Overstaying the welcome

So, Jerome Bettis gets his Super Bowl ring ... and then announces "The Bus" is being garaged.

Neither bit of news Sunday -- Steelers winning the Super Bowl or Bettis announcing his retirement moments after winning the championship -- was much of surprise. Super Bowl XL will probably go down more in history as the game the Seahawks gave away rather than the Steelers winning.

For Bettis, it was a nice end to a nice career. When you ask who are the top five rushers in NFL history at the water cooler or watering hole, the first three ... make that three and a half ... should be easy. Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders should take all of 8 milliseconds to spit out.

Number four? C'mon. You know it. All those who guessed Curtis Martin, take a big step forward.

Number five is that one that makes you say "Oh, I know that one ... I'm gonna kick myself when I hear his name." Big hint. He just called it quits.

And that brings me to what I really want write about. Have you seen Jerome Bettis? Shades of the Bears' William Perry 20 years ago. There is no delicate way to put it -- Bettis is out of shape for a running back. May be just perfect for an offensive lineman though.

Players who stick around professional sports one (or a few seasons) too long are all too common. And then again why not? They are treated as gods and make incredible amounts of money even when not playing.

As for that last point, professional players get a per diem -- meal money -- that they can spend as they please. Why go to Peter Luger's of Chicago Chophouse when you can hit Subway?

So, ESPN radio about a week or so ago posed a question to listeners: if you could go back in time and tell any player to stop and retire before they played that one final -- painful season -- who would it be?

Here are some for you to consider ...

1) Joe Namath: "Broadway Joe" will always be linked with the New York Jets and for trying to get inside the pants of ESPN's Suzy Kolber on national TV. Does anyone remember him with the Los Angeles Rams? Four games in 1977. Three touchdowns. Five interceptions. Just 606 passing yards.

2) Willie Mays: Some say the greatest center fielder ever with 660 career homers, 3,283 hits and 338 stolen bases. Returned to New York to play with the Mets and managed just 44 hits, six homers and 25 RBI in 209 at-bats. Ouch.

3) Michael Jordan: For my money, the greatest NBA player I ever saw. Even though he averaged better than 20 points per game in his final two seasons in Washington Wizards blue, black and bronze, he looked little like the player that averaged more than 30 points seven straight seasons and the Chicago Bulls to six championships.

4) Mario Lemieux. Love hockey. Love that he kept Pittsburgh on the NHL map -- for now. Questioned the decision to come back after the lockout. Seven goals in 26 games before calling it career last month because of a heart problem. In his defense, he got the chance to play with Sidney Crosby, possibly the next Lemieux.

Who would you pick? What do you think? I'd like to know.

No comments: