Retirement in Sports

First off, before I begin, I want to thank two extremely important people: my fiance Sarah and my friend Beth. Without their support, creating a blog, planning a wedding, studying for the GMATS, and working full time would not be possible. OK, enough with the sappy crap.

Yesterday, as the Red Sox were awaiting a response from their captain, Jason Varitek on whether he would pick up his 3 million dollar option, I began thinking about retirement in sports over the last few years. The definition of retire is to withdraw, or go away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion, yet most sports figures don\’t actually go away. A great example of the misuse of the word retirement is Brett Favre. He has had one of the most successful careers of all time as a professional quarterback. He holds records galore and had the opportunity to walk away from the game having achieved more than any one person ever, with one team (which is probably one of the rarest accolades), but instead he decided retire, come back, retire, and come back. He has disrespected the game by using retirement as a vehicle to be released by a team, rather than a chance to leave the game and send time with his family. I don\’t care if Favre is the best quarterback in the league (which he is not), he still has tainted his reputation and destroyed what it means to retire.

The misuse of the word retirement began well before Favre these past few seasons. Arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, retired three times throughout his career (the first was in 1993 to pursue a career in baseball). He left the game in 1999 having 6 NBA championships, 5 MVP awards, and 14 All-Star game appearances. He had accomplished everything there is to accomplish in the game of basketball (including winning a college national championship with UNC in 1982). So what does Jordan decide to do? Come back and play for another few seasons for the Washington Wizards, only to realize he isn\’t good anymore.

Then we have players who don\’t know when to retire. The reason I began thinking about retirement in the first place was because of Jason Varitek. To preface, I have enjoyed watching Tek play over the last decade. He has been a tremendous leader and coach to young players. That being said, Tek should have retired before last season. He hit an abysmal .220 in 2008 and followed it up with a whopping .209 in 2009. The Red Sox were hoping he would retire on his own, but are now having to push him out. By trading for Victor Martinez (V-Mart) and declining his 5 million dollar option, they sent Tek a message that he is done with the Red Sox. Apparently the message was not received.

Every time an athlete discusses retirement, the first thing that crosses my mind is when or how is that player going to try and make a come back. What is the purpose of announcing you are going to retire if it means nothing? The conversation in the media has shifted from reflecting on players careers\’ to discussing the possible scenarios that would allow someone to return to the game.

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