Tom Brady, the Super Bowl and the aging athlete’s mind-body problem

Like the Buccaneers quarterback, I played well into my 40s. But eventually you have to confront a future in which your physical skills are no longer enough

Professional athletes are mayflies. The mayfly rises magnificently into the air on translucent wings, only to die within 24 hours. According to the NFL Players’ Association, the league average playing career lasts 3.3 years. That’s not long considering the many years of grueling daily training, various physical injuries, and social sacrifices athletes endure to play those three years. Compared to the NBA (4.5 to 6.5 years), the NHL (5 years), and MLB (5.6 years), the NFL has the shortest career lifespan. Worse, 78% of those NFL players go broke within three years of retirement.

Then there’s Tom Brady. Brady, considered by many to be the greatest quarterback of all time, is no mayfly. On Sunday, he will make his bid to win his seventh Super Bowl. At 43, he is the oldest active NFL player and, after playing 21 seasons, he is closing in on George Blanda’s 26-season record.

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