By Joe Torosian
“They come, and they go, Hobbs. They come, and they go.”—Max Mercy, Sportswriter
It is the equivalent to walking the Green Mile.
You keep the function of your heart and lungs, you keep your debts, you keep your savings, your family, your memory, and other hopes and dreams.
But when they tell you, you are done playing the sport you love, grew up loving, still love, and make a living by…You die.
(“Making a living” is not just a paycheck, but something that makes you live. It pays you back with self-worth and enjoyment.)
Nothing illustrates this more than cut downs in the NFL. When you’re cut in the NFL, it’s for two reasons. One, it’s a numbers game. You’re the fifth receiver, and they’ve only got four slots. Hope can be held that another team may need you.
Two, they don’t want you anymore because your body is finished.
And if your body is finished, your finished. No one else is going to want you to play football for them.
It’s over. Time to turn to something else, time to go down another highway, time to pick back up those other dreams.
Unless you were foolish enough not to have any other dreams, any other hopes, any other plans.
The worst thing a football player can do—the worst thing any athlete can do—is not have another plan. To not consider their athletic mortality. Because we all end up walking the Green Mile. We all die in sports.
Whether we make money or just play for fun. It ends.
And I’ll rub a little more salt in the wound by saying this: You will be forgotten.
A couple of people here and there, a nerd sportswriter, might recall you once in a while. Toss your name out when conversation lags…But, trust me, you will be forgotten.
I didn’t watch all of the Oklahoma thrashing of Houston the other night…but did the name Billy Sims come up? He was the Sooners Heisman Trophy winner in 1978. Did the name Jamelle Holieway come up? He led Oklahoma to the national title in 1985 as a freshman. (Replacing an injured Troy Aikman)
Maybe they were mentioned, but perhaps it was only in passing. School officials didn’t stop the clock and tell everyone in the stadium who these guys were. There was no reflective pause to honor their greatness on the gridiron.
No stadium does that because all they care about now in Norman, Oklahoma, is Jalen Hurts. At Clemson, they care about Trevor Lawrence, not Homer Jordan. At USC they’re more concerned about who is going to be the quarterback going forward than talking about Paul McDonald and Tim Green who led them to Rose Bowl victories.
And rightly so.
Let’s scale it back…without using names…I’ve seen D-1 athletes return to their high school alma mater for a game, stand on the sideline, and go unrecognized. The only one that recognized them was me. All I did was drop their names in a one-sentence blurb in my column.
I’ve seen legendary but less than D-1 talent come home and go unrecognized.
It all ends.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it, it doesn’t mean you should give any less, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t rejoice with your friends…It only means none of it is going to last. Your career will end, the time clock will expire, and you will be forgotten.
“Gee Joe, thanks for the encouragement.”
…And it’s my pleasure.
The cliche of the ages is true…time goes on.
Enjoy your moment, and stop worrying about the moments you think you’re going to make at the next level. Enjoy where you are at now and make the most of it.
There will be a day when even the greatest of athletes will look back and wish they made it less about themselves and more about the moments they shared with their teams.
While it’s a guarantee that you will be forgotten or, at best, stuck on a dusty shelf. If you take the time to make memories with those you are in the trenches with now, those memories will last a lifetime.
The Dude abides…
Joe T. is the author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”…all five available through Amazon.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joet13b