David Beckham and Rolando McClain Both Retiring, Only One Will Be MissedBy Amber Lee
Within the last 24 hours two professional athletes have announced their retirement. Yesterday it was 23-year-old NFL linebacker Rolando McClain. Today it was international soccer star David Beckham, who recently turned 38.
So you may be wondering what one has to do with the other. That’s easy—absolutely nothing. The coincidental timing of their respective retirement announcements is the only thing these two have in common. That’s what was striking about the two headlines.
The two of them couldn’t be more different. Beckham is white. He’s English. He plays soccer. And he’s a globally renown superstar and all around good guy. McClain is black. He’s American. He plays football. And he’s a nationally known bust and all around bad apple.
Maybe their socioeconomic factors growing up had something to do with it. Or, as unpopular as it may be to say it, perhaps race played a prominent role. Whatever the case may be, their stories both started with limitless athletic promise. Two stories with vaguely similar beginnings, which had starkly different ends.
Beckham’s is the story of what was. A standout star from a young age, his professional career began at the age of 18 with Manchester United back in 1993. In 11 years with the club he won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, the Intercontinental Cup, and the Champions League.
It was during that period of time that Beckham rose to superstar status. His movie star good looks and marriage to former pop star Victoria Adams, better known as “Posh Spice” of the Spice Girls, made him one of the most recognizable athletes in the world—despite a penchant for completely overhauling his look every six months.
Posh and Becks may have found themselves the frequent target of tabloid fodder over the years, particularly by the notoriously rabid British press, who have always been desperate to make front page news of the couple’s dirty laundry. Although there was never a sensationalized personal scandal serious enough to threaten Beckham’s long term legacy.
Eventually he left United in 2003 to play for Real Madrid, before making the shocking move to Major League Soccer’s L.A. Galaxy in 2007. Beckham’s skills may have diminished with age by the time he made the move to MLS, but his impact was described as “immeasurable” by a league official in late 2012.
Others might describe it as measurable, even very measurable. Since Beckham signed with the Galaxy in 2007, the league has grown from 12 to 19 teams, and merchandise sales are up 231 percent. Substantial league expansion and a massive growth in the sale of merchandise are easily quantifiable factors.
But for everything Beckham accomplished over his career, looking back, proudly representing England may be what he values the most.
He may not have made the national team, but Beckham has been routinely praised for his “key role” in bringing the 2012 Olympics to London. He did, however, play a record 155 games for the English national team and recently said, “one of [his] proudest achievements [was] captaining [his] country.”
Becks’ play on the pitch may have faded in recent years, but his star never will.
McClain’s is the story of what wasn’t. What could’ve been. What should’ve been. And what might still be?
He was an All-Southern, All-American everything in high school, which earned him a full ride to SEC powerhouse Alabama in 2007. After putting in his time as a backup for the talent-heavy Tide his rookie season, McClain named First-team All-SEC in 2008.
McClain received the same honor in 2009, along with pretty much every other honor ever. He won the Butkus Award and the Jack Lambert Trophy, which recognize excellence at the linebacker position. McClain was also named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and was a unanimous All-American.
In 2010 he the BCS Championship with ‘Bama and declared for the NFL Draft, being selected No. 8 overall by the Raiders. That’s when the story takes an unfortunate turn. McClain was described as “the total package” by ESPN’s Ivan Maisel, but he couldn’t even carve out a place for himself on one of the NFL’s worst teams.
In December 2011 McClain was arrested for an altercation in Alabama that ended with him holding a gun to the head of a man and demanding he beg for his life. His deranged arrest photo didn’t suggest he was particularly contrite about the horrifying incident.
McClain was arrested again in January 2013 after a routine traffic stop for excessively tinted windows escalated after he got hostile with the police. Then within three weeks in April he was cut by the Raiders, signed by the Ravens, and arrested again—this time for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
A month later he retired. Or so at least that’s the story he gave Baltimore’s general manager Ozzie Newsome. McClain says his sudden and mysterious retirement has something to do with getting his personal life together, which, if true, might be the best decision he’s made in years.
McClain did leave the door open to returning in the future. Although, unless McClain beats the odds and really turns his life around, it’s hard to imagine many, if any, doors opening if he back pleading with no real proof. And it’s safe to say his absence won’t be mourned by fans.
So here we are.
Two very different athletes with two very different retirements leaving behind very different sentiments.
If a man’s legacy is judged by how sorry people are to see him walk away, David Beckham has a lot to be proud of.
Rolando McClain doesn’t.
The only truly decent news, if you can find any in toilet of a situation is that he does have is time to change that. Just needed something for all you silver lining people out there.
The question that remains is: Will he?
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