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By David Bachelor, PhD
Texas Tech football jerseys were flying off the shelves last week. The most popular was #5 with a certain alumnus’ name on it, Patrick Mahomes II. The Shop.TexasTech.com site lists the red Under Armour version of #5 as the “Most Popular in Texas Tech Red Raiders.” This is quite good considering Patrick Mahomes II quit wearing #5 in 2016. Four years and two Super Bowls later, there is an even bigger market for his Tech jersey than when he lived in Lubbock, and Mahomes is only 25. This summer he signed a 10-year NFL contract so Texas Tech merchandizing looks like a good investment for at least the next decade.
Until Sunday’s Super Bowl, most observers thought the end of an era had arrived in the National Football League. Two days before the game the New York Times called the showdown between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, “The Battle of the Ages.” The gist of the article is older, and increasingly old- fashioned, pocket-hugging quarterbacks (Brady) are being replaced by younger, and more agile, quarterbacks (e.g. Mahomes). CBS Sports says of Brady, “[N]ot only is he old, but he wasn’t mobile when he was in his 20s, and he’s even less mobile now.” On the day of the big game, sports reporter John Branch informed readers, “The mother of the opposing Super Bowl quarterback was a year old when Brady was born. What’s he still doing here?”
Setting aside his chronological age, Brady’s numbers speak for themselves. Not the numbers that give him credit for the most Super Bowl appearances or selections as MVP, but actual performance numbers. During the 2021 season Brady threw 40 touchdowns which is his second highest total. For distance in the air per pass (regardless of completion) Brady surpassed his average for the last two seasons he played for New England. Like a barker at a carnival, the front page of the print edition of the New York Times beckoned readers, “See the Ageless Man.”
The Tom Brady of the Bible is Caleb. Like Tom Brady’s class of quarterbacks in the 2000 NFL draft, Caleb’s draft group had 12 members (Num 13:4-16). In similar fashion to the 2000 draft, all but one of Caleb’s peers fell by the wayside before his “big game.” God talked about why the others had failed and Caleb was still on the field, “But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed Me fully, I will bring him into the land (Num 14:24).
Caleb’s “Super Bowl” came when he was eighty-five. The “stadium” was the walled town of Hebron. Over three millennium before Super Bowl LV’s MVP made his confident predictions of future seasons, Caleb proclaimed, “As yet I am as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me. As my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out and to come in” (Jos 14:11). Caleb defeated the giants in Hebron, and went on other military operations afterwards.
While Tom Brady and Caleb both share unexpected physical performance by an old man in a young man’s game, the spiritual resemblance is less obvious. Tom Brady credits his diet, physical and mental training regimen (listed in his book, TB12) as the secret of his success. Caleb gave the credit to God (Jos 14:10). If I had to say which of these two systems I had the higher chance of replicating for my own geriatric rejuvenation, I would vote for Caleb’s. Meanwhile I will probably buy the red Texas Tech #5 jersey for the long haul.