Why Tom Brady and other stale celebs keep pretending to retire
Superstar quarterback Tom Brady won’t be playing at this weekend’s preseason matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans. And it’s not because the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who turned 45 this month, is having second thoughts — or second second thoughts — about retirement.
He’s in the midst of a 10-day hiatus before his 23rd NFL season — which may or may not be his last — to “deal with some personal things,” according to head coach Todd Bowles. You know, as one does.
It’s like if you went to a Rolling Stones show, and Mick Jagger didn’t show up for the first few songs. He comes on stage eventually, at least by the time they get to “Jumping Jack Flash.” He just needs a minute to deal with some personal things.
This isn’t the first time this year Brady has flirted with throwing in the towel on a whim. He retired back in February, then changed his mind 40 days later. As of this writing, he’s not retired. He’s just not turning up for games. But definitely not retired. Maybe. We’ll see.
“Could this be my last year?” he said during a recent Variety interview. “Absolutely. Could I change my mind? Absolutely.”
Brady is hardly the first big name to have second thoughts about retiring. Elton John, 75, who announced his retirement back in 1977, decided to retire for real this time in 2018. But with shows booked through next summer (and more dates added every few months), his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour is beginning to look like the Neverending Yellow Brick Road.
KISS has been on their End of the Road World Tour since early 2019, and recently added a hundred new shows, extending their retirement party at least through 2023. Bassist Gene Simmons, 72, even recently suggested that they might find younger replacements, so KISS can go on indefinitely like “the Blue Man Group and Phantom Of The Opera tours around the world with different personnel.”
Serena Williams, the 23-time grand slam winner, is . . . well, not retiring, exactly. “I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams, 40, wrote earlier this month in an essay for Vogue. “I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”
Meaningful evolution takes around 1 million years, according to researchers, so Williams definitely has time for a few more Wimbledons.
Celebrities have been unretiring — or evolving, whatever — for decades, from David Letterman to Jay-Z, Steven Soderbergh to two-time unretiring champ Michael Jordan. This September marks the 40th anniversary of the most infamous retirement fake-out: The Who’s 1982 farewell tour, which made millions for the band and landed them a (now openly mocked) “The Who, The End” Rolling Stone cover.
As it turns out, they were anything but retiring from music. In fact, the surviving members are back on the road this October.
Cameron Diaz, 49, who hasn’t made a movie in eight years and announced her retirement in 2018, was lured back into acting by… wait for it… Tom Brady!
“I’m relatively successful at unretiring,” he told the actress in a phone call, at the request of Jamie Foxx. Brady’s “tips on how to unretire” — which weren’t publicly shared — apparently convinced Diaz to sign on to the upcoming Netflix action-comedy “Back in Action.”
Unretirement is a trend that’s catching on even with people not worth millions. There was a surge in early retirement during the pandemic, but as of last April, 3.3% of those retirees — about 1.7 million people — are back at work again.
Financial necessity is the most common reason, but it’s not the only one. Francis Bush, 42, quit his job as an electrical engineer in 2017 with $1.2 million in savings and investments. But it took just a few years of leisure for Bush to unretire and launch his own YouTube page — about, ironically enough, saving for early retirement.
“I think the word retirement is a bit overused and ambiguous now,” he told The Post. He considers it “more like a transitional stage” to your next big challenge.
Unretirees may also be living longer thanks to their stubborn refusal to go gentle into that good night. A 2016 study from Oregon State University found that people who put off retirement until their late 60s or beyond enjoyed an 11% decrease in mortality rates.
But none of this feels like a good explanation for Brady’s unretirement. He’s not trying to prolong his life or increase his nest egg — he’s already lined up a gig for his post-quarterback career, signing a ten-year, $375 million deal to join Fox Sports as an NFL analyst. He’ll be keeping busy (and well paid) for as long as his concussion-rattled brain is still firing synapses.
Probably the best clue about Brady’s reasons for unretiring comes from Camille Kostek, the girlfriend of Brady’s one-time NFL teammate Rob Gronkowski. The Gronk, 33, is also a repeat unretirer, first retiring in 2019 before coming back to play with Brady for two more seasons and then retiring a second time this past June.
Although Gronkowski has insisted that he’s “done with football,” even if Brady calls and asks him to return, his girlfriend isn’t so sure.
“I think maybe he’ll come back again,” Kostek told the Tampa Bay Times last month. “I feel like him and Tom [Brady] are just having fun, like, ‘retired, not retired, retired, not retired.’”
Eric Spitznagel is the Executive Editor of The Arrow, a digital newsletter from AARP created by and for Gen-X men.