Why, For Many, Tom Brady Can Never Be Replaced

Football NFL

Tom Friggin’ Brady. I’ve been posting that on social media after every win for as long as I can remember. It’s been well established at this point that I am a fan of Brady’s. The news of his retirement will forever be one of the more challenging things I’ll deal with, but it’s not specifically because I will no longer get to watch him play. Tom has given me 23 years of football excellence. I doubt this level of sustainable success will ever be seen again. But this is still not what I will miss the most. His ten trips to the Super Bowl with seven victories were absolute gifts. These will forever be some of my fondest sports memories. This is still not why I’m going to miss Tom Brady.

Tom Brady was the last athlete that will ever make me feel like a kid.

If you grow up a sports fan, professional athletes are larger than life. They don’t seem real, and they’re who you want to grow up to be. As we grow older, the magic of our childhood slips away from us and turns into nostalgia. Reality makes life tricky. We learn that athletes are mostly just people. Their personal lives might be messy, we may disagree with them politically, or we find out they can be bad people. As we learn how the world works, we tend to enjoy sports for different reasons than when we were young. So when our childhood heroes walk away, our approach to appreciating athletes also changes. They can’t be larger than life because we all start understanding how large life is.

While every other athlete I grew up idolizing retired, Brady persevered. I went through elementary school, middle school, high school, and college with him still playing. I took a job in sports, interviewed professional athletes, changed careers, bought a house, and got married—all while he was still playing.

As a matter of fact, outside of members of my family, there is no single person who has brought me this level of joy for as long as he has. This is not a slight against anyone in my life; it’s just a cold, hard fact. 23 years is a long time.

 While I struggle to say goodbye to a man I’ve never even met, I know I’m saying goodbye to so much more than just him. Tom Brady has allowed me to watch sports like I was a kid for much longer than I ever expected—and at just shy of 33 years old, it may have been the last piece of my own childhood I had left.

 So Tom Brady, thank you for all the memories, the records, the Super Bowls, and the unbelievable comebacks. But more than anything, thank you for allowing me to be a kid when everything else in my life made me grow up years ago.