The only group that one can really compare to Tom Brady are other quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, for example, is still going strong but, at age 38, he is just a kid compared to Brady, who is more than six years older.
Recently, an old pal asked me an interesting question: Who, in baseball history, is most comparable to Tom Brady?
Well, thought I after giving the matter a moment of thought. Babe Ruth was and is baseball's biggest star, but upon further reflection, the Babe was nothing like Brady. Ruth set all kinds of records that no one thought would ever be broken (60 home runs in a single season, 714 over a career), but none of which any longer exists. But the Babe and Tom were nowhere near alike when it comes to physical conditioning or lifestyle. Brady's records, like Ruth's once were, appear to be unbreakable, but Ruth's no longer exist and Tom's might well be broken someday, too. Ruth lived and played by his own rules; he changed baseball from a game of singles and doubles and made the home run the prize to shoot for. Brady, while he's had his own controversies, such as Deflategate, has always adhered to team rules. Ruth was the best of his time and arguably of all time. So is Brady. But other than that, they are not comparable.
Well then, what about Cy Young and his 511 victories? Most of them go back to the 19th century when baseball bore no resemblance to the modern-day game. What about Ty Cobb? Ted Williams? Joe DiMaggio? Nah. Nothing like Brady. There is no one from the world of baseball who can be compared to Tom Brady. Well, maybe Sandy Koufax you say, but his career lasted only a few years as opposed to Brady, whose career is measured in decades.
Other sports offer better comparisons. In hockey, for example, Wayne Gretzky scored a ton of goals over a lot of seasons, and, in basketball, there is Michael Jordan, and LeBron James has been dominant for many years. But are any of them Tom Brady? Not really.
Boxing had Muhammad Ali who, like Brady, kept winning championships, but boxing is not a team sport, so it doesn't count for our purposes. Same thing for golf.
Other professions feature star performers, such as acting. Cary Grant comes to mind. Like Brady, he was a good looking guy and, also like Brady, he lasted a long time in his business; but he didn't dominate it the way Brady has his.
In politics, Franklin Roosevelt was the undisputed champion and remained so for longer than anyone else. In that way, he and Brady were much alike, but FDR never switched parties while Tom took his winning ways with him when he switched to a Floridian from being a New Englander.
The only group that one can really compare to Tom Brady are other quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, for example, is still going strong but, at age 38, he is just a kid compared to Brady, who is more than six years older. Tom's archrival throughout most of his career (so far) was Peyton Manning, who retired back in 2016. Their head to head faceoffs were reminiscent of the Ali/Joe Frazier battles of an earlier day, each giving his best in what were Titanic struggles. Time eventually took its toll on Manning and he faded from the scene but Brady keeps chugging along at the top of his game. It was Manning's younger brother, Eli, not quite the all-time great player that Peyton was, who defeated Brady twice for Super Bowl titles. Alas for the little brother, time did him in, too. Still, Brady forges ahead. His overtime pass that beat the Buffalo Bills the other day was, if you can believe it, the 700th touchdown pass of his career, but only his second ever in overtime. The first time he did it was 18 years ago against the Miami Dolphins. The next one might be 18 years from now, in 2039. Why not? Tom will be just 62 years old.
Don't laugh. That's what we all did back when he predicted he could still get it done at age 45. Well, 45 is just around the corner, and guess who leads the NFL in passing. Now he's talking about doing the same thing at age 50. Who is to say that he won't?
When Tom broke into the NFL, the president of the United States was Bill Clinton. Since then, we have seen George W. Bush (two terms), Barack Obama (two more terms), and Donald Trump all come and go. We might as well put Brady's likeness up on Mount Rushmore since it seems that he's going to be around for a while.
Make no mistake, Father Time will eventually get the best of Tom. The question is, when will it happen? Will any of us be around to see it?
- Dick Flavin is a New York Times bestselling author; the Boston Red Sox "Poet Laureate" and The Pilot's recently minted Sports' columnist.
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