Retirement no easy decision for athletes

What is it with athletes retiring—only to un-retire a matter of months later?
The latest, of course, is the saga involving Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre.
The last month has involved tampering allegations against the Minnesota Vikings for allegedly talking to Favre, to Favre asking for his outright release, to the Packers apparently offering him a $20-million marketing buyout.
Then came Favre’s reinstatement to the NFL and his arrival at the Packers’ training camp over the weekend. Just what the future may hold, however, remains to be seen.
The media circus surrounding his arrival meant helicopter coverage of his drive to a Green Bay home. He wasn’t in a white Bronco, but the Cadillac Escalade still was a nice touch.
Favre proved last season he still has the arm to be an NFL starting quarterback, but Green Bay did go ahead without him in their plans and so their lukewarm response to his un-retirement had to be somewhat expected.
Young protégé Aaron Rodgers has been biding his time waiting to get his opportunity (since being drafted in 2005), and much of the summer has been committed to building the Packers’ offence around him.
Now that Favre is back, you can’t expect the team to change its game plan and hurt Rodgers’ development even further. Furthermore, the whole saga (to put it mildly) was not handled well by either the team or Favre.
I guess, based on history, Green Bay’s brass should have expected Favre might get restless feet during the off-season and want to return. He’s mulled over retirement for a number of years now—only to be back behind the centre every fall.
His tearful good-bye press conference certainly had me fooled, but Favre is hardly the first athlete to second-guess himself.
Athletes often wait too long to retire, rather than hanging it up at the top of their games when fans and media alike can remember them for the amazing contributions they made to the game—not for how gray their playoff beard was.
But for every one who has failed in their comeback bid, a good many have returned and picked up right where they left off.
Michael Jordan’s unsuccessful two-year attempt to make it in baseball after retiring from basketball in 1993 may have tarnished his image a bit, but his return to the NBA certainly was not embarrassing.
In his second season back with Chicago, Jordan led the league by averaging more than 30 points per game and brought the Bulls to a league title.
He did overstep his boundaries, though, when he came out of the ownership booth to assume a role with the Washington Wizards in 2001-02—finally proving even the greatest athletes can slip into mediocrity if they play too long.
Few athletes retire and can completely stay away from the game. Many take up managerial or coaching positions, like Patrick Roy and Steve Yzerman.
John Elway might be one of the few who went out under the best possible circumstances. He won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos as one final salute, and never sent a text to his general manager for reinstatement (like Favre did with the Packers’ Ted Thompson).
But I guess the only reason it’s safe to mention Elway now is because it’s been 10 years. Often times athletes wait a bit and then can’t stand it any longer.
Lindsay Davenport retired two years ago, had a baby, and then decided running around on a court slamming tennis balls was still within the realm of possibility.
Comebacks for pro athletes are just too compelling, and often times they are a slave to the sports they’ve committed their lives to.
But who can blame them? It’s usually a pretty fun gig.

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