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The toughest decision a great athlete faces is when to get out of the game. Conventional wisdom states that it's best for an all-time great to exit gracefully, while he's still on top.
Muhammad Ali might have damaged his legacy by suffering through the pounding handed to him by Larry Holmes. You even find people who believe that some of the air was taken out of Michael Jordan because of the two years he spent squeezing his bloated body into a Wizards uniform.
I happen to disagree. It's my belief that a man should stay in the game until he's forced out, until he's completely unable to perform. A man should limp away from the game knowing he has nothing left to offer it beyond faded memories of past glories.
"When it comes to the game, dignity is the most overrated and most worthless of all human characteristics and values," my friend and college mentor, Dr. Feel Good, preached over and over again during my youth.
Dr. Feel counseled most of the athletes on my college campus. His common-sense wisdom about life and The Game often had little to do with the games being played on the field. Rather, Dr. Feel focused his attention on the far more important "game" being played off the field. While I was in school, Dr. Feel wrote two best-selling books, "It's a Dirty Game: Here's How to Play It" and "Pimpin' for Dummies."
Monday night, after I watched my all-time favorite Indiana Pacer, Reggie Miller, torch the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of their playoff series, I thought about Dr. Feel. I wanted to get his take on Miller's decision to retire when it's painfully obvious he can still play at a high, high level. Wednesday afternoon, I reached Dr. Feel in his office.
"Jason, it's so good to hear from you," Dr. Feel warmly greeted my phone call. "According to the lab results we got back, the penicillin took care of everything. You're fine. You shouldn't feel anything when you eliminate."
No, Dr. Feel, that's not what I'm calling about. I just called to chat, like we used to. You know, catch up, like in the good old days.
"Uh, oh, what's her name?" Dr. Feel inquired. "What are the rules, Jason? How many times do I have to tell you the same thing?"
|Bill Simmons agrees with Jason that Reggie Miller is a great player. But a superstar? No way.|
"OK, even so, just for old time's sake, tell me the two things you place in the glove compartment of your car before picking up any woman?"
Your heart and your wallet.
"Whoop, there it is, grasshopper," Dr. Feel said. "So what's on your mind?"
Well, I just wanted to get your take on Reggie Miller's retiring. For my money, in the last two minutes of a close game, there's no one in the league I want taking the big shot more than Reggie. Kobe, LeBron, T-Mac, Dwyane Wade and everybody else get a look only after Reggie has run off of two screens.
"Reggie's premature retirement is a travesty," Dr. Feel said. "You know my position on getting out. There are only two justifications for exiting the game: impotence or a career-ending test result confirmed by two different, accredited urologists."