It’s almost certain Valentino Rossi never has met Tom Brady. There’s also a very good chance the two sports superstars never have heard of each other.
But when you look beneath the surface, there are some uncanny similarities between the careers of seven-time premier class World Champion Rossi and four-time Super Bowl champion Brady, worthy of a look as Brady aims for Super Bowl title No. 5 this Sunday with the New England Patriots.
Brady is 39, Rossi is less than two weeks shy of his 38th birthday. Both are far beyond what most would consider the prime performance years of an NFL quarterback or a Grand Prix motorcycle rider.
Yet both Brady and Rossi continue to defy time. They continue to perform at a previously unthinkable, elite level against athletes nearly half their respective ages.
Brady finished the 2016 NFL season with the second-highest passer rating of his illustrious pro football career despite missing the first four games of the season due a dubious suspension levied by the league for allegedly deflating footballs before a game, providing easier grip for him and his receivers.
New England had an 11-1 record in the 12 regular-season games Brady started this year. He would have been the odds-on favorite to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award for the third time in his career if not for the suspension.
Brady will try to become the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl five times this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons in Houston.
Those are all numbers. Impressive numbers. But the eye test shows even more.
Brady continues to shred defenses designed to stop him. He continues to use guile and incredible football intelligence to be the most feared quarterback in the league despite his age and wide receivers who are not among the elite in the game. He played nearly half of the season without his favorite target, all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The guy is showing zero signs of slowing down and said he wants to play until he’s 45.
Sound like someone global motorcycle fans know?
Like Brady, Rossi is showing hardly any trace of diminished skills at an age when most riders either have retired and gained 30 pounds or are backmarkers in World Superbike or a domestic series, still trying to sniff the vapors of past glories while usually embarrassing their legacy in the process.
Not Rossi. The Doctor has finished second in the MotoGP standings the last three consecutive seasons behind Marc Marquez, who is 14 years younger than Rossi, and Jorge Lorenzo, who is eight years younger.
Rossi shows just as much appetite for on-track and off-track combat as he did during the early years of his career. And like Brady playing sometimes without elite receivers or running backs, Rossi has thrived some years during his career despite not being on the best bike in the paddock.
There are two other remarkable similarities between Tom Terrific and The Doctor.
Both made their top-level pro debuts in 2000. And finally, there’s probably only one other athlete in the discussion about the greatest of all time in their respective roles.
The names of Brady and San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana always rise to the top of any discussion about the best quarterback in history. Both have won the Super Bowl four times. Montana was 4-0 in Super Bowls; Brady is 4-2.
Rossi and the great Giacomo Agostini are mentioned in the same hushed whispers when the greatest among Grand Prix motorcycle riders is argued over beers worldwide. Rossi has won nine World Championships in all classes; Ago won 15 during a less competitive era in which rider contracts permitted competition in multiple classes each season.
If Brady earns his fifth Super Bowl title this Sunday, he will stand alone as the GOAT. And if Rossi can somehow add title No. 10 to his resume before he hangs up his leathers, it’s a pretty safe bet he will sit atop the same pinnacle in his sport.