Oh, yay, Rob Gronkowski is coming back. Just what the National Football League (NFL) needs, more old men who are getting attention for nostalgic purposes. With Percy Harvin now looking to come out of retirement I’m starting to wonder if retirements in the NFL will become as legitimate as those in professional wrestling (which at this point is just a joke of the industry) and I can’t stand it.
The most prominent instance retirees unretiring is Brett Farve (who is the football version of Ric Flair as both couldn’t make up their mind if they wanted to retire or not). Farve left the Packers for retirement and then came back wanting his job back over Aaron Rodgers (who is a better quarterback). That’s not how things work Brett, and Green Bay understood that so he was shipped off to the Jets. Here’s a fun little side note: due to Farve’s antics Madden 08 had him grace the cover in Green Bay and New York uniforms. After a one year stay in the Big Apple, he retired… again. I remember this unretirement quite vividly as I was in Cape Cod, Massachusetts on a nice summer vacation. By this time the NFL Network had a reoccurring segment called “Farve Watch.” This got so big, my grandmother was asking about it (she’s a big Steelers fan but doesn’t follow other teams). He joined the Minnesota Vikings, played two more agonizing seasons, and finally rode off into the sunset.
“Prime Time” Dion Sanders retired from the NFL after the 2000 season when he played for the Washington Redskins. Four years later he unretired to play with the Baltimore Ravens for (arguably) his worst two seasons. Why he did this I don’t know but at least this helped us forget his rap album The Encore Remix that came out in 2005.
If you think all unretirements are bad there is, as, in everything, an elusive outlier. Fittingly, in this case, the man who fits this description is Randall Cunningham. It’s easy to forget this but between his runs with the Eagles and Vikings he sat out the 1996 campaign. Without Cunningham coming back we may have never gotten the explosive 1998 Minnesota Vikings season that helped launch Randy Moss into the limelight may have never happened.
I see retirement as the end. It’s a final decision a professional athlete has to make and it is a hard one. But going back on it almost seems like a coward’s way out. At the rate of unretirements we currently have, I take them with a grain of salt which is something I shouldn’t be doing.