They say that all good things come to an end sometime. In my opinion, nothing quite captures the sentiment of that statement better than sports. One day, you’re on top of the world, the next you’re as washed up as Tony Danza or Hulk Hogan.
Take Jerry Rice and Brett Favre. Rice, arguably the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game, amassed almost 23,000 yards through the air and 197 receiving touchdowns in 20 NFL seasons. This past Sunday, he placed second on Dancing With the Stars. I suppose that’s better than Favre, the only player to ever become a three-time MVP, who refuses to make a retirement decision despite a career-high 29 interceptions this past season.
Yet, even athletes who go out on top have their good times come to an end eventually. What should have been Michael Jordan’s last shot – when he sideswiped Bryon Russell to free him up for a game-winning shot to win his sixth NBA title – was tarnished by his two seasons as an old man with the Washington Wizards. Now, Jordan’s name is only mentioned in shoe ads and gambling conspiracies.
Even John Elway, who ended his career with two straight Super Bowl wins, is now the owner of the Colorado Crush of the Arena Football League. His colleague in the league? Jon Bon Jovi, the co-owner of the Philadelphia Soul. Let’s just say Elway is now too, living on a prayer.
Four members of their respective Hall of Fames have now become four athletes whose time has passed and whose lives have taken a distinct turn – whether for better or for worse.
In sports, there is always a younger product ready to fill the role as “The Next Big Thing.” When LeBron James was in high school, he was already being anointed as the next Michael Jordan. Now, the Akron, Ohio, native is being supplanted by O.J. Mayo as the best basketball player ever – in his state.
It’s sad to say, but even for athletes – maybe especially for athletes – getting old is a bitch.
It even happens to Cornell kids. Senior Lenny Collins came to Cornell ready to take the reigns of the basketball team from Ka’Ron Barnes ’04. He did, as he became the Ivy League’s Rookie of the Year. But, despite turning around the perennial Ancient Eight doormat during his four short years with the Red, the task of bringing the team to the Promised Land now falls to current freshman Adam Gore.
In football, quarterback D.J. Busch ’04 transferred from Colorado State to play for the Red, only to split time with then-junior Ryan Kuhn in his senior campaign. Despite rushing for 1,000 yards this past season, Kuhn’s time has also passed, and now it is up to freshman Nathan Ford to bring the Red an Ivy League title.
Unfortunately, this cruel cycle often results in a sad ending, and though everyone is remembered fondly once they are gone, they still end their careers in the history books.
In the movie Any Given Sunday (the inspiration for my column’s name – but we’ll save that for another story), Willie Beamen, played by Jamie Foxx, tells his coach Tony D’Amato, played by Al Pacino, that when his career was over he didn’t want to be just another face in an old picture on the wall. Well, sorry Willie, I hate to break it to you, but that’s just how life goes.
Which is why my message is the most cliche saying out there – cherish these days.
Yet, don’t just focus on winning and losing. Because nobody will care what place the football (or sprint football) team finished in 2005. What really matters are the bonds that are forged – and there is no better place to form those bonds than at Cornell.
This past weekend my parents made the trip up to Ithaca and my dad pointed out a bumper sticker that read something like “Ithaca: five square miles surrounded by reality.”
I told him the slogan was absolutely right. That for the past four years all of us in the Class of 2006 have lived in a Never-Never Land, where time stops as if you were Peter Pan.
Now, my time has run out as well. Not yet at Cornell, but here at The Sun. Thanks for all the memories, everyone. I will miss you all.
Chris Mascaro is the Sun Sports Editor. He May Be Tall will appear every other Friday this semester.