I was once one of Michael Jordan’s biggest fans when he played for NBA’s Chicago Bulls and won them six championships. After winning his sixth, Jordan went into retirement for a second time, the first having been motivated mostly due to the stress from his father’s tragic killing. When Jordan came out of retirement for a 3rdtime and played for the Washington Wizards for two seasons, he told the press it was out of his love of the game that brought him back, but I silently wondered if his decision to return yet again, especially at almost 40 years old, was one more based out of an addiction.
I’ve often pondered if many professional athletes like Jordan push themselves well beyond their prime playing days because of the dopamine high that comes from the love of winning and being on top. Honestly, that drive is no different than what an alcoholic, drug addict, gambling addict, sex addict, or any type of addict goes through. Because once that high gets achieved, it’s game on for them to keep getting that high, at any cost. Is that really any different with a professional athlete who pursues the glory and high of winning and constantly fights the aging process along the way as to when to retire? And if it indeed was an addiction-based drive that led Jordan to come back that third time, at least it didn’t leave him after those two final seasons with any life-altering injuries. Sadly, it did leave him though with two losing seasons, and only an occasional reminder of the razzle and dazzle he once was.
Now, I see the same thing happening with Tom Brady. Ironically, I’ve often referred to him as the Michael Jordan of the NFL. The guy has won seven titles, six with the New England Patriots, and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While he’s never gone into any official retirement, he’s 43 years old, playing in an extremely physical and often dangerous sport. Now, he’s planning on coming back yet again at the ripe “old” age of 44 to play another season. What more does he have to prove when he’s already surpassed just about every record and will forever be considered one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. I’d say there is nothing to prove other than him doing exactly what Jordan did, saying the love of the game keeps him coming back. But is that “love of the game” really just code for the high that comes from playing the game?
I’ve played a number of sports before and there indeed is a nice high that comes from winning, especially when you come out on top at the end of a season. What risk though is Brady putting himself in coming back yet again? The guy has three kids and a beautiful wife who I’m sure love spending time with him. Beyond the limited time he probably has with them when he’s in season, he puts himself at risk for permanent life-changing injuries each time he steps on that field, especially each year he gets older. I think Brady would seriously regret playing another season after seven titles if he permanently gets injured and God forbid, one that paralyzes him or gives him that concussive disease (CTE) that many NFL players have gotten.
I don’t see this as any different than any other addiction. Addicts in general get a high from something and chase after it over and over and over again, putting themselves at risk more and more each time they engage in it. And the older they get, the more at risk they are continuing to do it. But oh, that high drives their mind and egos so great, just like I’m sure six championship titles for Jordan did and seven for Brady. I’m convinced it’s why Jordan came back, because retirement didn’t provide that high, which is most likely why Brady keeps playing as well.
In my book, this is why I wish Tom Brady would retire now, while his body is still relatively healthy enough, rather than potentially having a complete losing season next year or even far worse, sustaining some life-altering injury. But that’s the price addicts risk chasing some high. Personally, I wish I had “retired” from all my former addictions when I was still “on top of them”. But I didn’t, because an addict has no control over their addiction. And maybe indeed in the end, that’s why I often wonder if athletes like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and many others are addicts as well, constantly seeking the high of winning and being number one, all while risking so much to lose each time they come back for one more season…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson