We’ll be the first to admit that professional football is a tough game. But it’s even tougher because of policies that put the league’s profits over player safety. At this very moment, Roger Goodell and his goons are sitting in a smoke-filled room, plotting how they can further compromise the well-being of their employees. Thursday Night Football and its future bastard children Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday Night Football show just how much the NFL cares about its players. It’s not their fault; they’re obliged to maximize revenue by getting eyeballs on TVs. It’s capitalism, or whatever.
But it takes two to tango, and many players are willing to risk their health to live the American Dream of colliding helmet-first into giant men at breakneck speeds. On the 26th anniversary of Bo Jackson’s career-ending injury, we thought it’d be interesting to take a look back at the other NFL greats who left it all on the field.
No 5: Michael Irvin
Like so many beautiful things, Michael Irvin’s football career ended in Philadelphia. The Cowboys legend had an unfortunate landing during a tackle and was temporarily paralyzed. Many of the Eagles fans present cheered, as is customary when a player’s motor functions have been compromised. Every once in a while someone will ask us if Philly sports fans are as bad as everyone says. Our answer is always yes. Yes, they are.
No 4: Sterling Sharpe
Sterling Sharpe was one of Brett Favre’s first loves. His silky hands helped the ol’ gunslinger bring the Packers to their early 90’s successes, but a neck injury ended his career before they won the Super Bowl in the ’96 season. At his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Sterling’s brother Shannon implored HoF voters to consider the case for Sterling. We can’t say we like his chances, since the only thing worse than an NFL HoF voter is an MLB HoF voter.
No 3: Dwight Stephenson
On the comparitively lucky side of the spectrum is Dwight Stephenson, who made the Hall of Fame despite having his career cut short by a knee injury. Dwight was the best center in the league when the Jets’ Marty Lyons and Joe Klecko high-lowed his career into the history books.
No 2: Joe Theismann
Goodell and his minions are working very hard to prevent what happened to Joe Theismann from ever happening again. If you’re a good quarterback not named Cam Newton, the NFL desperately wants you to keep playing, because without someone who can throw the ball their product isn’t so hot. Lawrence Taylor’s hit on Theisman was voted the most shocking moment in NFL history by ESPN, and it’ll probably stay that way.
No 1: Bo Jackson
We all know the story: candidate for best running back ever blows his knee out in extremely gruesome fashion before having a chance to be the best player of all time.
So what’s the solution?
Human growth hormone? Medical marijuana? Deer Antler Spray? Yoga?
Well, no, it’s actually something much simpler: early retirement.
C’mon, everyone’s doing it. Just hang up the cleats and call it a day. Become a small business owner. Write a novel. Become a consultant on HBO’s Ballers. Have knees that’ll let you play Ultimate Frisbee and Pokémon Go with your grandkids. Start a collection of classic muscle cars. Read War and Peace. Read the entire Twilight series. Really, there’s lots to do when you’re a normal person, and even more when you’ve got some money saved up. So why not leave the game on top?