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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student


Column: Moss, Arenas should know individual comebacks don't usually end well

This week brought news of the retired Randy Moss planning an NFL comeback and an unemployed Gilbert Arenas trying to break back into the NBA.

I hope each thought long and hard about these decisions.

The simple, sad fact of the matter is that comebacks rarely work in the world of sports. Very, very few players can come back at the level of Michael Jordan in 1995. Heck, most would be lucky to come back at the level of a 2001 Michael Jordan.

When a player retires, they do so for a reason. Usually, it’s physical. A player is a shell of his former self and, despite name recognition he or she might have accrued during a career, the player now has less to contribute to a team than a younger, lesser-known newcomer.

There is a laundry list of NFL running backs, such as Corey Dillon, who had nothing to contribute by the end of their careers. Yet even Dillon, the man who lost his job to Laurence Maroney, contemplated a comeback.

Look at the small handful of players who have managed to launch successful returns to professional sports. Few of them had typical retirements to begin with. Ricky Williams left football for the first time in the prime of his career and was still in near-top shape upon his return, especially considering that a year studying holistic medicine in India and smoking pot takes much less of a toll on the body than a year of playing football.

The other notable tale of a player successfully coming back is, of course, Michael Vick. Again, his circumstances were far from typical. Even after spending two seasons away from the game while incarcerated, Vick was still just 29 years old upon his return and clearly physically able to star once again.

The case of someone like Moss or Arenas is different. Their former dominance was due to supreme physical prowess. At 25, in any sport, a player with their talent can succeed on that alone. Every sport has positions and playing styles based on this: the slashing swingman in basketball, the five-tool baseball outfielder and football’s speedy scatback, among other positions.

Once these players age, they simply cannot continue to play the way they had. Their bodies will not allow it, and their declines are sudden and, pending a reinvention of their roles, permanent.

If there is an exception to the rule that aging and retired players cannot still play, it would be baseball, largely due to the propensity of players to reinvent themselves. Baseball allows single-trait players to thrive late in their careers. There will always be a place for lumbering, power-hitting veterans and defensive-whiz middle infielders.

Of all the names bandied about regarding possible comebacks, Manny Ramirez might be the one worth paying attention to. Even if he is utterly abysmal in the field, and we all know he will be, the man can probably still slam the ball over the fence with authority a solid 25 to 30 times a year. A drug suspension is all that really kept him from playing this past season.

This is not the case with Moss and Arenas. Both certainly had their shares of clowning behavior that they might want to believe is the reason they are unemployed. However, the fact remains that the last time they were employed, they brought shockingly little to their teams.

They were not the players they used to be and should not pretend it will be any
different now.

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