When Drew Bledsoe retires, he does it old-school. He doesn’t sign a lucrative contract with ESPN to be another ex-jock constantly irritating me with poor analysis. He hasn’t show up on TV at golf tournaments or other high-profile events that jocks and ex-jocks participate in during the offseason. He’s so retired, that his name rarely pops up anymore for a possible return to the NFL. That’s his own doing after stating flatly he doesn’t want to be a backup QB for anyone.
Even the moment of his retirement was old-school. He wasn’t on TV reading a statement, he didn’t hold a press conference, and he didn’t sign a one-day contract so he could retire with the...Patriots? OK, with the way things ended there, that wasn’t going to happen anyway. Bledsoe simply sent out a statement for people to read. That was it, and it was off to his retreat in the Great Northwest.
Why am I bringing this up now? Because of two things: One was the fact that Vinny Testaverde is going to be a backup in New England again this year. I kind of lump those two together since they were both Parcells’ favorites and one followed the other here in Dallas. I just thought about the contrast – Testaverde must love the game and being around it to keep going at his age and skill level. Bledsoe, on the other hand, said I’m a starter or nothing. I can’t knock that stance, if that’s the way he feels, then by all means stick to it and retire from the limelight, which seems to be exactly what he’s doing.
The other thing was a book review in a Montana newspaper. The Flathead Beacon reviewed something called the Whitefish Review, which is a collection of stories and photos and interviews about the lifestyle up in the mountains. In the article they dropped this on me, discussing one of the segments in the book.
"Drew Bledsoe and the Art of Football" proves the editors can. While the title sounds like something for the Sports Illustrated crowd, the interview succeeds in painting a real person – someone who once lived on wheels, learned to ski in rubber wading boots hooked to a chopped off pair of old skis, and wrestled with the big no-no of jiving skiing with football. In spite of his NFL football superhero training, Bledsoe comes off as human as the rest of us, "roll[ing] into ski season thinking I’d be in shape," but never having his ski legs.
Sounds like Bledsoe will be enjoying a life of golf in the warm months, and some skiing in the cold months. In between that, a lot of time spent with the family and his charities.
I have to admit a third thing reminded me of Bledsoe just yesterday on TV. The Cowboys playoff loss was being replayed on the NFL Network. It got me wondering what Bledsoe was thinking about the dropped snap at the end of the game by Tony Romo.
I was reminded of a scene from the movie North Dallas Forty where the Nick Nolte character is sitting on the bench during the big game because the coach had decided to start another WR. During the game a pass is thrown to the starting WR and the Nolte character is shown on the bench mouthing the words "drop it". The receiver does drop it, and Nolte is shown with a quick look of satisfaction, followed by guilt at rooting against his own team in the hopes that he would get put in the game and fear that someone else might have seen him doing that.
So what was Bledsoe thinking at the moment? Did he have a moment of brief satisfaction knowing Romo wouldn’t pull a Brady on him? Was Bledsoe relieved that he dodged a possible second bullet, one where another unknown QB takes over a team from him early in the season and leads them to glory and a Super Bowl? Just think about that topper to his career, the guy known for twice being replaced by unknowns, twice being seen as the impediment to a team’s true potential.
But Bledsoe probably felt genuinely sorry for Romo, and maybe a little sadness that his own career was likely over. While his personality came across as cool and aloof, in a very professional sort of way, he did through actions show he was a team player. In both the Romo and the Brady case, Bledsoe could’ve tried to sabotage the team and make a big ruckus in the locker room about losing his job. In both cases, he stated he thought he should get the job back, but he never really made any trouble behind the scenes.
Look, if you’re reading this article for some kind of coherent storyline with a poignant ending, sorry to disappoint you. I don’t have a real ending and would have never written this article if there was any real Cowboys news happening. But there isn’t, so it’s just reflections on an old-school retirement, where a high-profile athlete with a long career simply says goodbye, and walks off the field.
In some ways, I admire it.