It Might Be Best If Every NFL Player Follows Calvin Johnson’s Lead And Just Retires
You know when you're dating somebody and you really start to like them, but know that they're not good for you? They're destructive, or mean, or they support Donald Trump. If you're smart and levelheaded, you break things off before they get too serious. But sometimes you're incapable of letting go. Maybe the sex is too good. Maybe you can't stop thinking about all the good times you've already had, and how you want more of those times in the future. Maybe you think they'll change if you can just hold on long enough. And you get to the point where you basically force them to dump you, because there's no way you're capable of walking away yourself -- you're in too deep, too invested, too in love.
That's kind of where a lot of people, including myself, are at with the NFL nowadays. Which is why I like that Calvin Johnson is retiring, and hope more players follow suit.
Of course, I'm not glad that Calvin Johnson is retiring, because Calvin Johnson is really good at football. In his prime, he was an absolute monster and just terrifying to face, whether in real life or fantasy. He made the game more fun to watch. So if he leaves, by my calculations, the game will be less fun.
But just like that girl who I still pined for even when she ignored my emails, blew me off at parties, told me off in front of her friends and refused to say the things I wanted to hear... I can't be the one to stop watching Calvin Johnson. Calvin Johnson needs to remove himself from my television screen in order for me to let him go. He needs to be the one to walk away.
There are millions like me out there, I think. We know football as currently played is too brutal to exist in this day and age, but we grew up loving it and can't imagine fall Sundays without it. We'll act as if we have the moral high ground, pointing out that football is a killer, but still tune in to watch people absolutely destroy one another's futures. It's like saying you support local small businesses, then buying everything from Amazon. We're stupid like that.
If the American public won't stop watching, some of these guys are going to have to stop playing.
I'm not saying this is fair, or rational, or right. But it's how I feel. I know football is destroying the minds and bodies of my heroes. I know guys I used to cheer for now rue the day they ever chose such a painful and unforgiving game to play. I know that the NFL, for all its empty platitudes about safety and brain damage, is really more interested in the bottom line than the health of its players -- because we are all more interested in something other than the health of the players. Why else do we watch? Why else do we celebrate big hits and roast guys who refuse to fall on a football that a group of large men is also barreling towards? We are addicted and addicts need their drug taken away from them. It's really, really tough to let go when we can convince ourselves that things will change, that the bad will disappear and be replaced by the good in the relationship. We cling to the possibilities, and ignore the facts.
So I salute guys like Calvin Johnson, who know that enough is enough. I also salute guys like Chris Borland, who take an honest look at the game and realize that sacrificing their body and mind is not worth it. And I hope more players pack it up, and take themselves out of the equation. Because unless the game of football changes to reflect what we now know about what the game does to the human body, we'll all be stuck in a relationship that isn't good for us.