Tom Brady’s midlife crisis


It is difficult to age gracefully. Ask anyone approaching 40, or well past it. Most of us get to grapple with that milestone before a limited and understanding audience. Professional athletes, of course, are not granted that luxury, as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is reminding us.

Brady, 40, has won five Super Bowls. He has been the Most Valuable Player in four of them, and recently he was selected to his 13th Pro Bowl. But throughout another dominant NFL season, which continues Saturday night with a divisional round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, Brady has taken the poet Dylan Thomas to heart and refused to go gentle into that good night.

With the help of a book, a controversial side business and a new documentary series — coming soon to a smartphone near you — his midlife crisis is unfolding before packed stadiums, millions of television viewers and social media followers, and an eager news media horde.

Brady’s book, “The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance,” and his lifestyle website, tb12sports.com, purportedly offer inside looks at how Brady has done what he has done — a blend of “pliability” exercises, nutritional bars, supplements and lots of water. The new documentary series, which will drop later this month via Facebook’s mobile video platform, says right there in its title what it will address: “Tom vs. Time.”

Brady going all Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop-y might be considered endearing to some, even if it is not wholly original. After all, his fans in New England and elsewhere long ago forgave his fashionably questionable loyalty to the Uggs that he endorses, and they never believed that “Deflategate” was anything but a leaguewide conspiracy to derail, and tarnish forever, the Patriots juggernaut. (Don’t even ask about “Spygate.”)

Still, something just feels different about the latest Patriots-Brady chatter, which has produced consternation and uproar in Patriots Nation and the NFL at large.

Between Brady’s embrace of the New Age and news reports out of Foxborough, Massachusetts, that his business partner and best friend, Alex Guerrero, might have become a divisive enough figure to be banished from the team’s training facilities and sideline, Patriots Kremlinologists have been in a tizzy about whether Brady and coach Bill Belichick are feuding — and whether that might imperil one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties.

Last week, ESPN reported that Brady first froze out, then forced the midseason trade of, his backup and possible heir apparent, Jimmy Garoppolo, to the San Francisco 49ers. The Patriots faithful, of course, circled their wagons around their hero and cried once again, yes, fake news.

Yet on WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan” radio show this week, Brady did not exactly dismiss reports that all was not well in the New England organization.

“Everyone has different truths,” he said. “When you talk about the way I see things, the way you guys see things, the way the writer may see things, the way coach Belichick may see things, everyone has different truths based on their perspectives. I feel like I go about my business like I have every year, and again, I like to speak for myself, because that’s how — I don’t want to speak on someone else’s behalf or what their experiences are. I try to do the best I can do, like I’ve always done.”

Yet regardless of whether he plans to be playing football for another weekend, another year or even another decade, Brady’s going about his business also means building a business for his life after football. He’s got “merch” to sell on his site: supplements, snack bars, apps and gear. He has a brand to build — one that will carry him well past the end of his playing career — and the social media tools to brandish his newfound mysticism.

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’ — Unknown” was the cryptic message that greeted Brady’s 3.3 million Instagram followers one day this week.

In “Tom vs. Time,” Brady is not only burnishing his own legend, however; he is also aligning himself with one of the world’s foremost tech giants to spread his gospel.

“I do want to know the whys in life,” Brady said in one of five episodes screened by New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich. “I do want to know why we’re here, where we’re going; trying to find that deeper purpose. To live it, through sports in a very authentic way, makes so much sense to me.”

It is unlikely Tony Robbins is hearing footsteps.

But after pointing out a few of the holes in the episodes that he watched — Belichick is almost entirely absent, and the Garoppolo and Guerrero affairs do not get a single mention — Leibovich gave the series a thumbs up as “pure candy for football geeks, celebrity lifestyle voyeurs and pretty much any NFL enthusiast curious about one of sports’ more enigmatic superstars.”

Give it to Brady. This is a pretty original stab at a third act. Don’t go gentle. Rage, rage all you want. But I’m taking time, and giving Tom the points.


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