We’ve all been there.
We watch them because they’re amazing, they can demonstrate skills that may never be seen again, and they can get your favorite team out of a jam in a second.
They’re some of the greatest athletes. And no matter how much we love/hate them, we watch them.
They’re the great athletes who retire and leave us with a hollow feeling in our hearts—a feeling of dread in our stomach. How will basketball survive without Michael Jordan? Who will ever match Brett Favre in most consecutive games started? How will the world go on if no one is boxing Muhammad Ali?
I’ve been there too—except it usually takes about three months before that empty feeling in my heart is temporarily restored because they come back. And the smile on my face is bigger than ever, as I momentarily catch my breath to hear those wonderful words, “I will be coming out of retirement.”
So it is, the world continues and the birds that had stopped their melancholy sounds come out of their little hiding places and sing again. And for another season, I remember what it’s like to be alive.
But it’s short-lived. Not only do they end up retiring again, but their comeback doesn’t produce the grandiose season you expected. Because not only have they broken your heart, they’ve forgotten to bring back their heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I was excited no less than you were when Jordan came back as a Wizard and Favre came back as a Jet. Maybe I was under false pretense, but I really thought they would be able to carry their mediocre teams and prove to the world why they, and only they, could we forgive for breaking our hearts.
When the postseason rolled around and our unforgotten heroes were nowhere in sight, I began to wonder whether I’d ever love anyone as much as I loved them.
And one day, with heaviness in my heart, I contemplated why I ever allowed them back in my life. So I decisively concluded to allow it no more.
Now, I feel as though I’ve gone through relationship counseling to forgive my idols for what they did.
So I say no athlete who publicly announces their retirement should be allowed back.
Well, let me rephrase. No athlete who publicly announces their retirement without a life altering emergency should be allowed back. The last stipulation is for Lance Armstrong who I have entirely forgiven.
For the others, retirement should be as much a commitment as playing for a team. When Jordan left for the diamond, he was leaving a world in which he would be marked one of the greatest players of all time. Apparently, that wasn’t enough.
When Favre said he wanted to play, but didn’t want to practice, he was basically saying he was too great to have to do what other “ordinary” players had to do.
When Roger Clemens decided to retire, he left on a good note, with a beautiful stat sheet. But the broken records and committed fans were not enough to keep this pitcher out of the bullpen.
Not to sound like a bitter fan, but with so much emotional baggage for the fans and indecisiveness on their part, why should they be allowed to come back?
To con us into buying new jerseys or keep us up until three in the morning on e-bay to make sure we win those (marked-up) tickets in case they decide to re-retire the following year? No thank you.
I refuse to be suckered in and purchase that new jersey. Well, except for Kobe. I mean, he changed his number, but I won’t complain since he’s never officially left.
What about their teammates? Those who dedicated themselves and have never known anything other than their all-star? What about their countless efforts to build an offense around one person?
Kudos to Mike McCarthy who gave Aaron Rodgers the opportunity to come forward and play.
Kudos to Rodgers for staying with the Green Bay Packers, knowing he wouldn’t be in the limelight until Favre retired.
I can’t pinpoint what makes them decide to retire. I don’t know if age is a factor. Fear of hitting decade No. 5 ? Perhaps. Fear of not performing up to expectations? Probable. Fear that this may be their last opportunity to leave with a high approval rating? Most likely.
Whatever the case, here’s my advice: Stay until the very end, until you’re truly certain it’s the end. Stay until you’re heart doesn’t skip a beat when you walk on the field or your pulse doesn’t race when you see your name on television. Stay until you can look fans in the eye and say “I will retire” without batting an eyelash.
But don’t come back because you’re not sure you can transition into life. Face it, one day, be it today or tomorrow, the transition will have to be made. Retire because you want to and not because you’re forced to because of injury.
Spare the fans. You owe it to us.
Those of us who TiVoed your games because we had to work late. Those of us who risked getting fired because we were on YouTube to watch your spectacular play from the night before. Those of us who (shamefully) would stay up until three in the morning to buy game tickets if and when you decide to un-retire (for the first, second, third or millionth time).
When all is said and done, we still heart you.