November 28, 2012
Give Donovan some breathing space on his decision; he certainly has earned it
By Michael Lewis
Landon Donovan is expected to decide whether he will continue playing soccer.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
So, Landon Donovan is considering retirement and he doesn't know how long his decision will take.
Well, I say let the LA Galaxy player and U.S. international take his time to decide. He has earned it.
He needs to recharge his batteries, perhaps his mind more than his body.
He has been through a ton. He has been the face of U.S. Soccer and American soccer for more than a decade and has shouldered more burden than you can shake a stick at.
I'll let Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber take it from here, because he said it best during his state-of-the-game speech on Monday.
"He is arguably the best player in U.S. Soccer history," he said. "He started as a teenager and he has spent his entire life committed to the sport and I sympathize with what he is experiencing in trying to soul search and figure out what his future might hold on and off the field.
"I think unfortunately for Landon even more so than the Jordans and Gretzkys of the world or Messiers of the world frankly is that Landon not only had to be a great player but Landon also carried a lot of the promotional burden of growing the sport for a decade or more on his shoulders. So he played during the “day” and then he had to promote it at “night" – and that is tiring. I sympathize with that. I hope that he can continue to help grow the league and the sport here and we want to do everything we can, everything I can personally to help him figure out a right way to be able to do that."
Donovan already knows something about stretching himself so thin. In 2006, he was the spokesman for Claritin. They flew him to New York City, where he spoke with heaven knows how many members of the media. Like a conga line, one writer after another interview Donovan. Needless to say, Donovan was fantastic.
But after a rather disappointing and sub-par World Cup in Germany, Donovan learned some important lessons. He eventually bounced back and reached greater heights domestically and internationally, playing a vital role at South Africa 2010, which included a stunning 11th-hour goal for the ages against Algeria that boosted the U.S. into the second round.
We look at our sports figures as machines as though they are brainless automations from those sports video games that we can just put them on the field and watch them play and fill the goal, stop goals or create them.
We tend to forget that they are human beings and have lives, problems and concerns of their own.
Donovan is one of the most thought-provoking and sensitive souls I have met in soccer.
If he needs the time to think about whether he wants to end or continue his career, he should be allowed to recharge and consider the pros and cons of continuing his pro career.
After all, he has earned it.