By A. Ray Lee
The forty-five-year-old all-pro quarterback sat alone and dejected on the sidelines as the final seconds ticked off the clock in what was possibly his last game in a long and storied career. For him, it was the last outing of the season and his team was losing badly. He had not been able to lead them to victory. On the field, his frustration had been evident over his own performance. With the final whistle, the team was out of the playoffs and their season was over. As the TV cameras panned his face there seemed to be a distant and forlorn look in his eyes as he stared into space.
It had been a difficult season. He was known by many as the GOAT (the greatest of all time), but now after many accolades, winning seasons, and super bowl rings, his passes had lost their zip and accuracy. He was no longer able to avoid the rush of charging defensive players while nimbly turning what seemed to be a certain loss into a gain. He was on the downhill side of the pinnacle of his career but seemed reluctant to recognize the effect of aging and the hard knocks he had received. He had recently changed teams seeking to length his playing days and perhaps add another ring to his collection.
Late in the game, when the score had gotten out of hand, the play-by-play announcers had turned their attention away from the action on the field as they speculated about the old pro’s future. It seemed to them and millions watching on TV that he was at a crossroads in his life’s journey. After the game, he would need to make a decision as to which road he might take. The question “what now” would have to be faced. Several possibilities seemed to present themselves.
He could try to make another comeback as he had after retiring before. But to their embarrassment, old quarterbacks like “Broadway” Joe Namath and the fierce competitor, Brett Farve, and others, finally had to admit their abilities were only a modicum of that which they had once possessed.
Because of his knowledge of the game, he would be an ideal person to fill a position with ESPN where he could sit around a table with other mid-age “has-bens” and discuss current sports with a wishful look in his eyes while inwardly recalling the glories of past days.
He could cut a deal with a sporting goods company and endorse their line of clothing. They would pay him well simply for the use of his name.
Another possibility was to leave the sports scene entirely and live out his years in ease with his family. Yet that seemed to be a farfetched thought. His long-suffering wife had finally divorced him after being second fiddle to his career. The rift had become so deep and wide that it would be difficult to repair.
To my knowledge the question of “what now” has not been answered. I believe he, like each of us, would do well to ponder the age-old question asked by Jesus. “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26).