Trying Times for the Geezer Greats in Sports

From a Wall Street Journal column by Jason Gay headlined “Tom Brady. LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers: Glum Days for the Geezer Greats”:

These are trying times for sports’s geezer legends.

There’s handsome Tom Brady, aging 1,000 years as he watches a perfect touchdown pass bonk helplessly off a wide-open receiver’s fingers.

There’s LeBron James, surely wondering why he’s not back in the driveway playing H-O-R-S-E with sons Bronny and Bryce, as he watches Laker teammate Russell Westbrook brick another hopeless shot off the rim.

There’s an exasperated Aaron Rodgers, face pressed to the turf after a Packers loss to the lowly Commanders, aka Dan Snyder’s Washington Sadness Machine.

I suspect that last scene played out something like this:

Aaron, do you need a hand?

I just want to lie here a little longer. Did we really just lose to these guys? Oh hey, an earthworm.

An overdue reckoning is here. The sad trombones are tromboning and father time is in the bullpen, warming up. Sports’ ageless icons are playing on borrowed time, and time is wasting.

These guys are too good, too old and too tired for this…stuff.

They have spoiled us. A generation of athletes have pushed their careers far beyond the typical dates of expiration. We used to wave farewell to our favorite stars as their mid-30s approached. Now that’s barely midcareer.

Rodgers is 38, but he’s fresh off his second consecutive NFL Most Valuable Player award.

The 37-year-old James, who broke into the NBA as a teenage wonder, is now in his 20th season, still a consequential presence.

Then there’s Brady, slinging it, coming out of a hilariously brief retirement to chase after an eighth Super Bowl at the age of…

Wait, how old is Tom Brady?

I believe he is 45. But after the way the Bucs played Sunday in losing 21-3 to the previously 1-5 Carolina Panthers, I bet he doesn’t feel a day older than 3,096.

To be clear: Brady, Rodgers and James remain talented and competitive. This isn’t Willie Mays’s sad sunset with the Mets; these guys are hardly playing out the string. There’s a chance the Bucs, Packers and Lakers could reverse course and come back to life.

But it’s getting bleaker by the week.

Brady’s title hopes in Tampa Bay are evaporating, and his personal life has become tabloid fodder. He’s gotten flak for taking off Wednesdays—I thought we were all cool with remote work now?—and for attending the wedding of Patriots owner Robert Kraft the Friday before the Bucs lost to Pittsburgh. Brady was caught on camera during that game going nuclear on his underperforming offensive line, looking like a cranky guy who couldn’t believe his 5:15 p.m. restaurant reservation wasn’t ready at 5:15 p.m.

Brady could be on a couch right now, hand in a bag of gluten-free cauliflower chips. In February, he walked away after 22 seasons and a rollicking NFC playoff game in which he very nearly almost shocked the Los Angeles Rams.

As exits go, it wasn’t a ring, but it wasn’t bad, either. A departure now would feel considerably worse.

Rodgers, too, flirted with retirement before reuniting with the Packers for the 2021 season. He led Green Bay to a 13-4 campaign before another cheesehead playoff collapse. He came back with a big-money deal and a roster that doesn’t include talented target Davante Adams, who uprooted to get his own big deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Now the Packers have lost three in a row—and head off to juggernaut Buffalo for a Sunday night game. Rodgers may wish he’d stayed prone on the Washington turf.

With James and the Lakers, it’s early. Los Angeles has played only three of its 82 games—but they have lost all three, hampered by a thin roster, terrible shooting and their inability to cohere with the high-priced, low-percentage Westbrook.

After Los Angeles’s first loss, to defending champion Golden State, James gave a candid postgame chat in which he acknowledged the Lakers’s bricklaying bona fides:

“It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team,” James said dryly.

James has shown no indication he’s considering the end. On the contrary, he has been public about his desire to stay in the league until the hoped-for arrival of his teenage son Bronny, and perhaps another son, Bryce. He’s eager to be the NBA’s version of Ken Griffey Sr. It’s never happened before.

But if the Lakers don’t make moves, it could make a long wait longer. Retirement may remain unthinkable, but it looks more attractive.

Palm trees, pickle ball and a pot belly? What’s not to like?

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