Pushing 50

Tom Brady and me. (And you.) Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Today we’re going to talk about Tom Brady of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but you don’t need to care about football or sports in order to get something out of it.

Let’s start with some sports history, in no particular order:

  • In 1980, Gordie Howe retired from the National Hockey League for good. He was 52.

  • In 1965, Satchel Paige played one game for the Kansas City Athletics. He was 55. But that was a publicity stunt; he’d retired “for real” from Major League Baseball in 1953.

  • In 1997, Robert Parrish played his final game in the NBA. He was just shy of 44.

  • In 2006, Martina Navratilova won a share of the mixed doubles title at the US Open, marking her 59th major title at age 49.

  • And in 1975, NFL kicker (and former quarterback) George Blanda played his last pro football game. He was 48.

I’m rattling off these numbers to put in context the fact that Brady, 44, winner of seven Super Bowls including last year’s with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is now talking about trying to continue to play until age 50.

“I mean, I don’t find it so difficult, and plus in Florida, it’s kind of a retiree state. So I feel like I can play and then just glide into retirement,” Brady said this week. “I think I can, I think it’s a yes.”

A couple of years ago—when Brady had “only” won five Super Bowls but was already one of the oldest players in the NFL, the Wall Street Journal made a smart point about why he was able to continue playing long after most players have to give up.

In short, it was that he changed his style of play over the years:

Brady has adjusted his game to compensate for all the things that a quarterback loses as he ages. He makes up for decreased mobility and diminishing arm strength by throwing the ball quickly and short. He avoids injury the same way, and as a result is rarely hit.

Brady, in practice, is the middle-aged guy at the YMCA who can no longer dunk or get up and down the court but somehow outscores all the people half his age anyway.

Personally, I like that there’s a guy (nearly) my age still racking up big wins in the NFL.

I also like the fact that there’s a smart lesson attached, about adapting your style of play to continue to win as you get older, no matter what your game is.

And while I don’t claim to be the world’s biggest NFL fan, I’ve followed and rooted for Brady since he first came into the league—not only because he was quarterbacking my hometown New England Patriots at the time, but also because he was such a big underdog when he started his career.

“Really thought I was going to need this after the 5th round,” Brady joked a few years ago, when he posted the very ordinary resume he’d put together before being selected (in the 6th round).

So, with Brady as our hook, you tell me. I know we have quite a few readers here who’ve built success and kept at it, often well past age 50. What’s your secret? Is changing your game a big part of it? And what advice would you have for the people coming up behind you?

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7 other things worth your time

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Thanks for reading; have a great weekend. Photo credit: Wikimedia. I wrote about this WSJ take on Brady once on Inc.com. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.