Why Do Fans Wait Until Great Athletes Retire to Openly Appreciate Their Greatness?

Why Do Fans Wait Until Great Athletes Retire to Openly Appreciate Their Greatness?

Avid football fans tuned in to watch the NFL’s most exciting event, Super Bowl LIII. The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in a “defensive showdown”. It was the Patriots third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. It was also the franchises ninth Super Bowl appearance with head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady at the helm. Given that Brady was successful in his ninth Super Bowl appearance, the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) debate has been embedded in almost every conversation. The ultimate question is – does this Super Bowl win solidify Tom Brady’s position as the GOAT?

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While the GOAT debate can be fun, it can also be pretty contentious. The contentious nature of the debate can deflect from the true greatness that sports fans are witnessing at the moment. The debate can cause sports fans to completely miss what it is happening because fans are focused on finding flaws in great players’ performances to justify who they think should be regarded as the GOAT. Accordingly, fans have a tendency to snub athletes during their careers who are later regarded as greats. Why do sports fans wait until the end of an athlete’s career to show their true appreciation?

The Black Mamba – An NBA Legend

One of the best examples of fans failing to show true appreciation until the athlete retires can be seen in former Los Angeles Laker, Kobe Bryant. Bryant is without question one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Bryant’s greatness cannot be disputed. After all, he scored 81 points in one game in his prime. Bryant then showed everyone how to retire when he scored 60 points in his final game. However, Bryant did not receive all of his deserved accolades until he retired. For years Kobe Bryant was one of the most hated athletes in sports. People thought he was arrogant, not a team player, and completely self-interested.

However, when he announced his retirement those sentiments changed. Instead, people said he was confident, made his teammates better, and led his teammates to several victories and NBA Championships. Everyone was ready to embrace the “Mamba Mentality.” Why did fans wait until Bryant’s retirement to show true appreciation for his performance in the NBA?

Maybe it is the old adage of not truly being able to appreciate something until it is gone. Once an athlete retires, fans are left wishing they could re-live the athlete’s greatest moments. The failure to truly appreciate Bryant while he was playing robbed the sports world of the opportunity to truly bask in his greatness. It seems that the sports world may be on the same track in regards to LeBron James and Tom Brady.

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Fans are Failing to Acknowledge LeBron James’ and Tom Brady’s Greatness While They are Playing

LeBron James is undisputedly one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. However, when he is talked about that fact seems to get lost. Fans often focus on the fact that he is 3-9 in the NBA Finals. However, when he retires the story will likely be re-framed to reflect the fact that James appeared in 8 consecutive NBA finals. Most recently, everyone talks of the fact that the Cavaliers were swept in the 2018 NBA Finals. Again when James retires the story will most likely reflect the fact that James took what was probably the most unlikely team ever to the NBA Finals.

Similarly, Tom Brady is and has been one of the most hated players in the NFL. Tom Brady’s ability to get his team to multiple playoffs, AFC Championships, and Super Bowls is truly remarkable. However, some sports critics find ways to poke holes in his performances. To be fair, in light of Spygate and Deflategate some of his criticism is earned. Critics use those instances to take away from his greatness. In spite of how some sports fans feel about those controversies, Brady’s innate ability to constantly have his team in a position to advance to the Super Bowl is nothing short of amazing. When Brady retires the talk will not be of Spygate and Deflategate, it will be about how Brady managed to advance to 9 Super Bowls.

If Fans Are Not Careful Other Great Moments are Going to Pass Them By

Sports fans should learn to appreciate James, Brady, and other greats while they are still playing. Fans should learn to stop looking at every player’s performance for what it is not and start to appreciate it for it is. In most cases, the players are doing something that has not been before and will probably never be done again. Just simply witnessing the longevity of James’ and Brady’s careers is remarkable.

The fact that James and Brady have been able to stay at the top of their games this late in their careers is remarkable as well. Their greatness should be admired now, not after they retire. If fans do not learn to stop being so critical, other great moments are going to pass them by. If fans are not careful, they will be left to wish they could re-live James’ and Brady’s and other players’ greatest moments.

Leave a comment with who do you believe are the most under appreciated athletes of all time?


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