Dear Crabby, When Should A Pro Athlete Retire?

Dear Crabby,

I’m a huge NASCAR fan and I was bummed earlier this week when Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced he would retire after this season. And while it’s sad to see such a legacy come to an end, I can understand him wanting to move on. But it did get me wondering about other pro athletes. Are there any that you think should retire?

Rhonda Racetrack

Dear Ms. Racetrack,

You pose an interesting question. No one wants to be told when he or she must retire. And I think as long as you can do the job, you should be able to. I mean look at Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe (God rest his soul). He started playing with the Detroit Red Wings in 1946 at 18 and didn’t finish his career until 1980 at the age of 51 for the Hartford Whalers! That’s a lot of slapshots and cross checking! But you just couldn’t keep Gordie off the ice! In fact, during the fall of 1997, when he was 69 years old, the Detroit Vipers of the IHL suited him up (no one could check him) one more time so he could have the distinction of having played six decades of hockey! I don’t know about you, but when I was 69, skating was the last thing on my mind. But that’s what set Gordie apart from other players. He was in a class all by himself. That being said, I think we can all agree that there are some athletes that hang on a little longer than necessary because they’re not quite ready to give up the limelight—paging Brett Favre! Aside from the typical wear and tear that comes with being a pro athlete, sometimes the magic mojo just disappears and the chance for a comeback is slim to none. Take Tiger Woods for example. I mean there was a time no one in golf could touch him. Even I was mesmerized and I don’t like the game. I realize he’s had back surgeries in recent years, but let’s be honest. His game hasn’t been the same since his dirty laundry was aired nearly a decade ago. Perhaps he should just put away his red polo shirt and spend his time counting all his Nike money. And while Michael Phelps is certainly not past his prime, he might want to think about hanging up his speedo. Really. What else is there left to accomplish? He’s been in four Olympics and is currently the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time with a measly 28 medals (23 of which are gold). The only thing that could top his career is if he swam the 4×4 team relay event all by himself and won. Phelps would be in his mid 30s by the time Tokyo 2020 rolls around, and I guess that’s when we’ll find out if he’ll be a fish in or out of the water. To be fair, it’s not just the men that seem to have trouble bowing out gracefully. There are also female pro athletes that need to know when to fold ‘em. And as much as I’ve enjoyed watching her defying stereotypes and expectations for over two decades, I think Venus Williams may want to consider leaving Centre Court sooner rather than later. While she’s had an amazing career, she’s battled health issues and well, her baby sister Serena zoomed by her a long time ago. She can still play doubles with Serena. After all, tennis great Martina Navratilova kept right on winning in doubles after she retired from singles competition.

But hey. What do I know? I’m just an old codger with two bad knees and back spasms. I couldn’t do half of what these pro athletes do, but I’d like to think I’d be smart enough to know when it was time to call it quits. Because being an armchair QB is so much fun than actually playing the game. Right, Brett Favre?

Hope this answers your question!
Dear Crabby

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Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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