Smallthoughtsinasportsworld is pleased to have my good friend cover2chris for a guest post. So without further delay …
I never fault anyone that wants to hold on to what they once had. You have earned it and it’s yours, so own it! But at some point it is never a good look to watch an aging sports star do just that… age in front of our eyes. The scope of this is far greater than what happens on the football field, because we see this in the music industry where bands with aging singers try their best to put together one last tour for that nostalgic paycheck. Then they come out and the sound horrid, killing any beautiful memory you ever had for them in the past.
The curse of holding a little, or a lot, too long has bitten many athletes in the past, namely Brett Favre, Jerry Rice, etc… The “Father-time is undefeated” phrase reigns true more than ever. But what is it that makes people want to hold on for soooo long?
The way I see it, most people define themselves by our families and our jobs. When those two things are presently working in our favor, we are proud! It not only defines us but identifies us. An identity that helps us view the world favorably. However, when that sense of identity is threatened, it is often the case that we do everything we possibly can to regain the normalcy that we have established and have grown accustomed.
Hence, that is what happens to NFL players. From the time that they are in middle school, through early adulthood, these players are the biggest, fastest, strongest, most athletic kids and are constantly told that they are the best. To the point that they start to drink the koolaid themselves. They have all the affirmations by receiving the best recruiting, best scholarships, getting drafted and fulfilling their life’s purpose since they were 13.
Then it all hits the fan… they enter their 30s and and they are no longer the biggest, fastest, strongest, most athletic kids on the field. They are one-upped or replaced by the newer generation of gifted atheletes. At which point, we see a precipitous slide from greatness, the same greatness that they are only receiving due to the laurels they earned earlier in their careers. Unfortunately, in most cases we see this in painstaking detail as sports fans…
Injuries, losing a step, getting beat in foot-races, not being able to throw the ball with the zip it once had, etc… however it manifests itself, it’s a sad thing to watch.
No doubt, these stars that have sacrificed their bodies, all dream of the picture perfect John Elway, Peyton Manning, Ray Lewis, Jerome Bettis type of exit, capping a career with a super bowl victory. But far too often do we see the Deion Sanders, Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith type of finales… career finales that end in disgrace and pure agony that brings a tear to your eye as a true sports fan.
However, there is hope…. We have seen it. It is… Tony Romo, our anti-hero at this point. Granted, Romo is nowhere near the peak of his career, but he can play well enough right now to start or at least hold a clipboard and become a bridge to the next burgeoning QB prospect. But Tony is calling it quits. The kind of quits that actually keeps him in the public eye by joining CBS Sports. But he’s doing it for more than just the paycheck, he’s doing it… for himself. Tony’s brain has been rattled enough taking vicious shot after shot and he is finally saying, enough is enough.
The hardest thing for professional athletes to consider is to consider when it’s time to let go. Strangely enough, fans of teams can have that same dilemma. Nearly every Cowboys argument ends with the same phrase, well we did win 3 titles in the 90’s. I agree, that is fact, Cowboys teams in 1992, 1993, and 1995 indeed won.… They indeed won 20 plus years ago. Cowboy fans that have been holding on to the same dream have myopic attitudes that just make it impossible for them to listen to reason.
Therefore, this is where the very embodiment of Cowboy fandom over the last decade in Tony Romo makes the differentiation between, not what he believes… but what he knows to be the truth. Tony assessed his situation, realized that it is time to let go of the past, and did it. Something Cowboy fans cannot even fathom. In the moment, Tony gets it and he deserves kudos for it. He had his shot at NFL greatness and made his mark with the cowboys and the NFL, but he peaked. Perhaps he reached his glass ceiling since being an undrafted free-agent but Romo’s biggest career earmarks happens to be a fumbled extra-point and a not-so-smart relationship with famed country singer Carrie Underwood.
“If you think for a second I don’t want to be out there, then you probably never felt the pure ecstasy of competing and winning. That hasn’t left me. In fact, it may burn now more than ever.” – Tony Romo
Romo is not giving up on the NFL, he is buying into a life after football and doing so while he still can. While he can still stand and walk and talk with relative ease. He has nothing of which to be ashamed. This is a guy that deserves every bit of praise he receives accomplishing all he has despite being passed up by 32 teams 7 times. As an undrafted player, Bill Parcells took a chance on him in 2006 when (ironically enough) Drew Bledsoe was stinking up the joint at the tail-end of his career. Tony took that opportunity and ran with it. Ending up with franchise highs in yards and touchdowns in a 10 year span with the team. So love him or hate him for his decision, he is comfortable it… Much to the dismay of the Texans and Broncos.
So I make this final emotional plea to Cowboy fans… take a page from your QB and let go of the past, look at the present talent on the roster and be joyous. Talent like Zeke Elliot, Dak Prescott and that beefy offensive line will make you relevant for years to come.
Admit that what you had in the early 90s was nice, but it’s time to make the same realization that Tony did and move on to something more contemporary and more relevant to the time in which we are living in now.