Tom Brady is the last one. All of my other heroes are retired, and I do not like this feeling.
Over the last nine years I have witnessed a parade of retirements from my favorite athletes across all of my favorite sports: Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jeff Gordon, and now Tom Brady. My only remaining favorite athlete left is Jeff Hardy, but he is banished to the deep mid-card with about 2 TV appearances per month with a fraction of his previous athleticism. WWE cannot truly count as ”retirement” because it is a performance where anyone at any age can reappear at any time. But even then, WWE without the likes of John Cena and the Undertaker just feels empty.
We millennials have a unique relationship with nostalgia, and the sports and entertainment industries know it. Millennials crave the product of our childhood to the point where we spend our hard earned money trying to buy it back. Corporate America completely knows this, and they jump at any chance to take advantage of us. At the end of the day, it is our fault, because we gladly let them. Actually, we demand that they do.
I feel like there is a generational depression and anxiety that came as a result of constant and drastic societal change over our short times on earth so far. As a result, we long for the days where life was about simple enjoyment and bright colors. Wether millennials admit it or not, and most of us do, we hate today’s world.
So what does this have to do with sports? Well, everything. We have developed the same affection for our favorite athletes the same way we developed affection for our favorite cartoons and music. It is a call back to the time we wish returned. We welcomed these people into our homes to entertain us and our families for years. In a big way, they have become part of our family experiences. This is hard to let go of.
Seeing Your Favorites Go
In fact, I would argue that our favorite athletes retiring stings the hardest of all of our nostalgic properties because they cannot be recycled in the same way as everything else. Here is an example: I can listen to Backstreet Boys in the car today and it will sound the exact same as it did in 2000; Paramount can re-make ICarly and I can see the continuation of the old story. However, there is only 1 Derek Jeter, and he cannot be recreated, nor can he return. His retirement is final, and there cannot be any turning back. It is a reminder of every millennials biggest fear: mortality.
Only three things in life are guaranteed: death, taxes, and change. One of those changes, is that one day, your favorite athlete will not compete anymore. This is an especially hard pill to swallow for a generation defined by its longing for the past. I am honest enough to admit that I shed tears for a few minutes when I heard Tom Brady is expected to retire, same as I did when Jeter made his announcement all those years ago. On both occasions they were tears of happiness for a job well done and a heart full of warm memories. They were also tears of sadness acknowledging the passage of time and the unknown of the future.
So to Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, and a few others: thank you for a lifetime.
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