Thursday, August 5, 2010

How to Quit While You're Ahead?

So at the age of 38, Shaq just got signed by the Boston Celtics for 2 years. I loved Shaq when he first entered the league as a young center for the Orlando Magic. He was a dominant force for the Magic and the Lakers, and even managed to garner a fourth ring with Miami. But to watch him labor on after the Heat, making temporary and ineffective runs with the Suns and Cavs, it pains me.

Professional sports is a cruel, cruel business. It is not an arena that allows an athlete to quit while they're ahead and make a gracious exit from the sport.

Even the G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan seemingly having beaten the odds by quiting the league a second time on a Finals game-winning shot for his 6th championship ring, succumbed to the lure of reliving those moments by becoming a Washington Wizard. Although Jordan fans are eager to forgive and forget those 2 miserable Wizard seasons, not everyone is MJ.

This phenomenon is seen everywhere. TV Shows drag on way past their prime. Who remembers Michael Scoffield after he broke out of prison the first time? When did the hero gene spread like cholera and gave everyone in Heroes powers? Did anybody even get Lost? Who still believed that Jack Bauer could ever be in mortal danger after season 4? There seems to be an awful lot of American Idols and Top Models are there out there doesn't it?

Ending something when things are going well is tough. There are almost always other factors that bring something good to an end prematurely. Most common of which is death, and most unlikely of which is discipline.

Premature death: Kurt Cobain. John Lennon. Martin Luther King. Jimi Hendrix. Heath Ledger. Basquiat. James Dean.

Discipline: Jerry Seinfeld.

A comedian??

It's interesting what we can learn from this. One of the key things that was taught at a stand-up comedy class is to quit while you're ahead. You might have prepared 4 or 5 sets but if you get a really good laugh on your 3rd, end on that. Bask in the laughter of your audience, savor the moment and go, "My name is Stephen and that's my time. Thank you and good night!" Don't overstay your welcome on the stage and risk ending on a low note; always end on a positive.

So Shaq, all the best to you as you approach the twilight of your career. I sincerely wish that you will ride into the sunset with all the grace and nobility your 325lb body can muster, and not .500 career free-throw your way out.

Good luck Kazaam!

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