Once upon a time, a spritely fellow in his late 90's (or maybe even his mid-100's) named C. Montgomery Burns formed a company softball team for a local nuclear power plant. Instead of suiting up current employees, he fielded a group of professional athletes that took on token jobs at the plant (except for Mike Scioscia). On the eve of the big game, each of Mr. Burns' ringers falls prey to a series of random misfortunes--all except Darryl Strawberry.
In one moment, the Springfield Isotopes were as unstoppable as they come; in the next, they found themselves reeling from the unexpected and incredibly eerie pile of calamities visited upon the superstars. Mr. Burns was willing to accept the statistical probability of something happening to one of his ringers, maybe even two, but surely not enough of them to make a material difference in the outcome of the big game.
If you are a San Francisco 49ers fan, you might be starting to wonder if you woke up in Springfield. In the short span of just the beginning of the offseason, 49ers fans have seen a bizarre series of events unfold before their eyes. On the free agent front, attrition can be expected, and the 49ers have waved goodbye to stalwart offensive lineman Mike Iupati, and running back Frank Gore. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree is also on his way out the door, and both Chris Culliver and Dan Skuta have departed. Vernon Davis has been rumored to be on the cutting block for salary cap relief. One of the least surprising bits of news was the announced retirement of 14-year veteran Justin Smith, but things have gotten far more crazy since. Patrick Willis, in a move that paralyzed 49ers fans, announced his retirement that was at least partly based on long-term health concerns. If I am on the training staff, I am making sure there is no nerve tonic in that locker room!
Even after all of this, I can't believe anyone predicted the announcement by Chris Borland, a 24-year old linebacker, that he was retiring due to long-term health concerns.
With the departure of head coach Jim Harbaugh, we are talking about the heart and soul of a team being largely removed in the span of a few weeks. When you look at the sum total of these moves, you can't help but feel at least a little sympathy for the San Francisco fanbase.
The Borland news is huge assuming there is nothing more to the story than just a young man with a promising career deciding to forego fame and fortune. So...yeah...kind of a big story.
I don't pretend to have a lot of up close and personal relationships with tons of NFL players, but I have gotten to meet my fair share of them and let me tell you: pretty much every one of them has a very good understanding of why a guy like Chris Borland is walking away from the game. It's quite simple: he can still walk...away from the game. A lot of guys don't get to do that. I'll say this: retiring on your terms sure beats having all of the unsolved murders in the city pinned on you!
My last thought on the Chris Borland news is this: I BEGGED for the Redskins to draft Borland. I wanted him on our defense in the worst way. I can only assume this news is crushing the front office in San Francisco today--can you imagine what this would do to us? Holy crap! We would be going nuts! My guess is that this will start happening with far more frequency, so teams that have invested heavily in athletes are likely running scared.
If I'm Colin Kaepernick, I'm not getting hypnotized anytime soon, and I am DEFINITELY on the lookout for Mystery Spots!