Volume 93, Issue 9

Tuesday, September 14, 1999


Mustangs trample over lancers

Western rugby tradition continues

Conspiracy in sports

20 Questions

Episode three: return of the preview

Conspiracy in sports

As 1999 winds down, conspiracy theorists have been hard at work preparing the world for the doom and terror facing us in the new millennium.

Earth ending favourites like aliens enslaving humans for all eternity and off-the-wall predictions of the world's population exceeding it's supply of natural resources have been in circulation for years.

One theory in particular has crept up subtly and has been crippling the sporting world from the top down. This sports bug has direct comparisons to the Y2K meltdown. I call it the retiring icon theory.

Wayne Gretzky, who not only holds every meaningful scoring record in the National Hockey League but also single handily put an NHL team in almost every state south of the border – is retired. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player ever to fly above the rim in the NBA – retired. Steffi Graf, tennis' top grossing grand slam winner on any surface – retired. Barry Sanders, 1,400 yards away from the most rushing yards and probably the greatest running back ever in the National Football League – you get the idea.

Sports icons have always suggested to us how to live our lives. "Wear Nike Air..." this to jump higher and run faster, "eat and drink..." that to live a better life. So since Jordan, Gretzky and Graf have packed it in, why aren't we listening to them any more?

What intensifies the retiring icon theory is the fact all these players did not have to retire. Sanders is a season away from setting the NFL career yards rushing record. Graf, after pre-maturely announcing her retirement, closed the deal for no legitimate reason. The New York Rangers offered a newly purchased early favoured Stanley Cup team to Gretzky, who still declined. Jordan and the Bulls would still be Jordan and the Bulls.

None of these players were injured. None of these players were receiving pay cuts. None of these players, for the most part, were in a huge downward spiral in terms of their talent levels. These icons are still healthy, rich and talented. Some still have things to prove, others could continue to entrench themselves in sporting lore for generations to come. Is it possible in these last few months these icons want to enjoy themselves and the millions of dollars which will be useless in an alien enslaved world?

With the baseball season winding down, I imagine hardball greats like Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripkin and Ricky Henderson are getting pretty anxious about retiring from the game and celebrating with the little time the world has left. One has to wonder about the various sporting icons who are presently "hurt" in their respective sports and "won't be back until the new year." Coincidence, bad luck, or conspiracy?

The retiring icon theory is not perfect, which is true of any conspiracy theory. It does, however, make you think. This article keyed in on sporting legends. Other heroes like John Elway, Reggie White, Paul Molitor, Boris Becker and Dominic Hasek could also be in on the plan. No matter what the case, the recent wave of retiring is definitely the end to one of, if not the greatest times in sport history. Whether it is the end of an era or just the end, remains to be seen.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999