100% life from concentrate
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“In my 24 years of life, I’m better at life than you. It’s not personal, this is résumé. I’m better than you.”
– nfl all-pro stanford graduate richard sherman (pic. center) talking to espn all-pro agitator skip bayless (right). see what sparked the comment (which is up there with “straight cash, homie” on my all-time favorite athlete quotes) in the video below. via complex.
During my 14 years in the N.F.L., my favorite day was Monday. As long as I wasn’t preparing for surgery or being released, Mondays were special. They signified that I had made it through another week and was ready for another opponent. Even the soreness was oh, so sweet.
How I miss those days.
Now my Mondays go something like this: Work on my tennis serve; take a conference call with a Hollywood executive; get my three children to school; browse my favorite Web sites, none of them involving football; check my Words With Friends; and take the dog to day care.
By then, it’s only 10:30 a.m.
Welcome to the life of the secure and utterly bored former professional athlete.
The last thing I need is anybody feeling sorry for me. I’m retired at 36. I’m still in shape, I still run fast and I’m injury free.
So how did I arrive at this place, where the days run together, where sleep is so abundant that I can’t remember the last time I felt tired?
The Steelers. That’s how.
A few hours after the heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh in the A.F.C. championship game that I played with the Jets in January 2011, I was standing by the bus and saying to myself: “This is it. I’m done!”
Then Coach Rex Ryan walked up to me and asked what I was thinking about the next season. I told him that I was emotionally and physically spent and that the last thing I wanted to do was deal with football again.
I’m a man of my word. Fourteen years on the defensive line was long enough. I lasted about 13 more than I thought I would, so I was content. Was I sad? A little. Was I elated and relieved? A lot.
But now I have a question: Rex, do you need a pass rusher next season?
Having retired way before my time, I have started to lose focus and drive. I’m retired from the game I loved. I’m retired from the perks, like getting a table instantly at my favorite restaurant. And I’m retired from the N.F.L. brotherhood. Passed by. At times, I feel ostracized.
The N.F.L. isn’t a street gang. We’re mercenaries willing to work for the highest bidder and willing to get along with whomever we need to in order to keep working. I know why I haven’t heard from any of my former teammates. But it’s not as if I’m looking for them, either. What would we talk about? What do we have in common now? Not much. Once you’re out of the circle, you’re out. So besides my family and a couple of my high school buddies, I don’t have many friends.
“Early retirement” sounds wonderful. It certainly did that cold night in Pittsburgh. I was going to use my time to conquer the world.
Boy, was I wrong. Now I find myself in music chat rooms arguing the validity of Frank Zappa versus the Mars Volta. (If the others only knew Walkingpnumonia was the screen name for a former All-Pro football player and not some Oberlin College student trying to find his place in the world.) I wrote a book. I set sail on the picturesque and calming waters of Bodymore, Murdaland. And when I’m in dire straits, I do what any 8-year-old does; I kick a soccer ball against the garage hoping somebody feels sorry and says, “Hey, want to play?”
With millions of Americans out of work or doing work for which they are overqualified, I consider myself lucky. But starting from scratch can be unsettling. If you’re not prepared for it, retirement can become a form of self-imposed exile from the fulfillment and the exhilaration of knowing you did a good job.
Many people retire around 65. I will turn 37 this summer, yet like all former N.F.L. players, I face greater health risks, both physical and psychological, that compound my fears.
I don’t know why I’m surprised by any of this. I’ve been preparing for retirement since the Denver Broncos drafted me in the first round in 1997. I was part of the inaugural rookie symposium the N.F.L. conducts to help college players make the transition to professional football. Three days of meetings pretty much consisted of the same two messages: use a condom and save your money.
The players who are drafted this week will hear the same warnings. The N.F.L. stands for Not for Long, and if you don’t heed that advice, you will be another statistic. To avoid that fate, I started thinking about the end before my career even started.
The N.F.L. helps active and retired players with off-season programs that teach ways to conquer the music business or the film business, or to work for ESPN. Those programs weren’t around when I started to accept that my career wasn’t going to last forever, so each off-season, I embarked on postfootball endeavors.
During the six-month off-seasons, I pretty much educated myself, dabbling in music, Hollywood, journalism, real estate and everything in between, with varying degrees of success. I was able to do a lot in so little time. Now that I have all the time in the world, it’s amazing how little I accomplish every day. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. Most times not.
Nothing truly prepared me for retirement. It hit me across the face like a Deacon Jones head slap. Suddenly, I’m sitting around at 10:30 a.m. looking for something good on television — which is impossible.
Don’t cry for me, though. I’m getting used to it slowly and will be content with my new life. That is, until Rex calls.
rob gronkowski is a record-setting tight end, a matchup nightmare for whoever lines up across him and a very limited spanish speaker. in this interview with espn deportes, the new england patriot gives the language a shot to comedic results (note his facial expressions throughout). “yo soy fiesta.”
by rick reilly, espn.com:
I’ve come to believe in Tim Tebow, but not for what he does on a football field, which is still three parts Dr. Jekyll and two parts Mr. Hyde.
No, I’ve come to believe in Tim Tebow for what he does off a football field, which is represent the best parts of us, the parts I want to be and so rarely am.
Who among us is this selfless?
Every week, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured. He flies these people and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner (usually at a Dave & Buster’s), gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff (!), gets them 30-yard-line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts.
Home or road, win or lose, hero or goat.
Remember last week, when the world was pulling its hair out in the hour after Tebow had stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 80-yard OT touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the playoffs? And Twitter was exploding with 9,420 tweets about Tebow per second? When an ESPN poll was naming him the most popular athlete in America?
Tebow was spending that hour talking to 16-year-old Bailey Knaub about her 73 surgeries so far and what TV shows she likes.
“Here he’d just played the game of his life,” recalls Bailey’s mother, Kathy, of Loveland, Colo., “and the first thing he does after his press conference is come find Bailey and ask, ‘Did you get anything to eat?’ He acted like what he’d just done wasn’t anything, like it was all about Bailey.”
More than that, Tebow kept corralling people into the room for Bailey to meet. Hey, Demaryius, come in here a minute. Hey, Mr. Elway. Hey, Coach Fox.
Even though sometimes-fatal Wegener’s granulomatosis has left Bailey with only one lung, the attention took her breath away.
“It was the best day of my life,” she emailed. “It was a bright star among very gloomy and difficult days. Tim Tebow gave me the greatest gift I could ever imagine. He gave me the strength for the future. I know now that I can face any obstacle placed in front of me. Tim taught me to never give up because at the end of the day, today might seem bleak but it can’t rain forever and tomorrow is a new day, with new promises.”
I read that email to Tebow, and he was honestly floored.
“Why me? Why should I inspire her?” he said. “I just don’t feel, I don’t know, adequate. Really, hearing her story inspires me.”
It’s not just NFL defenses that get Tebowed. It’s high school girls who don’t know whether they’ll ever go to a prom. It’s adults who can hardly stand. It’s kids who will die soon.
For the game at Buffalo, it was Charlottesville, Va., blue-chip high school QB Jacob Rainey, who lost his leg after a freak tackle in a scrimmage. Tebow threw three interceptions in that Buffalo game and the Broncos were crushed 40-14.
“He walked in and took a big sigh and said, ‘Well, that didn’t go as planned,'” Rainey remembers. “Where I’m from, people wonder how sincere and genuine he is. But I think he’s the most genuine person I’ve ever met.”
There’s not an ounce of artifice or phoniness or Hollywood in this kid Tebow, and I’ve looked everywhere for it.
Take 9-year-old Zac Taylor, a child who lives in constant pain. Immediately after Tebow shocked the Chicago Bears with a 13-10 comeback win, Tebow spent an hour with Zac and his family. At one point, Zac, who has 10 doctors, asked Tebow whether he has a secret prayer for hospital visits. Tebow whispered it in his ear. And because Tebow still needed to be checked out by the Broncos’ team doctor, he took Zac in with him, but only after they had whispered it together.
And it’s not always kids. Tom Driscoll, a 55-year-old who is dying of brain cancer at a hospice in Denver, was Tebow’s guest for the Cincinnati game. “The doctors took some of my brain,” Driscoll says, “so my short-term memory is kind of shot. But that day I’ll never forget. Tim is such a good man.”
This whole thing makes no football sense, of course. Most NFL players hardly talk to teammates before a game, much less visit with the sick and dying.
Isn’t that a huge distraction?
“Just the opposite,” Tebow says. “It’s by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn’t really matter. I mean, I’ll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it’s to invest in people’s lives, to make a difference.”
So that’s it. I’ve given up giving up on him. I’m a 100 percent believer. Not in his arm. Not in his skills. I believe in his heart, his there-will-definitely-be-a-pony-under-the-tree optimism, the way his love pours into people, right up to their eyeballs, until they believe they can master the hopeless comeback, too.
Remember the QB who lost his leg, Jacob Rainey? He got his prosthetic leg a few weeks ago, and he wants to play high school football next season. Yes, tackle football. He’d be the first to do that on an above-the-knee amputation.
Hmmm. Wonder where he got that crazy idea?
“Tim told me to keep fighting, no matter what,” Rainey says. “I am.”
related: check out his foundation website for more on his charity work.
for chicago bears wide receiver sam hurd, football was just a side hustle. with his arrest last night in chicago, he was outed as one of the top drug dealers in the country. from yahoo sports:
According to the statement, the first face-to-face meeting between Hurd and the agent happened on December 14. It was then that Hurd said that “T.L.” was in charge of the majority of the deals, and that Hurd focused on the “high-end” deals. Hurd then asked the agent if Mexican cellular phones could be provided for future deals, as Hurd believed that “law enforcement did not have the capacity of ‘listening to’ Mexican telephones. Hurd then said that he was a member of the Chicago Bears, that his practice ended at 5:30 p.m., and that he could make arrangements to make payment for one kilogram of cocaine that the agent gave him upon completion of negotiations. When Hurd walked away with the coke, he was taken into custody.
hurd told the agent that he was moving 4 kilos of cocaine a week in chicago, but was looking to push it up to 5-10 kis in addition to 1,000 pounds of marijuana. it’s rare enough to become a nfl player or a drug dealer on that level. doing both is unheard of. for more on the different implications of this story, check out the reports from the chicago sun-times and chicago tribune. after the jump, check out a copy of the federal complaint filed against hurd earlier today in dallas. it contains a 5-month timeline of events that led to last night’s arrest.
tonight’s law & order: svu focused on a former football star suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. watching it, my thoughts immediately went to two-time superbowl champion dave duerson. after 11 seasons in the nfl, duerson began to show signs of cte (depression, dementia) but the disease can only be fully diagnosed post-mortem. he ultimately committed suicide last february, shooting himself in the chest to preserve his brain for cte research. duerson’s suicide and later confirmed diagnosis for cte served as a somber reminder that nfl players (and their families) have a lot more on the line each sunday than money and wins. for more on duerson & the effects of cte, check out the article below.
this past weekend, the pro football hall of fame welcomed 7 new members into its family. one of the highlights from the induction ceremony was shannon sharpe’s speech. in what many consider to be the best one delivered at canton, sharpe focused not on his accomplishments but on all of the people and experiences that crafted the person that he is today. it was truly stirring stuff that gave me more respect for him both as a player and as a man. you can watch the speech below and check the full transcript after the jump.
i was just saying that marshawn was playing like a bum when he broke this madden run. great effort by lynch (and the whole team blocking for him)…not so much by the saints.