(Shout-out to Alex Hamell, a good guy and faithful reader. He's the reason why I started this one due to a certain tweet.)
Have you ever seen that tear-jerker of a movie Old Yeller? Well, to save about 90 minutes of your time, give or take a few, the dog ends up contracting rabies and the pre-pubescent boy protagonist ends up going to the shed and putting Old Yeller down with a shotgun. Sad, I know. But what's even more sad is when most fans and managers go to the point of figuratively walking to the shed and putting their own players down with the "shotgun." Bam. I just turned it around and made it relevant to sports. Excuse me while I do a dance.
Okay, I'm done.
|Aww, they're so cute when they're old...|
Anyway, as of late, there have been a lot of guys that have been really testing their wills and the wills of others to keep going. Guys such as Brett Favre, Peter Forsberg, Jamie Moyer, and several others have refused to step down and have decided to continue to share the wealth of their talents among their respective leagues. However, there might be a slight chance that they happened to get bitten with a raccoon filled with injury, age, and the art of being a philanderer during the offseason. So what are managers and teammates supposed to do in a time of dwindling roster spaces for them?
There's always that philosophy of "Survival of the Fittest" where only the ones in best shape will make it through, but there's also the philosophy that "with age comes wisdom" and these old-heads will teach the youth to be as fierce and eternal as they are. As a fan, which would you prefer? See an injury-stricken guy come back to relive the prime and glory days, or a player as a coach to the young guys?
Well, to save some time, I asked this on Facebook a couple of days ago and got some responses. Interestingly enough, most of them came from women. Take that, sports world.
Erin said: "I think that if they retire that should be it. Idk why their teams would let them back. To me it just looks like they are going through mid life crises and are completely desperate."
Andrew (yes, the Andrew that keeps popping up around here) said: "[T]hey have earned the right to play!"
Greg said: "They live their dream and it for most athletes it comes to an end early in life. I think the older ones who want to come back don't see as much to look forward to in their future just because they're dream has already come and gone."
Bridget said: "I agree with Erin. They decided to retire. Why come back? Favre is a perfect example, he came back wayyy past his prime and ended up not playing like he did when he first started. Surprised? Not really. They aren't the same people they were when they started the sport at maybe 18-20yrs old. If you retire, stay retired no matter how much you want to come back."
Kaitlin said: "I think it can be looked at from both sides really. On one hand they show how much they love the game and how passionate they are about it, which in some cases actually makes the player better or at least more enjoyable to watch. However, on the other hand, they have long past their prime, and being out of the game so long and coming back at a professional level, their bodies are not ready to compete with much younger athletes."
Jennifer said: "If they can perform they should be allowed to play, regardless of age. And they should be mature and professional enough to know when that time is."
Robert said: "[I]f the teams want them than they are performing well my problem is teams paying them above average money just for there name but than again it is a business and jerseys bring in revenue. Brett Farve clearly wasn't past his prime a couple bad passes turned around and people would be saying he revived the vikings as a franchise They provide and experienced view for the team especially during the playoffs, and even better than that the younger players look up to them and will get more motivation from them than just some coach who hasn't really been there and done it."
The interesting thing among this is, each response is explained with different reasons and some of them even have examples why. This is somewhat of a perennial struggle between what's best for the young-and-upcoming guys and the older-and-wiser guys.
This is what I like to call The "Old Yeller" Complex. Are these golden boys really doing their full justice by coming back in their later years, or are they poisoning their teams and being unfair to the young men that looked up to them in the past to get a fair shot at what they've trained and practiced to do?
It might sound mean coming from me, but it's truly unfair. As admirable as these guys are, and with the impact that they've already made in the sport, it's rather unnecessary to come back out of boredom or ideas of "unfinished business." It actually sounds rather immature.
There's also the problems with guys being pushed out of lineups due to someone younger and more fit for the job than they are. Many of these guys don't face the music and they automatically jump to conclusions saying "...oh, well they don't need me anymore. I'll just take myself out of the lineup and that'll show 'em who's boss!" Again, it's immature to do that in response. There are times where you shall assume that you can't talk to the coach or whomever is in charge because they will shut you out in the case and they won't compromise with you. Actually, that's 100% possible. Coaches are like your parents; they watch you develop and have another eye in how you're feeling and how you're living up to personal and team expectations. They shouldn't treat you unfairly due to age or injury. If you can do it, then well...just do it.
Arguments like this can go in many ways, and although there are problems in which you may have to incorporate age and hardship and the fact that this guy may be the "team leader," it makes the thought process that much harder to complete. Do you have to take this guy to the back and terminate him? Do you have to tie him down and tell him that "It's time?" I remember telling people to look at the small things that they have accomplished, other than thinking that they haven't won "the big one" or haven't completely finished their job. They as an athlete have to see that they were an influence. If they weren't a champion, they were a teacher, if they weren't the best out of all the rest, they were loved for being an underdog or a rebel to the sport.
The one way to let go of this "Old Yeller Complex" is to stand back and to look at the small accomplishments.
[Much thanks to Erin, Robert, Bridget, Greg, Jen, Kaitlin, and Andrew.]