John Elway left the game that he devoted his life to in a way that most athletes dream about. Elway retired after winning his second Super Bowl in 1999. Many players talk about leaving their respective sports on their own accord and he accomplished that. However, for every Elway story there are hundreds of athletes that don’t quite get that luxury and we might have witnessed that in two bitter fashions this weekend.
Derek Jeter is a living legend on the roster of the most legendary franchise in professional sports. For 17 years, Jeter’s hard work and play has earned him respect not only in New York but around the entire baseball league. A 13-time all-star, five-time Gold Glove winner, four-time Silver Slugger winner, and having more than 3,000 career hits, Jeter is in consideration to be the greatest Yankee of all time.
On Saturday, Jeter fractured his left ankle in the 12th inning during game one of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. He had to be assisted off the field which was a shocking sight as Jeter has been relatively healthy and a mark of consistency over his entire career. At 38 years old, the image of Jeter carried off field by trainer Steve Donohue and manager Joe Girardi could be the last we see of him in a Yankee uniform.
The very next day, Ray Lewis, middle linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens, tore his left tricep in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. On Monday, news came out that Lewis is going to be out for the season.
Lewis has been in the league since 1996 and led the Ravens to a 2000 Super Bowl win, was voted into 13 Pro Bowls, and has racked up 2,051 regular season tackles. At 37, though slowed down, he continued to play the game at a high level. There is no guarantee that if Lewis were to come back he could still perform the way he did in the “young man’s league” the NFL has become.
These two incidents happening on consecutive days need to serve as a wake-up call for all sports fans to really cherish the superstars still performing at a high-level in the twilight of their careers. “Father time” is the only foe that has never been defeated and will continue to get to every athlete that has stepped on the field, ice, hardwood, or ring.
Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning are seemingly all on the tail ends of their careers. They have all made significant contributions to their sports for over a decade at the highest levels but they still go out and perform better than foes that were in elementary school when they began playing professionally.
Conversely to the terrible injuries to Jeter and Lewis this weekend, we did see a superstar in the twilight of his career shine in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Anderson Silva. Silva dazzled in a performance in his home country of Brazil against Stephan Bonnar. Through sharp foot and head movement, Silva finished the fight with a flying knee to the sternum, dropping Bonnar and giving him his first loss ever by stoppage in 23 fights.
Silva is widely considered the greatest of all time in the sport and winning 17 fights in a row definitely reinforces that concept. At 37, Silva may not have many fights left but he is a spectacle to watch every time he steps in the octagon.