All things–both good and bad–must eventually come to an end….including the careers of our favorite sports and entertainment stars. I’m slowly but surely approaching that dirty 30 milestone and most of the athletes I grew up watching on television have hung up their jerseys for the final time. ( I see you out there, Vince Carter!)
As an avid sports fans, it’s kind of depressing to see so many superstars from my childhood now retired. I grew up watching and becoming a fan of guys like Peyton Manning, Barry Bonds, Michael Phelps and the late Kobe Bryant. Gone are the days of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginóbili in San Antonio. No more days of “wrastlin” matches of superstars such as Shawn Michaels, Triple H, the Rock, Kurt Angle and the Undertaker. Ahh, the good ole days of the WWF. I miss it.
Sure, I’m just a young grasshopper in the grand scheme of things. However, it is mind-blowing to sit back and think I’m old enough to remember the high school/college careers of the Kevin Durants, Jadeveon Clowneys and Christian McCaffreys of the world. Now I can flip on the television and watch as they climb into the upper echelons of the league in the pros. They grow up so fast….
I know eventually all things must come to an end and these athletes deserve to enjoy a life after sports. As fans, we can become a little selfish sometimes and maybe want to see them stick around a little longer. At times, the writing is on the wall or perhaps we are given the official heads up that next season will be a “farewell tour” of sorts for our favorite athlete. We are allowed time to prepare–perhaps go see a few more games in person than we normally would to enjoy those last few moments in history.
Sometimes we are caught off guard and see high-profile stars call it quits before we ever expected as with the more recent cases of Andrew Luck, Calvin Johnson, Rob Gronkowski and most recently, Luke Kuechly. All four of these guys retired by the age of 30 years old. There’s no coincidence that this quartet played in the NFL–a physical league bound to take its toll on the human body, and specifically, the brain.
I remember watching Calvin Johnson’s 2004 coming out party in Death Valley at the expense of my beloved Clemson Tigers. Then I witnessed the 2007 second overall pick to the Detroit Lions play just nine seasons before hanging it up in 2016. Luck, Gronkowski and Kuechly battled through numerous significant injuries throughout their respective careers and at some point you have to know when its time to think about the future. They all made that tough decision and it was the right decision if you ask me.
As the research on concussion injuries and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy [also known as simply CTE] grows, I suspect this trend of early retirements will only continue as players are tasked with continuing to play–especially after significant injuries–or running the safe route and calling it a career while they can still enjoy a comfortable life post-sports. I don’t blame them no matter the reason. But it doesn’t make their untimely departure any easier as a sports fan. I regret that I missed out on seeing some of my childhood favorites play before they retired.
Now there’s a wave of “new kids” on the block who are taking over as the faces of their respective leagues and growing in popularity. Among them include: Jayson Tatum, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson in the NBA; Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson in the NFL; Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuña in MLB; Coco Gauff in Women’s tennis; Jordan Spieth in Golf; Candace Parker and A’ja Wilson in the WNBA and countless others.
These are the superstars that my generation’s kids will ask about in 10-20 years. I’ll give them their due credit but you can bet I’ll remind them I was alive to see Kobe’s 60 points in his career finale as a Los Angeles Laker. I’ll tell them how I remember Barry Bonds chasing down and breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record to become the leagues’ all-time leader. I’ll get to share with them Tiger Wood’s story and his miraculous life and career comeback to win another green jacket in 2019 at Augusta National. I’ll tell them about the good ‘ole days.