them, and even if Brady decided not to go out as a winner, either last year or in a nebulous future, he managed to win more championship rings than could fit inside a moose’s head, which is of course the only way he will be graded in the end. His attempted contributions to health, image and general culture, such as they are, all stem from the fact that he won a metric ton of football games because of, despite, for, and with Bill Belichick, who against all odds ends up outlasting him, if that’s what passes for joy in our broken world.

We will be up to our eyelids in Brady for the next few days, including endless reruns of the I By Me documentary series he did on himself, and we will reach the point where we are genuinely more sick of him than some of you already are. But eventually, as comes to all athletes, we will cease our fixation upon him as we ceased our fixations on Joe Montana and Dan Marino and John Elway, et. al., and he will be rendered a hazy and semi-benign memory, maybe while Aaron Rodgers is still out there spreading his exasperation with a world that has treated him nearly as well as Brady.

Brady already knows he won all the chips the casino has, plus an infected cruise ship of numbers that tell you what you already know about what he did and where he ranks, so maybe he will go into retirement like Michael Jordan, smoke a Cuba’s worth of cigars and then buy into the Bucs, or the Patriots, or Man U. Maybe he gets his kids to do a slicker and less appealing ManningCast 2.0 because he wants to bank mad money breaking down Bears-Panthers, for Christ’s sake. Maybe he does nothing because his family might finally be so sick of football that they don’t even let Red Zone into the house, and yes, that would be the best outcome for him. War stories lose their impact and audiences on the second through 4,000th tellings. Besides, that’s NFL Network’s job now, and they surely need him more than he needs them. Networks are like that. Excess is never quite enough.

But for those of you who view his career with more irk than admiration and are kind of done with the whole thing, take solace in knowing he didn’t make 50. At least as far as we know. He could use some alone time. Hell, we all could.