You want to know who will be rooting for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this week’s NFC Championship Game?
Everybody who’s ever been laid off, or written off, on the grounds they’re “too old,” that’s who.
Plus millions of members of Generation X, age 40 to 55, who are fed up with being squeezed between baby boomers and millennials.
Oh, and that’s on top of all the usual suspects, like fans of the Buccaneers, enemies of Green Bay (we’re looking at you, Chicago), and a lot of Brady fans in his old fiefdom of New England.
Brady, 43, would easily be the oldest quarterback to appear in a Super Bowl if he wins against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. He’ll surpass the current record by two years.
(The current holder of that title? Er…Tom Brady.)
And it’s not even a year since the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick let their franchise superstar go. I mean, at 42 (as he then was), he was pretty much done, right?
Go on, have a laugh.
Belichick and Patriots owner Bob Kraft are watching the playoffs from home. They didn’t make it this time around—the first time since 2008, when they also lacked Brady (because of an injury).
Meanwhile Brady ended the regular season throwing 4,633 yards, third best in the league, and for 40 touchdowns, second best.
“Tom Brady is 43. He’s playing like he’s 28,” writes my WSJ colleague Andrew Beaton.
Brady and the Bucs made it to the conference championship only after beating New Orleans, led by Drew Brees—another “oldie,” in football terms, at 42.
Brady will be facing the Green Bay Packers, led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers…who at 37 is also getting pretty long in the tooth for a QB.
Just a generation ago, John Elway was Old Father Time in the Super Bowl when he led Denver there at the age of 38. Brady, if he wins this weekend, would have half a decade on him.
In New England, fuming Patriots Nation blames Brady’s departure last year on rising tension between him and Belichick.
Both sides expressed regret when Brady left. The Patriots had said they valued him and wanted to keep him. Sure. Of course they did. But obviously not enough.
There’s a Kabuki theater to these things. When the company wants to get rid of an older employee who has apparently passed their sell-by date, all sorts of niceties are observed and euphemisms rolled out.
Brady is a walking sports legend worth about $200 million (and his wife is worth another $400 million. He wants to carry on working until age 45, not because he has to but because he loves the job.
So he is hardly in the same boat as the average Joe or Joanna who gets iced at 45 so the company can replace them with a desperate and gullible 25-year-old at half the price.
But the looming retirement crisis means that more and more middle-class schlubs are going to have to work until 70 or beyond—even while their employers may be looking to kick them out at 50.
The lucky ones will land on their feet. They’ll get a new gig, a new lease on life, and a great new sense of purpose. And if they’re really lucky they’ll get to have a good laugh at their former employer’s expense too.
Which is why so many people on Sunday are probably going to break the habit of a lifetime and cheer for Tom Brady.