Anybody who was getting misty-eyed about Junior Seau's retirement, hold on. If you were preparing a highlight montage set to the piano solo from "Layla," turn off the tape machine.
Seau might be un-retiring. The team for which he might be giving up his newfound free time? The New England Patriots.
He might have been planning this all along. Seau wants to secure a place in Canton, and he knows that in order to be considered truly great in the history books, you need to un-retire at least once (Roger Clemens, Deion Sanders). Twice is preferred (Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson). Retiring once, just walking away from the game with your legacy intact is so .... final. It's almost like quitting. Where's the ego-driven denial of your eroding playing skills?
I'm looking at you, John Elway. How dare you walk away from football after winning back-to-back Super Bowls? How dare you deprive us Cleveland fans of a sloppy, disjointed end to your playing days, one that could have seen you be the quarterback/GM/concessions manager of the Arizona Cardinals?
Seau, on the other hand, might have just plotted the perfect crime. He has only played in one Super Bowl, a forgettable drubbing at the hand of the 49ers 12 years ago. He slogged through plenty of losing seasons with the Chargers and Dolphins, and now he wants to piggy-back to a Super Bowl title. The Patriots, with Super Bowl pedigree and a thinning linebacker corps, are a logical choice.
So Seau announces his retirement, gives us a fiery "I'm not retiring, I'm graduating" speech, has a lavish retirement party thrown by the Chargers, waits a few days for the heat to blow over, then leaves a phone message with the team alerting them that he might sign with the Patriots.
Graduating. Yeah, right. Graduating to a better team is more like it.
It's remarkable that more players don't take this tack if they are dissatisfied with their team. There are no real negative consequences for the player, outside of maybe giving back some signing bonus money. You simply announce your retirement, negotiate an end to your contract, give the team back some bonus money with the promise that the rest is coming back later, once your kids' private school tuitions are paid, wait a short amount of time, then show up on the doorstep of the team you really want to play for.
If the Patriots go in the tank this year, Seau can retire from them, shed some tears at another news conference, and resurface a week later with the Steelers. If the Steelers don't give him enough playing time, he can tell the media that "my wife wants me to retire, and she is the most important thing in my life," wait a week, and sign with the Colts.
The only limit to the retire/un-retire tactic is when you've played for every single team in the league. But Seau hasn't conquered Canada yet. Or NFL Europe. Heck, he's rich enough that maybe he can start his own league and play for every team in that league.
Will he get branded a carpetbagger? An aging, parasitic barnacle who has latched onto a team trying to win a title, taking a roster spot away from a young player who could use a chance? Hardly. He's a successful professional athlete. No matter where he goes, he'll have multiple sets of lips fused to his buttcheeks.
Spread the gospel of the un-retirement, Junior. MJ, Magic and The Rocket blazed the trail, proving once again that pro athletes write the rule book. They can shuffle the papers just about any which way they please and get away with it.
Up next: faking your own death to get out of a contract. ("Hey! What's Walter Payton doing playing for the Buccaneers?")