Beyond the Scoreboard: Fending Off Father Time Successfully in Sports


The long-time Patriot Tom Brady has earned another ring, but this time wearing a different jersey. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The axiom that “Father Time is undefeated” in sports describes how age and attrition ultimately catch up to every professional athlete at some point in their respective sport. Yet, an elite group of current athletes has collectively responded with a popular saying of their own: “Age ain’t nothing but a number.”

Remember when former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was supposedly starting to show signs of decline at age 37 after suffering a 41-14 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2014 NFL season? Brady went 14 of 23 for 159 yards, throwing two interceptions in overall nightmarish performance. The following week was filled with media narratives essentially eulogizing Tom Brady’s career as if he had just played his final game on that Monday night in late September. It seemed like the only thing missing was a tombstone engraved with the words “Here Lies Tom Brady’s Prime” in bold, capital letters.

Instead of riding off into the sunset as many predicted he would, Brady has decided to make a few pit stops along the way in those seven years since that fateful game. Not only would he finish the 2014 season by hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, but Brady also helped lead the Patriots to three more Super Bowl appearances and two more Super Bowl victories before departing from the only franchise he’s ever known after the 2019 season. 

Over the weekend, Super Bowl LV saw a familiar face seeking yet another Lombardi Trophy to add to their collection. No, it wasn’t Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. It was a 43-year-old quarterback wearing No. 12 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tom Brady. And as fate would have it, Brady faced the same team that handed him the loss, which prompted people to question whether his career was indeed finished nearly seven years ago.

Behind three touchdown passes from Brady and a spectacular performance from Tampa Bay’s defense, the Bucs dominated Kansas City 31-9 to win their second Super Bowl title in franchise history. Brady now has 34 playoffs wins, more than twice as many as the next closest quarterback in NFL history (Hall of Famer Joe Montana had 16 wins). With his seventh Super Bowl win, he now has more Lombardi trophies than any other NFL franchise. To keep things in perspective: only six NFL franchises have even half as many Super Bowl wins as Brady does. He also became just the first athlete in North American sports history to win championships for two different teams after turning 40 years old.

Those are all incredibly monumental achievements, yet perhaps Brady’s most impressive accomplishment relates to the sustained longevity he has enjoyed. He is the only player in NFL history to win a championship in three different decades. This statistic right here perfectly exemplifies Brady’s all-time greatness and how difficult it is to maintain that virtuosity over an extended period of time.

However, Brady is not the only athlete who has mastered the art of alluding Father Time for multiple decades. There is a specific table in the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All-Time) section where two other current icons in their respective sport share a seat with Brady when it comes to standing the test of time.

While Brady has been in 10 Super Bowls and has seven Super Bowl rings to his name in 21 seasons, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James is also showing no indications he has declined playing in his 18th NBA season. The 36-year-old is averaging 26 points this season alongside eight rebounds and eight assists per game. Should LeBron play in another NBA Finals, it would be his 11th appearance, and a win would give him five NBA titles as he continues his pursuit of matching Michael Jordan in championship rings.

Recently, LeBron said watching Brady win his seventh Super Bowl title in his 21st season was “inspiring,” but it does not influence his current NBA career timeline. LeBron went on to say, “I don’t know how long I’m going to play the game. I don’t know how much more I’ll be able to give to the game. The way I feel right now, we’ll see what happens. But I have no timetable for it. I have no year of, ‘OK, do I want to play until 30-this or 40-that?’ The game will let me know when it’s time, and we’ll figure it out then.”

This table of three would not be complete without the greatest tennis player of all time, Serena Williams. Like Brady, she has also won titles in three different decades, starting with her first win back in the 1999 U.S. Open against Martina Hingis and most recently, her 2017 Australian Open victory over her sister Venus. Williams currently has 23 Grand Slam titles and has been trying to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles in the last four years but to no avail. 

When asked about the pressure she feels not having tied Court’s record yet, Serena explained her mindset concerning getting to that magic number of 24. “I’ve had a ton of pressure, and now I don’t feel it anymore,” Serena said. “It’s like a huge relief. I think I was just looking at it all the wrong way in the past, and I feel totally different about it now.”

Despite finishing as runner-up in her last four Grand Slam finals, there is still an inevitability that even at age 39, Williams will eventually equal and surpass Court’s record before all is said and done.

These three athletes have mastered the mentality necessary to compete consistently at the highest level. They have taken full advantage of modern-day medicine and technology to preserve their respective careers and maximize their full potential. There is no need to compare their respective greatness with each other in arguing who the real G.O.A.T truly is. All we can do is enjoy their careers until they decide to join Father Time in retirement.