My Un-retirement from sports

When I entered the blogosphere on March 11, 2007, one of my very first columns dealt with my retirement from sports.

Like Bill Murray in Space Jam, I wanted one good play before I could go out on top.

Yet it is tough to walk away, or in my case, hobble away. I decided to un-retire from sports.

While you may have missed the press conference, I rejoined a kickball league and a touch football league.

Three weeks ago I injured myself playing kickball. Actually the correct term is “hurt,” not injured. I can still play. Yes, people actually get injured playing kickball. At least I do. The ball was kicked to me at second base, and I caught it before trotting to first base to complete a double play. My reward was a jammed ring finger. Usually something like that goes away in a couple of hours if not a couple of days. Yet three weeks later the doctor decided I should have a splint. It is not broken, but it is slightly bent at the tip.

Yet if kickball was a mild danger, football is just brutal. The team I am on is called “Slamathon.” This is a very good team. It reminds me of the 1999 Rams. This team is the Greatest Show on Grass. We won today 60-8. I caught five receptions, and had plenty of yards after the catch. Yet since I continue to wear sneakers that should have been given a Viking funeral years ago, I was done in when I came down and landed awkwardly.

I was down for the count, and have been hobbling all day. All I wanted to do was get through one game without incident. No such luck.

So why do I play?

Because I love football.

I have recently reread Jon Gruden’s Book. The title, “Do you love football!?!” came from former Oakland Raiders Linebackers Coach Dave Adolph.

When times would get tough, Adolph, and then Gruden, would remind the players why they did what they did. A simple question would be asked.

“Do you love football!?! Of course you do! You love it! You know you do! You love football!”

Jon Gruden will be joining the cast of Monday Night Football this September. As for me, I am just not ready to walk away.

Look, at 37, I am two years younger than Brett Favre. It drives me crazy when people suggest he should stay retired. Who the heck is a complete outsider to tell somebody else to just accept their gold watch, and take up fishing or golf?

I keep hearing that people should not hang on too long, when their skills are diminished, and they can no longer succeed. This simply does not apply to Brett Favre. It is not that he is a legend. It is that he is still good.

In 2005, the season started with a video of # 4 coming out with the song “Forever Man” by Eric Clapton playing in the background. Yet that year, despite never having a losing season, 4-ever man went 4-12. He refused to walk away from the team. In 2006 the Packers started 4-8, before Favre rallied them to four wins and an 8-8 record. Make no mistake about it, he willed that team to 8-8.

In 2007, he went 13-3. For this, he was kicked out of town for having the nerve to want time to decide on playing. Without him, the team dropped from 13-3 and the NFC Title Game to 6-10.

In 2008 he took over the helm of the hapless New York Jets. The Jets had a glorious 1968 season and four decades of futility since. With Favre, the team began 8-3, including a shocker over the previously 10-0 Titans in Tennessee. Yet when the Jets collapsed, going 1-4 down the stretch to finish 9-7, Favre took the blame. Apparently Jets fans forgot that the team was 4-12 the year before he got there.

Now Favre is considering playing for the Vikings. I hope he does, and I hope the Vikings make the playoffs by thrashing the Packers.

(Steve at the blog “No Runny Eggs” will not be pleased with that comment)

I want Favre to play as long as he continues to play well. He loves football. I understand this.

This is why I lift all those weights in the offseason.

(Ok, so I don’t lift anything besides the remote control and my beverage of choice.)

This is why I attend training camp.

(Ok, I have never actually done that, but I would.)

This is why I want to retire on my own terms. No, I do not want to be carried off the field, unless I am doused in Gatorade on the sidelines after winning a championship.

(I did drink Gatorade on the sidelines today. I believe it was Ice Punch flavor.)

Yet as long as I can still play well enough to make positive contributions in a coed intramural league, I want to play.

Yes, I know at 37 that the other kids are younger and faster. Yet I have experience from years in the trenches.

(My couches are the trenches. I armchair quarterback with the best of them.)

So lord willing my body will heal. If Roy Jones Jr. can play pickup basketball on the same day as a boxing match at night, I can play touch football on Saturday and kickball on Sunday.

All I need is a Gatorade and a pinch runner.

If I can’t go at game time, I will grab pom poms and cheer my team on. Taking a cortisone shot is not an option, not this late in my career.

(I would never let some quack with a needle go near me, unless it was my annual physical and I was given a toy for bravery afterward.)

I may have to go on injured reserve, but I know this.

I am not retired.

I love football. Give me the ability to relearn basic skills such as walking and breathing, and I will be back on that field.


Breaking Sports Update:

If Jack Youngblood can play in the Super Bowl on a broken leg, I can play kickball with a dysfunctional non-kicking leg. I played second base, caught the ball that was kicked to me, and managed to get walked in my first at bat. Thank Heavens for pinch runners. My second at bat was an out.

My team, the Sugarcoated Ballerz, won 4-2. It is one thing to stagger on to a kickball field. I most likely will not be playing football next week. I have nothing left to prove.

Who am I kidding? We always have something to prove. I’ll play.


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