I will admit conflicted feelings about the NFL. I’m still angry they allowed the game/organization to be politicized when they had other options. On the other hand, setting aside the adverse economic impact of COVID-19 closures and restrictions, in normal circumstances, it is not only the highly paid players, owners, etc., who make a living from football. There is the associated revenue for many, many small businesses in and around stadiums and then there is the intangible love of the sport. With that said, I’ll segue into the point of the post.
All athletes, no matter how good, come to an end to their career. The body will simply no longer hold up to the physical demand, particularly when there are additional injuries as well as the normal “wear and tear”. It is, however, also true that for the highest paid “star athletes” whether it’s the money or the continued fame, they may hold on longer than they should. It is also true when one attains that level, hundreds of thousands of people (if not more) will express their opinions about when “it’s time to quit”. This was on full display in this year’s Superbowl where both Tom Brady as quarterback for Tampa Bay and Head Coach Bruce Arians were the oldest to ever win a Superbowl in their respective positions. Brady of course set another record having now won his 7th as a QB. For every record set, however, there will be those who aspire to break it. Some will hold for decades, such as the 1972 Miami Dolphins continue to be the only team that has had a perfect season of no losses to include the Superbowl. One can imagine that thought is already circulating in Tampa Bay for next season.
There was a superb and much too short-lived TV series, “Sports Night”, in the 1990s. It was wonderfully cast with excellent writing and although a comedy, there were often dramatic and poignant themes and scenes. In one episode, they staff was cheering for an older Olympic contender in some sort of track event; a man who had been on the cusp of setting a world record, but was sidelined due to an injury. He fought his way back and did set the record. As the one sportscaster said, “Then, fifteen minutes later, a young (whatever country he was from), came along and broke that record by a fraction of a second.” He felt a pang of desolation for what the other man had endured to hold the world record for barely fifteen minutes. Another individual quietly observed, “Which is fifteen minutes longer than most athletes will ever hold it.”