The League

Jim McCormick
Blitz Magazine Publisher

Jim McCormick

The editor and publisher of Blitz Magazine

A Helpless Hurt

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It's not often that a professional athlete is able to control their fate. One specific breed, however, the superstar, does wield uncommon control over their swan song, making it that much more depressing when we see the once superhuman leave us on such an ultimately human note.

In week 17 of every NFL season countless players wear the crest for the final time. Few make announcements, host press conferences or conduct formal retirements, and far fewer are even making the decision to leave the sport of their own accord. Most are simply done because the league is done with them. But for the superstar, for the legend, the decision, is often in their hands.

The question must then be asked, go out like Willie Mays or John Elway?

"The Say Hey Kid" himself knew he left the game in a decidedly depressing fashion, playing well past his prime. The man many consider to be the most complete baseball player of all time quipped that "growing old is just a helpless hurt," during his final campaign for the Mets. Even though the Metropolitans made the Series in '73, his .211 average that year was hardly the engine that drove the team. While Mays will forever be regarded as an all-timer, his infamous fall in the outfield and the demise of his once great skill set is a telling and unnecessary epilogue to a great career. Don't we all wish that Michael Jordan's last shot was against the Jazz in '98? Rather than in an utterly meaningless regular season game against the 76ers in 2003?

Elway, on the other hand, made a dramatically different exit; ending an elite, although embattled, career on the highest of high notes. While it's supremely rare that a player has the opportunity to leave us in such grand fashion, he did so when his game was still imposing, never forcing us to cringe as Mays did in the early '70s.

Favre had the opportunity to leave the game, although not with a ring ala Elway, with a supremely good vibe after Green Bay's surprisingly strong 2007 effort. He instead chose to prolong his twilight in, of all places, New York, until it ultimately went pitch black.

And given last year's debacle in the Meadowlands and the recent groundswell of rumors that Minnesota could be the next contestant on "The Favre Show," the Wrangler Man is already V-8 leaning towards the Mays ilk.

As a counter, it must be considered why we see legends play well past their prime. Inherent in their greatness is an obsessive, even addictive, approach to excellence. We've heard countless stories of renowned work ethics, of Larry Birdrobotically lofting leaners in the Garden late at night on Tuesdays in July, of Jordan treating practices as if they were game 7s. For as crazy as Lawrence Taylor was perceived to be, and likely was, his adherence to a strict football regimen made him the menace that changed the sport.

Some of these guys can't walk away until they simply can't walk. Egos and blindingly gaudy résumés convince them to play despite a clear decline (we're looking at you Jerry Rice). Identity, pride and esteem are all tied to their undeniably great athletic exploits.

Per these recent rumors, Minnesota would be doing themselves and their amazingly talented defense and running game a great injustice if they go down this road. So what if Tarvaris Jackson isn't the answer (and he isn't), plug the cagey (albeit limited) Sage Rosenfels in there for now and maybe see what happens with the Cleveland QB carousel. Whatever they do, bringing the "human interception" into town isn't the answer.

Favre showed in flashes last season that he still has something left, but given the circus that comes with him and the schoolyard brazenness that did in the Jets, what contending team in their right mind could consider him as their signal-caller? While it seems we are still mired in merely rumors, hearsay and flirtation, just a year ago this was true as well. How many more Chris Mortensen texts must we endure?

All this said, please go away Brett.

We understand that the chief motivator here may just be love of the game, an unyielding passion to play the sport you love. But we love the game too, and we don't want to see you trip in the outfield. Again.

By Jim McCormick  |  May 4, 2009; 1:29 PM ET  | Category:  Cleveland Browns , Green Bay Packers , Minnesota Vikings , NFL , New York Jets Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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