After watching the drama between Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers this past summer I thought is there ever a right time to retire. The majority of professional athletes ponder that decision for a long time. There are those athletes that overstay their welcome until they are hurt or even worse, cut from their teams. But there are also a few athletes that do retire before they are past their prime.
First, there are a number of athletes such as Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Floyd Mayweather (if he stays retired), Marvin Hagler, Rocky Marciano and Lennox Lewis that took the smart way out by retiring near their prime. However, is it really smarter to retire when you have years of talent left to use. The select few that do retire early are frowned upon for quitting. They are told that they have no concern for the welfare of their teammates or the fans that love them. A lot of people were outraged at Floyd Mayweather and Barry Sanders for pretty much retiring out of nowhere and without warning.
Thus sport fans were moaning no warning, they just walked away, that’s a disrespect to the game. However, the athlete may want to pursue other interests outside the realms of sports. No one can dictate how another person should live their life. People forget most pro athletes have been playing sports since they are 5 or 6 years old. That’s a lot of time put toward one profession.
Equally important boredom is a reason many athletes retire near their primes too. Joe Calzaghe the unbeaten light heavyweight fighter said “I’m getting bored by boxing and it is hard to motivate myself,”. And boredom works in both ways because a lot of athletes stay around too long because they get bored with living a normal life.
For example, most professional athletes today can’t seem to step away from the limelight. The greatest basketball player ever Michael Jordan had the perfect exit setup for himself. He hit the game winning shot to lead the Chicago Bulls to a sixth championship and he still couldn’t resist the temptation to come back to basketball. Furthermore, Evander Holyfield at the age of 46 is still boxing. How much is enough, does he have to get hurt to know it’s time to quit. Likewise seeing legends made human is crushing to the fans that looked up to their sports heroes. To illustrate, who can forget Muhammad Ali getting beaten unmercifully by Larry Holmes or the great Jerry Rice who became the third option at receiver for the Seahawks.
Therefore it is better to retire near your prime. Athletes that take this route have great legacies that will stand the test of time without the painful memories of seeing them demolished by competition that could have beaten in their prime. As a result you can’t be an athlete for ever we all grow old. Yet, there is no perfect or right time to retire. You will either be seen as a quitter or a washed up athlete that has over stayed your welcome.