A long time ago, in a sports world that seems ancient to us now, the word retirement actually meant something.
As in: done. Finished. Through.
Remember when Barry Sanders shocked the world by hanging up his spikes before we thought he should?
How great was it to watch John Elway retire on top...and stay there?
And God I am glad that Reggie Miller didn't come back this season, even if it was to my Celtics.
Yeah, I'd take that over what athletes are doing nowadays.
I'd rather lose Michael to the MLB, or even after the Jazz series, over watching him for a couple extra years on the Wizards.
Junior Seau is now public enemy number one in Miami, among other places, after "graduating" from the game with the Dolphins, only to sign with the Patriots four days later. And guess what? Still no ring.
And lastly...ya' think Roger Clemens wishes he had hung 'em up a little earlier?
The fact of the matter is, in today's sports world, the word "retirement" means absolutely nothing. Some people never even believed Brett Favre's retirement from the first day.
And who can blame them?
He's probably the most fiery athlete in the world today, and look at who else has played the "maybe, maybe not" game.
Clemens won an ERA title after he retired, P.J. Brown just got his first NBA ring (as a retiree), Michael Strahan hoisted the Lombardi trophy after contemplating calling it quits, and Rick Ankiel held off retirement to become a stud outfielder. In today's world, more then ever, anything can happen to an old, grizzled vet.
Who can really blame Favre for returning to the game?
Other than the Packers, it seems like everybody wants him in the NFL still. Even if he has a QB rating of 50, anybody would die to watch him play, especially now that he is officially on borrowed time. You think he won't fill whatever stadium he ends up in?
Favre is wanted back for marketing and image reasons just as much as athletically. He's the poster boy for hard work, persistency, and talent. I, for one, don't fault him for the return. He's human after all. And he has earned the right to retire on his own terms.
However, he is merely fueling, no, pouring millions of gallons of gas on to the fire of the idea that retiring is now a joke, and any career can be extended for the right price and situation.
However, what about when an athlete cannot retire on their own terms? If they are forced out, is that really retirement?
Let's face it. Barry Bonds is retired. He just doesn't know it yet.
Favre and Bonds represent the two polar opposites of what retirement is and isn't.
Favre actually retired from the game, and it was your traditional, teary goodbye. I'm not going to lie; I actually got emotional watching it. A lot of America did. And do you know why? Because Favre is one of the most beloved figures on the planet.
But while Favre officially announced the end of his career, Bonds really doesn't have a choice. And where any number of teams would beg for Favre's services, both in PR and on the field, nobody in the MLB would touch Barry with a 10-foot pole.
Barry Bonds could never do what Brett Favre is doing, because if he DID announce his official retirement, there would barely be a note on the last page of the paper.
Who would care?
I know that I wouldn't. Bonds is no longer welcome in baseball, regardless of how much he wants to play.
Some might wonder what the connection is between a cheater and an honest, blue-collar man. Bonds was an athlete's kid, and Favre was a farm boy. Bonds is a lightning rod for tension, and Favre is the epitome of popularity (to this point).
The bottom line is that both reinforce the fact that retirement means nothing. And that is personally painful for me to watch as a sports fan.
To be honest, it's unfair to the public. I don't want to cheese this up too much, but I really feel for the Lambeau loyals. Do they side with their team, or their icon? This could have been resolved with Favre staying consistent with his retirement.
Am I crazy for wishing retirement meant something?
When I had to watch MJ score 20 points a game, but play like a mere mortal, it was heartbreaking.
I personally hate Junior Seau. If he wanted to play for a contender, he could have demanded a trade.
And let's face it. Regardless of how you feel about him, nobody deserves to go through what Roger Clemens has gone through this year.
But because there is no tangible time when an athlete loses it (look at Jamie Moyer, Julio Franco, and Lindsey Hunter), nobody can ask the players to call it quits at a certain age.
I absolutely believe that people should play until they want to stop. I wouldn't request an athlete to stop playing before he or she fills they have fulfilled their urges, or simply can't go on any longer.
But we can ask them this: Don't finish before you want to. But once you say, "I quit..."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A few disclaimers:
First off, I had no idea how to write this article. I have a lot of mixed emotions on the topic, but most of all, I just really don't like people retiring and then coming back. As much as I feel for the Packers, I feel for Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, because they can't control any of this. If a player doesn't want to be retired, don't retire.
Second, I'm not so sure I blame Brett Favre here. Do I wish he had been consistent, or never retired at all? Yes. But he's human, so I don't fault him for a change of heart.
Third, I'm not really comparing Bonds and Favre as much as I'm using two different examples as to why retirement is so weird and f***ed up these days. Thanks to anybody who reads this article, and PLEASE let me know what you think. That is the main reason why I wrote this! I want to hear what you guys have to say. Thanks again.