BEST OF THE BEST?

How this Houston athlete edged out a national icon for this prestigious award

Tom Brady would have been a more fitting selection. Photo by Getty Images.

You’d think 2021 would be the easiest year ever for Time Magazine to pick its “Athlete of the Year.”

Time selected gymnast Simone Biles. Time got it wrong, unless The magazine figured 2021 was Biles’ final bow in gymnastics and decided to make “Athlete of the Year” a career honor. Which by definition it's not and shouldn't be. They didn't give the Oscar for Best Picture last year to Gone with the Wind.

By Biles’ standards and expectations for the Olympics in Tokyo, 2021 perhaps was the worst year of her sports career. She went to Tokyo as the favorite to bring home a bucket of gold medals. Instead she withdrew from five events and earned only one silver (a team medal) and a bronze in balance beam.

To be clear, Biles returned home a hero in a different manner. Falling victim to the yips or “twisties” as they’re known in gymnastics, Biles shed light on the mental issues and pressures a world-class athlete, especially a bright and sensitive one like Biles, faces. Biles is to be commended for opening up about her personal life and challenges, and encouraging others facing similar problems to seek help. Plus she’s a Houston area legend, the most decorated and accomplished gymnast in history and we’re proud of her.

If Time has selected her as “Inspirational Athlete of the Year” or “Courageous Athlete of the Year,” yes, sure. Or even “Person of the Year,” assuming she pays income tax, unlike the person Time did pick for that honor.

But if “Athlete of the Year” means this year, and we’re talking about success and accomplishments on the field of competition, then it’s no contest who really deserves the title.

How about a 44-year-old quarterback who won the Super Bowl in February and is using the 2021 season to cement his legacy as the greatest player ever in America’s most popular sport ever?

Tom Brady, 10 years past the age when most NFL players are either retired or near the end of their careers, left the New England Patriots, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and drove his new team to an upset Super Bowl victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. What Brady did – and continues to do - is beyond comprehension in modern professional sports. Nobody's ever come close.

There are starting quarterbacks (Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Zach Wilson) less than half Brady’s age – and less than half Brady’s talent. By the way, those three young’uns … their teams haven’t won as many games combined as Brady’s Bucs.

Brady doesn’t play like some gray-haired, grizzled old-timer getting by on guile, tricks and pity. No, Brady gets in the opponent’s face and beats them down. When the Buccaneers are 4th-and-1 in the red zone, you can bet they’re calling a quarterback sneak. And Brady will get that yard. He’s made the quarterback sneak an offensive weapon.

They say Father Time is undefeated in sports. I’m not so sure. Check out Brady, looking like a guy in his 30s, lean and fit, drunk on his ass, heaving a Hail Mary with the Super Bowl trophy from one boat to another on the Hillsborough River. He was 43 when he did that. And he had just won his seventh Super Bowl. As Tina Turner would say, he’s simply the best ... of all time and still now.

The Buccaneers are 10-3, a lock to win the NFC South. Brady already has thrown for 4,234 yards this season (leads the NFL) with 36 touchdowns (leads the NFL). His passer rating is 104.2 (leads the NFL). He's played every game for the Bucs. He’s 44 freaking years old.

Don’t be surprised if Brady is named MVP after this season. That would break a record for the oldest MVP in the history of America’s four major team sports.

The current record holder is Tom Brady.

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