For the GOAT, Groundhog Day came early this year.

In 2022, legendary quarterback Tom Brady announced he would be retiring from football after 22 enviable seasons.

“I have loved my NFL career,” he said at the time, “and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention.” He added that he was proud of his career and felt like the luckiest man alive.

But then, everything changed.

Seemingly, those “other things that require my attention” fell by the wayside.

A mere 40 days later, Brady announced he had unretired and would return to the NFL for yet another season. Fans (myself included) were thrilled.

But we had no idea of the nightmare that was to come.

This week, the day before Groundhog Day, Brady once again announced that he was leaving the NFL.

“For good this time.”

And while his “retirement” last year was sad, this time around, it is sad for a totally different reason.

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Tom Brady has been playing in the NFL for as long as I’ve been alive. I grew up watching him. To me (and most of the sports world) there is no question that he is the greatest of all time (GOAT).


If he had retired last year, I would have had nothing but good things to say about him. My “Lessons from Brady” would have been on resilience, determination, teamwork, and other admirable qualities.

Now, the lessons I pull from his life are more like warnings, cautionary tales.

To catch you up to speed, Tom Brady’s 23rd and final season was an all-out trainwreck.

Although many noted that Brady himself did not necessarily underperform, his team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, unquestionably did. The record-smashing quarterback ended the season with the first losing record of his career.

But worse than the disaster on-field was the disaster off-field, in Brady’s own home.

Sometime after his short-lived retirement, Brady and his wife of 13 years, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, had a falling out. Reportedly, Bündchen wanted her husband to be more present in her life and the lives of their two kids and was unhappy at his decision to return to the NFL. After months of speculation that their relationship was in tatters, on October 26, they confirmed the rumors. They were getting divorced.

Their marriage, they announced, was “irretrievably broken.”

I’ll save the conjecturing for tabloid gossipers. Regardless of who was at fault for what has since been called a “traumatizing” divorce, one thing is clear:

One year ago, Tom Brady was on top of the world.

But he had everything to lose.

Three months after his divorce, he ended his prestigious career with a losing record and having lost his family.

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Since then, the following lyrics have echoed in my mind:

“Have you ever noticed that gold
Sparkles in the light but it’s cold
In your hands?
Have you ever filled your cup
Thinking it would feel like enough
But it don’t last?

You could have it all
You can have the whole world at your feet
Every little thing you think you need
And still feel empty
You can have it all
You could have the best this life can bring
Livin’ everybody else’s dream
And still feel empty”

I’ve personally heard a stadium roar Brady’s name. I’ve stood outside one of his old homes, an incomprehensibly huge mansion.

And I envy none of it.

In fact, Ecclesiastes 2:11 comes to mind: “Yet when I surveyed all… I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

May his illustrious career remind us that all the money in the world cannot buy the things that really matter.

You can sign multi-million dollar contracts year after year and sign away your marriage in the end.

And now what?

For the rest of his life, the GOAT will have an adoring fanbase, impressive stats to boast of, an endless array of announcer gigs… and a broken family.

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.

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