Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tony Romo Needs to Retire; Joe DeMaestri, 1928-2016

Quarterback Tony Romo was injured during the Dallas Cowboys' preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks this past Thursday night. He suffers a compression fracture to a veterbra in his back, and is scheduled to miss from 6 to 10 weeks of playing time.

That means that the soonest he could reappear would be on October 16, Week 6 of the regular season, away to the Green Bay Packers. If it is 10 weeks, then he would return in Week 10 (the Cowboys have a bye in Week 7), on November 13, away to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Romo is a 4-time Pro Bowler. In 13 seasons, he has gotten the Cowboys into the Playoffs 5 times, including 3 times as NFC Eastern Division Champions, most recently in the 2014 season. But he's only won 2 Playoff games, against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2009 season, and the Detroit Lions in the 2014 season. The Cowboys then lost to the Packers by 5 points, leaving them 3 wins short of a Super Bowl win, 2 wins short of a Super Bowl appearance. They were 4-12 last season, despite going 12-4, 13-5 counting the Playoffs, the season before.

Like all people with taste, I despise the Dallas Cowboys. But I can look at this objectively:

The greatest quarterback in Cowboys history, Roger Staubach, led them into 5 Super Bowls, winning 2, and retired in 1979, at the age of 37. Troy Aikman led them into 3, winning them all, and retired in 2000, at 34. They were both concerned about the long-term effects of their injuries.

Staubach is now 74, and, as far as I can tell, he is in good shape for his age. Aikman is about to turn 50, has no noticeable physical impairments, and, judging by his analysis on Fox broadcasts, his brain works fine.

Romo is 36. He hasn't won the big one. And, if he never plays another down, he is probably not going to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Winning a Super Bowl and making the Hall of Fame are an NFL player's 2 biggest goals.

They aren't worth the risk. Despite being 34 years old when he was traded to the Giants, Y.A. Tittle kept going for the big one (reaching the NFL Championship Game 3 straight times in the pre-Super Bowl era, in 1961, '62 and '63) and didn't get it, and has battled Alzheimer's for years.

Jim McMahon did get the big one, with the 1985 Chicago Bears, and got another ring as a backup with the 1996 Packers, and is now dealing with cognitive issues. Johnny Unitas won 3 titles with the Baltimore Colts (1958, '59 and '70), and in the last few years before his death, this candidate for the title of "Greatest Quarterback Who Ever Lived" was so physically impaired, he could no longer even hold a football, and died of heart trouble before he was 60.

There is another way for Romo to occupy himself for whatever remains of his life. He needs to find it.

He should not worry about what the Dallas Cowboys are going to do without him. They're the richest team in the league, and have a very resourceful front office. They can draft a great quarterback prospect, or they can trade for an established one. This might be a bad year for them, or it might turn out all right. They will not turn into the 1980s Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the 1990s Cincinnati Bengals in the next few years. They might not become champions, but they'll be in the mix.

Romo needs to think about his own future, and his family's. He needs to retire, while the decision is still his, and while he is less likely to regret it.

*

Joe DeMaestri has died. The San Francisco native was 87, and was a major league infielder from 1951 to 1961. He was, until last week, a surviving St. Louis Brown and a surviving Philadelphia Athletic.

In 1960, the Kansas City Athletics traded him to the Yankees. He took over at shortstop in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series after a ground ball hit a pebble, took a bad hop, and hit Tony Kubek in the throat. In 1961, he was a backup infielder on the Yankees as they won the World Series, but he did not appear in the Series, and never played another major league game.
He retired after that 1961 season, because, for all their wealth, the Yankees were cheap, and he could make more money in his father's beverage distribution business. His one regret was that, the next season, the Yankees played in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants, and he wasn't able to play in the World Series in his hometown.
He married, had 3 children, inherited the distribution business, retired, sold it for a tidy profit, and played lots of golf, living out his life in Marin County, north of San Francisco.
With his death, there are now 10 surviving players from the 1961 World Champion New York Yankees: Whitey Ford, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, Hector Lopez, Ralph Terry, Rollie Sheldon, Bud Daley, Jim Coates, Billy Gardner and Jack Reed.

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