Sometimes, being a sports fan is just too much fun. But why exactly is it so much fun? After all, it’s just a game. And we aren’t even the ones playing the game, we’re just watching the game. So why does it almost mean just as much to us as it does to the athletes?
That’s fandom for you. You pick your favorite team, you watch your team win a couple of games, you realize how good it makes you feel when your team wins, and before you know it, you’re hooked for life. You experience a few losses, realize you hate that feeling, and immediately start anticipating the next game so your team can get back on the winning track.
It’s a never-ending cycle. If you’re lucky enough to see your favorite team win a championship (the absolute pinnacle that any sports fan can achieve), then you become even more hooked than before, if that’s even possible. You want to experience it again, so you’re already anticipating the next season so you can watch your team defend its championship. Even if your team suffers through a crummy season, you’re still hooked because you know they are going to be drafting high, and you throw all of your hope into the next season.
No matter what, there is never a reason to not be interested in your team because there is always hope. Sports fandom is like a drug. All it takes is one try, and boom. You could be hooked for life. But that’s not a bad thing in this case. Being a sports fan is about having fun.
Why am I rambling about this? Because Tom Brady has provided the ultimate “fun” experience for Patriots fans for the last 16 seasons (it would be 17 seasons, but I’m not counting 2008). Being a sports fan should be fun regardless if your team is good or not because, as mentioned above, there is always hope. But there isn’t a more fun aspect of fandom than when your team is consistently contending for a championship every year.
With Brady, it’s been 16 seasons of contention. It’s been five Super Bowl championships. It’s been eight appearances in the big game. And amazingly enough, the Patriots are favorites to win the Super Bowl next season. That would mean Brady would be playing in his ninth Super Bowl at the age of 41.
Wait, what was that?
I said ninth Super Bowl … age 41.
What planet are we living on? Are we still on Earth? Because usually, in a sport such as football, a quarterback who is 41 years old should be way past his prime, and the thought of actually contending for a Super Bowl title shouldn’t be much more than just that … a thought. With Brady, however, it’s a reality. Is Brady even past his prime? Or is he still smack dab in the middle of it?
I say he’s definitely past his prime, but considering how good he still is … well, he had one hell of a prime. Brady hit his prime roughly around age 26, when he led the Pats to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 2003 and 2004. He hit the absolute apex of his prime at age 30, when he turned in arguably the greatest regular season for a quarterback in NFL history in 2007 (50 touchdown passes, 4,806 passing yards, only eight interceptions, and of course, 16 wins and zero losses).
He reached the end of his prime probably somewhere between ages 34-36, and after that point, he was just really freaking good. Two more Super Bowl titles, one at age 37 and another at age 39, and another appearance in the Big Game at age 40. Even though he was past his prime, he was still better than all of the other quarterbacks in the NFL.
Now, here’s a question with an obvious answer. Is Brady the same at age 40 as he was from age 26 through 30? Of course not. Nobody is. Those are your prime years as an athlete. Those are the years you’re going to hit your apex, and nothing can ever top your apex. In this case, no season will ever top Brady’s 2007 season. That was his apex.
So even though Brady is past his prime, it’s incredibly surreal that he’s still considered favorite to win the Super Bowl 11 years after his apex season.
ELEVEN YEARS. At age 41.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything in sports as unbelievable as the phenomenon that is Tom Brady. The biggest reason he’s able to do this is because he takes extraordinary care of his body; even though he’s about to be 41, he’s in the physical shape of a 25-year-old who is about to compete in a triathlon … and then some.
(You know the scene in “Miracle” where Herb Brooks was pissed because his players weren’t focusing during the game against Norway, so he had them skate endurance drills for hours after the game while he repeatedly shouted “AGAIN!” at them? After an hour or so, the players were so exhausted that they looked like they were on the verge of puking. If Tom Brady had been a member of that team, those drills wouldn’t have even fazed him. He could’ve skated “Herbies” all night long, and he probably would’ve enjoyed it too.)
But there’s more to it than just Brady’s physical shape. He is wired a little bit differently than every other quarterback that’s ever played in the NFL.
I think it’s a God-given gift. Even for athletes who continue to stay in phenomenal shape as they get older, they aren’t usually still competing for championships by the time they reach age 41 (at least not in football), much less being the favorite to win the Super Bowl. The Brady experience is a once-in-a-life time thing. I honestly don’t think we’ll ever see another player like him.
But that’s another reason why sports fandom is so much fun. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t actually seen anything yet.