Mon Jun 15 11:09am EDT
The Washington Post is running a series of features about former professional athletes, but today's is built perfectly for the college crew. It's the story of Ed O'Bannon, and his struggles with retirement, after his playing days in Europe finished up. After a brief, familiar-sounding retirement -- O'Bannon drove his kids to school and then sat around at home in a pool of self-pity, re-watching his 1995 NCAA Championship performance, when he put up 30 points and 17 rebounds -- the former UCLA star took a job at a local car dealership. What could be a sad, like-Kenny Powers-but-not-darkly-funny tale is actually pretty uplifting, full of quotes like the following:
"My marriage was pretty much wrecked because of it," he said. "I wasn't fun to be around. You grow up from age 4 or 5, playing T-ball, and you're always the best player in your league, and in Little League you're always the best, and in high school and college. Then you go to the minor leagues, and you're this bonus baby. When it all gets taken away -- it really didn't hurt my ego. I just felt like people give up on you. It was almost anger, like, 'How could you do that to me?'
"I've gotten to the point where it's so far in my past I can go about my day-to-day life without thinking about it. But there was a point when it consumed me."
O'Bannon seems to be at peace with the notion of being a car salesman, and good for him. For every professional athlete that makes enough to money to retire comfortably, or who picks up a broadcasting job and stays in the limelight forever, there is a guy like O'Bannon. We treat pro athletes like superheroes for 25 years, and then we expect them to be normal people again. If we learned anything from David Carradine, it's that no matter how hard he tries, Superman will always feel like Superman.