Open-Mic: Athletes & Retirement: The Selanne Syndrome

Matt EichelSenior Writer IJuly 22, 2008

I'm sick and tired of athletes inability to make up their minds on whether they should retire or not.

Brett Favre, for instance, has had a great career in the NFL, but as far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter anymore now that he's always making headlines about whether or not he's finally going to call it quits.

It's a term that I like to call "Selanne Syndrome", after Anaheim Ducks superstar Teemu Selanne.  After capturing an elusive Stanley Cup championship, the former 76-goal scorer took half the season off before finally making up his mind to play with the Ducks again.

Teammate and captain Scott Niedermayer did the exact same thing and was stripped of the captaincy because of it.

Don't get me wrong, it's a big decision in these players lives—to stop playing the game they grew up loving and did for over 10-15 years.  Yet, some players need to know when their time is up.

Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player ever to play, knew when it was time.  His numbers dwindled in his final year and he retired, not ever hinting at comebacks or returns.  Patrick Roy retired and got into coaching.

But as superstars that they are, some athletes love the spotlight and can't help but grab more of it by being wishy-washy with their future decisions.

Michael Jordan didn't know what sport to play.  Granted, his late father had always been a baseball fan and Jordan did it out of respect for his father.  Yet, Jordan made three comebacks to the NBA.  That's ridiculous.  When I think of Michael Jordan, I don't think mainly of the greatest basketball player, but of someone who couldn't make up his mind!

Mario Lemieux, his career was cut short because of back problems and cancer treatement, yet he made a short-lived comeback.  Finally, he knew it was time.

All comebacks aside, I have more respect for players who know when their time is up.  They know when to hang 'em up and let the younger generation do what they need to do—advance the sport.

So, while we wait for Mats Sundin to make up his mind now, we can also wait for Selanne, Niedermayer, and others to hope they don't give us headaches again by grabbing more than enough attention away from the young up-and-coming superstars such as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin—and just make a decision!