NFL Retirees Have Graceful Post-Career Fun
by Gus Jarvis
Feb 12, 2009 | 883 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There are ways for professional athletes to retire from the field of play gracefully, and then there are ways to retire really gracefully. Have you noticed the trend in retired NFL greats who can’t say no to the TV sensation Dancing With the Stars?

We have already seen (and been addicted to) the likes for Emmitt Smith, Jason Taylor, Jerry Rice, and the big-man Warren Sapp shake things up on the hardwood by cha-cha-chaing, mamboing and tangoing with expertise precision across our TV sets. Now, at 50, in some sort of mid-life crisis-gone-boredom, the N.Y. Giants former linebacker/blow enthusiast Lawrence Taylor will be the next aged football star to foxtrot into his golden years on Dancing With the Stars.

Now there is no way in hell I would ever watch one full episode of Dancing were it not for the pro athletes paired with the nearly naked pro dancers. They certainly give a reason to watch and, yes, I have seen more than three episodes of the program. (I wouldn’t call myself a Dancing junkie… yet. But there is certainly a danger of becoming one.)

It is almost sick in some sort of way to think about the things we used to say about Emmitt Smith on the football field compared to what we say about him on Dancing With the Stars. On the field it was: “Wow, did you see Emmitt juke the crap out of that linebacker… that guy is great.” Now, on the dance floor, it is: “That Emmitt Smith can really move his hips. What rhythm… I think he is great.”

Or how about Warren Sapp, my personal Dancing With the Stars favorite? On the field it was: “Holy shit. Did you see Sapp throw that nose tackle like a rag doll and then spin to the right to get outside and tackle the running back? That is the fastest fat man I have ever seen on a football field.” And now, on the dance floor, it is: “Wow, with Sapp’s prominent forward walk combined with those classic heel turns, his floor craft is wonderful. I never knew a man that size could look so graceful on a dance floor.”

Dancing With the Stars has done more than show off the great dance steps that rest inside the souls of these football players. It has brought the whole family to the couch for prime time TV action. Hell, even my mom and I can watch the show together and for once be on the same intellectual sports page.

“What’s this you are watching?” I asked her on a visit to Florida while she was engrossed in the dancing program.

“Dancing With the Stars. Emmitt Smith is up next,” she said.

We both watched with amazement as Smith grooved across the floor in some foreign dance we couldn’t understand.

“Damn, he looks pretty good out there,” I said.

“Well, he was the first player in NFL history to have five consecutive seasons of rushing over 1,400 yards,” she said, eyes glued to the TV. “He’s also the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing attempts.”

I looked at her in amazement. I have been watching football all my life in her living room, and not once did she ever really show an interest in that day’s game. And here she was totally focused on Emmitt’s tango technique, spouting his football history.

That wasn’t the last time I decided to watch Dancing With the Stars with her. We both had to cheer for our man Emmitt as he went to dancing greatness that season. And although he didn’t actually admit to liking the program, my dad became a regular on the couch during Dancing as well. The melding of football greats with chic dance steps had brought the family together. Who knew?

Before all of this, football player-gone-dancer craze started, we all knew that football players, especially wide receivers, were good dancers. The great Lynn Swan took years of dance lessons that included ballet, tap and jazz to help him with balance and timing on the field. And it’s no wonder that Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice and Warren Sapp have done so well on the program (Smith won the Dancing crown in 2006, Rice, Sapp and Jason Taylor were all runners up) as they are all fierce competitors and know what it is like to perform under the spotlight when it really counts.

Now it’s up to LT to perform. And from the looks of it, he will have a cakewalk to victory if he is anything like his NFL predecessors. This season LT will be up against Ty Murray, David Alan Grier, Steve-O, and others. His field of competitions looks weak. All except Lil’ Kim. The next season of dancing begins on March 9.
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