The brief snippet about Jerry Rice and the retirment of Jerome Bettis had me thinking about the controversial question of when to retire and how to retire. Should Jerry Rice have left San Francisco only to limp around a few more years for the Raiders? Did he make a fool of himself trying to make the Broncos squad last year? Often times, the mainstream media bashes on players who perhaps stick around for a few years too long. Why? Obviously all athletes should be able to take advantage of their earning years--even athletes who retire in their 40s still have a long life ahead and an extra million or two perhaps is enticing, even if they knowtheir contributions will be minimal. All athletes should be able to play the game they love until the very end, no?
Forget about that aspect of the argument though. The 'pundits' will often say an athlete is nowhere near his past level of excellence, and should consequently walk away before not tarnishing his image. This is bogus. The media wants every retirment story to be like that of John Elway and Jerome Bettis. Elway finally winning a Super Bowl with the team he had tried to lead to glory his entire career. Bettis winning his first ring in the city he grew up in. These were great stories that everyone could pay attention to and feel good about.
On the other end of the spectrum is Jerry Rice. It was painful to watch Rice limp out the way he did. Everyone felt sorry for him. Well, everyone but Rice himself. That's the thing. Rice was doing what he loved till he absolutely couldn't go anymore, and that's the way he probably the only way he could conceive of leaving the game of football. Most felt sorry for him because we've been trained to conceptualize subplots in sports this way. If the story's not perfect, the media will try to convince us the athlete's done wrong. It's more convenient that way for them.