The 5th Quarter

By C.J. Gardner

Former Dallas Cowboy Terrell Owens made his return to the NFL by signing with the Seattle Seahawks last week. The 38-year-old wide receiver looks to be having a hard time hanging up his cleats and retiring from professional football.

It is understandable I guess to wish to cling on to something that you have spent your entire life, most of it anyway, doing.w Terrell is no different than Brett Favre and his wanting to throw one more pass or George Foreman who gave and received furious punches to the cranium from the 1960s to the 90s and newly retired MLB pitcher Jamie Moyer, who on April 12, 2012 became the oldest pitcher in the game’s history to pick up a win at the young and vigorous age of 49 years and two months. Sometimes it’s just hard to let go. I mean can you blame them? There’s an old saying “There are no rocking chairs for rockstars” and I assume retirement is just as hard for athletes. The acceptance that you have lost a step or can’t quite do what you use to is more than some can bear.

You’ve got to admit that there must be something beyond the surface that would drive an athlete with the respect, accolades, and financial sustenance of a Peyton Manning to risk never walking again to suit up and take more snaps after a devastating neck injury. The logic is almost mind-boggling, unless you are an athlete. Then the reasoning is crystal clear.

For some athletes, the apprehension of heading head first into retirement comes from their love of competition. Many of our favorite players seem to fall under this category. Their ability made them one of the best on their field or court and even into their late 30’s they could play at a high level. And when your natural (or performance enhanced) talents make you a celebrity some athletes are willing to continuously subject there bodies to the arduous strain that professional completion against much younger adversaries brings for as long as possible often with cataclysmic results because quite simply the feeling of admiration is good, damn good.

Another reason for some is the eternal pursuit of the championship. Life-long Utah Jazz player Karl Malone found himself in an unfamiliar shade of purple and gold as a Laker for a season before he retired for a final run at that elusive NBA championship. He was unable to do so and some scoff at his ranking as an all-time great because he was never able to hoist that trophy, a la Dan Marino.

While it should be said that all professional athletes love the sports they play to some degree or another, some have another motive (or two…or three) for playing. I would even venture to say the reason most athletes clutch on to the feeling of the fabric of those jerseys, is because they will lose the perks of being a professional athlete, mainly, the money. The reason that most are attracted to becoming a professional athlete and risk life and limb is that you can be a millionaire for playing a game while the rest of us make our living in cubicles, at cash registers or as door-to-door salesmen. While athletes get paid very well, there are a good number that find their selves in the realm of financial disaster after their playing days are over because they don’t manage their money.

There are young adults who come into the league where they are paid millions upon millions of dollars and they start living that kind of lifestyle. A majority of athletes do not have college degrees, so they have no plan for a career after their athletic career is over (because how many analysts does ESPN actually need?). One of the main reasons T.O. is coming back is because he needs money, as he can’t afford to pay his child support..

On one hand, I do not blame athletes for prolonging retirement. They get paid very well to play a game that they love. But at some point, these players have to realize that every athlete has an expiration date and they need to plan for life after sports. Don’t risk tarnishing your legacy, especially for the paycheck.

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