Love him or hate him -- and honestly, it's hard to find too many football fans who don't feel strongly one way or the other -- you have to respect that he's still playing at the top of his game at age 42.
In February, after Brady led the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl victory, I wrote about how he I noticed he kept saying the same word over and over, to one person after another, during the on-field celebration: love.
Now, as he gets ready for his 20th NFL season Brady gave a lengthy interview to Ben Court of Men's Health, in which he explained a lot about his physical and mental regimen.
Once again, he seems to think one word in particular is key to his success.
Now, I actually think he's wrong. If the interview captures him right, there are actually five other words -- covering five crucial things that are crucial to his success -- he ought to credit as much, if not more.
And frankly those five other things are probably a lot more useful for anyone who hopes to achieve his level of success in a field other than athletics.
But let's talk first about the word he uses over and over -- the one that drives people insane. That word is: "pliability."
This is the co-opted term that Brady and his trainer and business partner Alex Guerrero, use to describe the main goals of his fitness routine, which he credits for his longevity in the game. As the New York Times aptly summarized in its review of Brady's 2017 book, The TB12 Method:
Pliable muscles, which are not the same as flexible muscles, are "soft" and not "dense," [Guerrero] and Mr. Brady assert.
Dense, stiff muscles are easily injured, according to the book, because they are not resilient and can tear during physical activity. On the other hand, soft, pliable muscles absorb the stresses and impacts that occur during daily life and sports, Mr. Brady writes, as when, for instance, a 300-pound lineman slams into your side.
At that moment, he writes, "My brain is thinking only lengthen and soften and disperse."
Brady is Exhibit A for the pliability theory, and he and Guerrero have built an entire post-NFL business around it.
But it just doesn't have the hardcore science behind it that other theories have. That's why some scientists call it "pseudoscience" and say it "drives researchers ... crazy," Pat Davidson, Ph.D., a "respected exercise physiologist," told Men's Health.
It's kind of like the CrossFit of the professional athletic world. (How do you know if somebody buys into pliability? Don't worry; they'll start telling you about it on their own.)
But regardless, the very same article points out five other key words -- things, influences -- that seem just as important to Brady's success. And since these are the ones that people pursuing non-athletic success can actually copy, it's worth a few words on each:
Brady comes across as absolutely maniacal about football, to the exclusion of everything else except his family.
"[T]rying to talk to Brady about things other than football ... is usually a waste of everyone's time, especially his," Court writes. "He would be the first to tell you that there is no more or less to his reality right now than the sport of football and his family."
Brady is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen and has two children. He also has a son from his relationship with actress Bridget Moynahan. Beyond football, you get the sense this is the only other thing Brady cares about.
"Whenever Brady talks about his family," Court writes, "which he does easily and without prompting, he comes to life, waving those long arms and breaking into laughter as he describes how each of his kids delights him."
Two applications of the word here: First, the length and repetition involved in Brady's daily workouts; second, the fact that once he found a system that worked for him, he's done it year after year.
"Every summer for the past seven years, the quarterback of the New England Patriots has come to this remote island for a beach boot camp," Court puts it, after accompanying Brady to the island in the Bahamas where he gets ready for the season.
Although Brady is probably more famous than Bundchen in the United States, she's arguably more successful -- at the least, she's out-earned him in some years. He describes her in some ways as a kite that's tethered to him. But Court says it might be other way.
"Maybe Brady is the kite and Bündchen is the tether that allows him to soar. It wouldn't be the first time a man owed so much to his wife," he writes.
Despite having been a sixth round draft pick (meaning 198 other players were chosen before him in the 2000 NFL draft), Brady has never seemingly lacked confidence. However, he credits Bundchen with giving him even more of an internal belief that anything is possible.
"She left home at 14; she lived in Japan at 16 in an era with no cell phones. She lived in New York City at 17 without speaking English. In her mind, there are no boundaries. 'Why can't you do that? Why do you have to go to school?," Court quotes him as saying. " Why can't you just leave and live in a different country?' In her reality, you can. ... And you know what, she's right. I'm the one that had to go, 'You're right!' And that's helped me grow."