On Feb. 1, Tom Brady announced in an Instagram video filmed on the beach that he was retiring from the National Football League (NFL) after 23 seasons, and this time for good. This announcement came exactly one year after Brady originally announced his retirement, only to return to the game less than two months later.
Full disclosure: I am not a football fan. I was raised in a home where sports was a subject of no interest (except for the World Cup), and my annual football consumption has been limited to the few minutes prior to the Super Bowl Halftime Show, as I eagerly await whatever act is going to come on. I have no team that I feel strongly about one way or the other — unless Tom Brady is playing. Then, I am actively rooting for any team opposing him.
Brady’s celebrity status transcends the world of sports, and he is widely known for his one-track mind, constantly thinking of football. His infamous competitive streak, reported to extend beyond football to games like video games and pool, has even led to him throwing objects upon losing.
There is something about Brady’s smugness and the way in which winning seems effortless for him that makes him almost inherently unlikable. This is encapsulated by the shenanigans that occurred after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2021 Super Bowl victory, which generated a media frenzy. During a boat parade held in the Buccaneers’ honor, Brady, celebrating his seventh Super Bowl win, was filmed tossing the Lombardi Trophy to another boat. Brady was then escorted off his yacht, stumbling and held upright by a teammate. As a result, the trophy designer’s family called for an apology.
Perhaps the lowest point of his career was Deflategate, the scandal in the wake of the 2014 American Football Conference Championships that implicated Brady in a plot to gain an advantage by deflating footballs. Although it is difficult to know the extent of his involvement, Brady was suspected to have at least known about what was occurring and served a four-game suspension.
This arrogant and entitled behavior is off-putting, and I cannot help but think of the double standards that female athletes face, especially regarding their conduct. If Brady were female, he would likely face condemnation rather than the celebration and fanfare that continues to surround him.
To his credit, Brady has had an exceptional career and is perhaps owed some bragging rights. The records and accolades he holds are numerous. He has the most Super Bowl appearances, 10, and wins, seven, of all time. He has been named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player five times and was the oldest named at 40 years old; spent the most seasons, 20, with one team, the New England Patriots; and is the only NFL player to have beaten all 32 teams in the League.
However, Brady is a prime example of why quitting while you're ahead and going out on a high will always be the right move. His folly in re-entering the game after his first retirement, declaring “unfinished business” with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, yielded a poor final season.
While he did not necessarily perform poorly, Brady was simply unable to maintain his past performance standards and resorted to dirty tactics. This led to the League fining him for kicking and attempting to slide tackle defensive players. To be fair, Brady certainly had stressors which must have contributed to his decline, losing millions in the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX and facing a “traumatizing” divorce from wife Gisele Bündchen.
Regardless, the season was a sordid spectacle at the tail end of over two decades of Brady dominating the sport, throughout which he easily remained the NFL’s top player and maintained a larger-than-life persona.
For his own sake and legacy, let us all hope that Brady knows when to walk away this time and lets retirement stick. It is high time for others, who are perhaps more humble, to take their rightful places within the League and command the attention they deserve.