Tag: retirement

[Business Day One] Roll for Lambeau Leap

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On March 4th, Packers quarterback Brett Favre announced his retirement and Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax passed away.  To be sure, it was a tough day for gaming groups in the greater Green Bay area.

Normally, when you hear news of a big time sports star retiring or a major social icon retiring (yes, I’m calling Gary Gygax a social icon), their days of contribution are long past.  Defensive lineman Warren Sapp, who retired on that same March 4th, was at least three or four seasons removed from his era of dominance.  But in the cases of Favre and Gygax, they still had something in the tank.  Favre had his highest passer rating since 1996 (and his third highest ever) in a more mature and complicated offense.  Gygax still found ways to contribute to the nerd and geek culture even after starting to take it easy in the year leading up to his death.  They were icons, yes, but neither were mere figureheads.

Each represented escapism in their own way, because each let us imagine ourselves as heroes.  We watched Favre throw three touchdowns (and an interception) in a Sunday snowstorm and could see ourselves right beside him in the huddle.  We played in Gygax’s world and fought goblins and explored ancient castles with our buddies.  Both sport and gaming allow us to shed everything we don’t want and take up everything we do.  Whether people spend their Sundays in front of an HDTV or a dice-strewn table, the same type exhilaration manifests.  And we have these two to thank.

So whatever you want to do to celebrate, please do.  Slay some Beholders, paint your face in green and yellow, order ten pizzas and hang out with your buddies.  Heck, do all three.  I know plenty of folks that did.

Toughest Man in America

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340x.jpgBrett Favre announced his retirement today, ending an amazing seventeen year career, which included 253 consecutive starts at quarterback, 160 wins, 63 games with at least three touchdowns, and 3 AP NFL MVP awards. I will admit to not closely following his career except in a prurient sort of way, but I know enough that his career achievements are amazing and speak of an incredible amount of dedication.

Favre left a voicemail for Chris Mortensen this morning. And the clip for some dumb reason omits the first part of the voicemail, where he starts off by saying, “I’m just tired.” And he stammers through describing all his reasons. And he says that he would have big shoes to fill if he stayed. And it’s just so heartbreaking.

The Strengthless Dead

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Saturday’s NFL Hall of Fame induction brought a lot of noise to Canton. You had the steady applause for Cleveland Browns legend Gene Hickerson, the tearful emotion in Michael Irvin’s voice as he talked about letting his sons down and the raucous cheers for Bills running back Thurman Thomas.

But one thing the Hall of Fame ceremony quietly missed was former Chicago Bears coach and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka:

Mike Ditka won’t be in Canton, Ohio, for Saturday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony and won’t attend another until the NFL and the players’ union improve their treatment of disabled players.“The system is flawed and when they fix the system I’ll go back,” the former Chicago Bears coach and player told The Associated Press on Friday.

Ditka said his beef isn’t with the pension system, but with the scarcity of disability payments. League officials have said 317 players collect disability totaling about $20 million a year.

Coach DitkaA handful of retired players testified before Congress in late June on this very subject, Ditka among them:

Even though two of three NFL doctors agreed [former Vikings offensive lineman Brent] Boyd is disabled as result of football-related concussions, his request for full disability of about $8,000 a month was rejected by the league and its players’ union, reports Bowers.[…]

Curt Marsh, an Oakland Raider from 1981-87, described a leg amputation, more than 30 surgeries and multiple doctor visits before he was approved.

The late Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers’ center who suffered from mental illness that was widely attributed to head injuries, died homeless in 2002, his lawyer told the committee.

[…]

Retired football players have been openly critical of the NFL and the players’ union over the amount of money older retirees get from a $1.1 billion fund set aside for disability and pensions.

The league says $126 million a year goes into pension and post-career disability benefits for retired players and their families. The accounts pay out $60 million a year to those players, $20 million of it for disability payments.

But only 317 out of more than 10,000 eligible players are getting disability payments out of that fund, officials said.

So there’s a $1,100,000,000 fund for retired NFL players, out of which regular pensions and disability benefits are drawn. $126,000,000 is drawn from it every year (though somehow the players, disabled or otherwise, only get their hands on $60,000,000). That’s 11% of the fund’s stock, which is presumably replenished through investment.

The NFLPA says that the Pension Plan has an actuarial liability of $1.034 billion1. By their estimates (and it jives with the math we saw in the other articles), that covers 93% of their obligations. That’s insanely good for a pension fund – companies like United Airlines and General Motors have underfunded their pensions for decades2. In other words, the NFL can afford to pick up a few more tabs.

Muhammad AliDitka boycotted the ceremonies on Saturday to make a point. But he also could have been avoiding a depressing sight – row after row of shaken old men. Howie Long described it after his induction in 2000: “it was a travesty, the kind of carnage I saw out of these guys who were in their 50s and 60s.” The only thing sadder than seeing athletes long past their prime is imagining the poverty many of them live in. There’s no excuse for that.

1 “Actuarial liability” is the present-day value of a sum of money I’ve promised you in the future, discounted back to today to take into account interest and growth and stuff. If I promise you $1000 in a year, and we’re presuming 10% annual return, I have an actuarial liability of $909.09. That’s why we call it Nerds on Sports, people.

2 They’re counting on Medicare to bail them out.

[Business Day One] Don’t Call It Retirement

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I was browsing the channels yesterday and stumbled upon a commercial for NBC’s Fourth Of July Fireworks Spectacular.  As a resident of Boston, I do not have much interest in staying in and watching a televised party.  Wouldn’t make sense to, what with the Pops playing while barges on the Charles River launch fireworks for all of Eastern Massachusetts to see.  However, my interest was immediately piqued when I saw who was hosting – the not unattractive Natalie Morales, and the New York Giants’ all time leading rusher, Tiki Barber.

“Whoa,” I actually said out loud.  “Good for Tiki.”

Tiki Barber is 32 years old and, if he was still playing, would be entering the phase of his career where commentators begin using phrases like “timeless,” “elder statesman” or “lot of miles on those legs” during the pre-game shows.  Every hit he sustained would give the analysts pause for a half-second longer, to see if the aging running back got gained his last yards.  Retirement questions would begin to pile up, and we’d get to hear Tiki answer them every week in front of the relentless New York media.

But Tiki Barber is not still playing.  Read More

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