Back in February, Bucs quarterback and possible replicant Tom Brady announced his retirement by telling the world that he needed to “focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention.” It was somehow an even less convincing iteration of the “I want to spend more time with my family” sentiment that every famous man tosses out whenever he retires, or goes on unofficial sabbatical, or resigns in disgrace but doesn’t want to acknowledge any of the nasty bits.

So it was very easy for the general public to wave off Brady’s rationale for leaving the NFL, and to wave off the idea, itself, of him retiring. Do you know how many public unretirements I’ve witnessed in my lifetime? I won’t even believe MYSELF the day I retire. Everything about Brady’s brief stint as a retiree reeked of being disingenuous, especially after Bruce Arians got kicked upstairs, and after bizarre tampering charges against the Dolphins for courting Brady to be a player/owner came to light. He never planned to retire at all.

Maybe he should have informed his family of that because there really WERE other things that required Brady’s attention for longer than 40 days — his wife, Gisele Bundchen, and the couple’s children. From CNN on Thursday:

“Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback who currently plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and his wife, Bundchen, a fashion model, are dealing with ‘marital issues,’ according to a source close to the couple.

“The two are currently ‘living separately,’ another source close to Bundchen told CNN.”

This has been in the ether for a while now. After reporting to training camp with the Bucs, Brady ghosted on the team for 11 days, which fans like me initially read as a legendary veteran using some of his clout to skip out on tedious preseason rituals. But then Ian Rapoport reported over the weekend that Brady went AWOL not because he just wanted to chill but because he essentially had to save his marriage.

“As for his 11-day hiatus, sources say Brady spent the bulk of it in the Bahamas at a private resort with his family, making good on a mid-retirement promise he made to his wife, Gisele, that he would vacation with them in August for the first time in two decades.”

If you see no difference between Brady wanting to chill and Brady flying to the Bahamas to be with his supermodel wife, I must remind you that when incredibly rich people have serious problems, they don’t magically become unsightly people who hang out at a Motel 6. They’re still super hot, and they still confine themselves to luxe accommodations, even as their lives crumble around them. And here is where I turn to People magazine — which is really the only news source I trust — which quotes a source, potentially named Fisele Mundchen, saying that Brady’s wife has made it plain that he cannot play football once the 2022 season is over.

“She doesn’t hate that he’s playing football, but she sure hates the way he handled the retirement and coming back. … He can’t do this again.”

Not content to merely live separately, both Brady and Bundchen have also staged lite media tours to separately affirm that Brady has sacrificed too much of his time to being the greatest football player in history and that his family has grown tired of it. Here’s Bundchen to Elle:

“I’ve done my part, which is [to] be there for [Tom]. I moved to Boston, and I focused on creating a cocoon and a loving environment for my children to grow up in and to be there supporting him and his dreams.”

I am mentally adding the word “grudgingly” before every verb in that passage. Now, I am a shameless gossip and a gleeful hater in equal measure, and Lord knows I’ve spent plenty of time and banked a few dollars goofing on Brady over the past 20 years. But ultimately, whatever’s going on between him and his wife is less juicy than it is another example of someone in the NFL — be it a player, a coach or a front office executive — sabotaging their own life because they refuse to quit this sport. No one has ever had more license to quit football than Tom Brady. He has more Super Bowl titles than any other QB ever will. He has over $300 million in career earnings and remains poised to nearly double that amount once he joins the Fox broadcasting booth after he retires retires. He also was the NFL’s leading passer last year, at age 44. So the idea that he would choose another year playing for the Bucs over a divorce ultimatum is so ordinary, so common, that it’s genuinely unpleasant to contemplate. If f—king Tom Brady can’t have it all, what chance do you or I have?

On the field, Brady played a lackluster game against Dallas on Sunday night: a game the Bucs won mostly because the Cowboys were so dreadful. In the postgame interview, NBC’s Melissa Stark did everything she could to give Brady a chance to brush off all the “stuff going on” (her words) and do his whole “Man in the Arena” routine, but the man just looked f—king EXHAUSTED. See for yourself.

He’s got 17 more weeks of this s—t ahead of him, and I can’t say he looks like he’s looking forward to it. Writing off Tom Brady has long been an exercise in stupidity. He’s never seen his skills diminish. The only time he got seriously hurt was 15 years ago. When he said he wanted to play until the age of 45 (his current age), it felt like an underestimate. But perhaps now, his heart really is NOT in this s—t. Maybe he made a mistake, and maybe trying to keep both his family and his title aspirations intact over the course of five more excruciating months is even more than Tom Brady can handle. More than any human can handle, really. I still see no reason to doubt the man, but I’m not the one whose doubt matters here.

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