Emmitt’s Retirement Was Inevitable But Did He Have To Do It In Jacksonville?

By Gregory Moore
Updated: February 4, 2005

One of the NFL’s leading ambassadors is hanging up his cleats after 15 seasons. Did Emmitt Smith really need to use Super Bowl XXXIX as a backdrop to his retirement?

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Everyone knows that when it’s Super Bowl week in a particular city where the game is being held, it’s the biggest stage in the sports world. So when Emmitt Smith, arguably the best running back in NFL history, announced his retirement as a Dallas Cowboys this past Thursday in Jacksonville, do you think he was being selfish during a time when the focus should have been on Philadelphia and New England just like so many fans are thinking today? Well for once I am going to agree with the mass populace and say that while I admire the feats that #22 did on the field, I cannot help but think that if it were any other person, my chosen profession would have vilified that individual. So why is it that it’s okay for Emmitt to do this and not for somebody else?

FAVORITISM REIGNS IN THE NFL AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that there is favoritism in the NFL. When you are a good guy or good citizen in the league, you can get away with anything that may upstage the two teams in the Super Bowl. Players like Brett Farve, Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice are considered to be ambassadors of the game. They are the league’s elite members who have done things right. These three individuals went to work, did their jobs and made the teams they played for. To them it was more than just business; these players believed that the players they played with and the owners they played for were family members.

It’s that persona that has allowed Emmitt to be able to hold such a lengthy press conference the other day and to thank each and every person who he felt really touched his life. From his Pop Warner coaches all the way to even Troy Hambrick, Emmitt thanked everyone he could think of. Jerry Rice might do the same thing and Farve may follow suit as well. Yet that is what gives them so much favor in the media’s eyes and in the eyes of the NFL. The NFL have their favorites who they will ‘pimp’ to the rest of us sports fans. I can wholeheartedly say that had this been Randy Moss, Terrell Owens or Joe Horn, and there will be more negative articles than the law would allow. If you think they are having a problem with no Cristal in Jacksonville right now, can you imagine how many articles would be written? Yes I would be one of the pundits writing one of those negative articles.

That is why I have an issue with how Smith did his retirement. Great players can create their own ‘center stage’ when these events warrant. Michael Jordan retired from the game unceremoniously the last time he was in the league. He faxed back his return when he returned from his first retirement. O.J. Simpson retired unceremoniously. A lot of players did so and didn’t use the Super Bowl as their stage. Great athletes have center stage no matter what. Now that’s not to say that Smith shouldn’t have done what he did, but in this reporter’s opinion he didn’t need to use the biggest week of the year for the biggest game of the year to say he’s leaving. But it did solidify his place in history.

DAUNTE THE INDIAN GIVER Switching from a good guy to what has become a bad public relations ploy, Daunte Culpepper has found himself trying to explain why he had to take back jewelry worth $75,000 during an NFL ceremony. Various news agencies reported that the Minnesota Vikings player found himself in an awkward position of asking for his jewelry back and that it was just a misunderstanding.

Jerry Townsend, a young man who was paralyzed this past October during a football game asked, “Hey Daunte, can I get some of that ice?” Reportedly Culpepper draped the young man with the two necklaces. Later on he had to get the diamond-encrusted necklaces back from the young man.

Now my question is why would Culpepper even let this situation get so far out of hand? It’s not that Culpepper is a bad guy or anything like that and I’m sure that he would never intentially take back something that he gave. By the same token Towsend and his parents should have known that such an outlandish gift wasn’t meant to be. Is this the case of an overzealous fan wanting something from an NFL player or an NFL player manipulating a ‘feel good’ story? How about it’s just an honest mistake that needs to be rectified in a timely manner. There’s no need to vilify Culpepper any more than it would be to do the same to young Mr. Townsend. Both made an awkward situation happen the way it did but I’m sure something will be done for Mr. Townsend and his family. Daunte is a stand up guy and not an Indian giver.