As NBA legend and TNT commentator Charles Barkley routinely says, “Father Time is undefeated.” Aging is a natural part of life, but it’s particularly sobering for professional athletes.
Old-age has reduced Jerry Rice to an NFL training camp casualty whose only path to making the Denver Broncos’ roster was on special teams.
Old-age gave fans a 60 lbs. overweight Shawn Kemp wheezing up and down the court with the Orlando Magic, a far cry from the athletic marvel known as the ‘Reign Man’ who dazzled with the Supersonics.
And old-age forced fans to watch a punch-drunk Muhammad Ali degrade himself for cash against Larry Holmes.
Now Father Time’s bell tolls for Tony Romo.
Romo is soon to turn 37-years-old, and it’s an old 37. Playing behind a questionable offensive line for the majority of his career, Romo has taken a beating and suffered multiple back injuries.
Romo’s latest back injury was the most devastating because it afflicted him a harrowing condition: Wally Pipp Syndrome. Pipp was the New York Yankee who missed a game due to a headache, and permanently lost his starting job to Lou Gehrig.
In the dog-eat-dog world of professional sports, the Dallas Cowboys cast aside Romo after finding a new pup to lead their pack. Dak Prescott entrenched himself as the starting quarterback and left Romo without a home.
As aging veterans often do, Romo assessed his options. He looked for the right situation with a playoff team in need of a quarterback. The “right situation” routinely eludes veterans in their twilight while in search of a new landing spot.
Dan Marino couldn’t find one after his Miami Dolphins career ended with an ugly 62-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the second worst playoff defeat in NFL history. He took an analyst job.
Steve Young’s Hall-of-Fame career with the San Francisco 49ers ended during a mid-season Monday Night Football game when he suffered the last of many concussions, coincidentally the same year as Marino. Young flirted with making a comeback on another team, but it never materialized. He, too, took an analyst job.
Romo is no different.
After the right situation didn’t materialize, Romo turned to the broadcasting booth so he could spend more time with his family, a common refrain from players on the way out the door.
Romo’s desire for more family time is assuredly sincere, but it was only a few short months ago he said, “If you think for a second that I don’t want to be out there, then you’ve probably never felt the ecstasy of competing and winning. That hasn’t left me. In fact, it may burn more now than ever.”
A lot can change in a few months, but at least a small part of Romo eagerly anticipates a phone call from the “right situation.”
It must be difficult to compete at the highest level one day, and then be a spectator the next. Those competitive juices simply don’t vanish overnight, so it’s no surprise Romo entertained playing for the Dallas Mavericks for one game.
But it didn’t happen. There was too much impracticality. The same thing can certainly be said for any potential Romo comeback. Idle chatter will crop up, and then fizzle out, like most professional careers unceremoniously do.
Tony Romo is retired. It’s not a four-letter word. It’s a natural progression. Here’s hoping he doesn’t fight it by donning an unfamiliar jersey as a shell of his former self.