A job’s a job

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What does a pimply-faced, teen-aged girl walking across the street in the early evening to babysit the neighbor boys and Richard Sherman getting off a bus, ears couched in Beats By Dre headphones, on his way to play in his second consecutive Super Bowl, have in common?

They’re both just a couple of human beings trying to make a living.

We tend to lose sight of this when we’re deciding whose jersey to buy at the mall, or which dip to get at the supermarket for our playoff parties. The way that major sports athletes are packaged and presented urge us to see them as superheroes worthy of worship or, even worse, the luckiest people on the planet. After all, they get to play a game for a living, right?

Professional athletes are nothing more than individual men and women in a chosen field — pun intended. But, somehow, it’s difficult to see that. Colored perhaps by jealousy of the job, or the desire to see our respective teams win and our favorite athletes remain loyal, we forget that it is in fact possible for a sports star to want to shift careers before they’re physically forced to do so. Just like the uncle that decided to trade in his lucrative career as a computer programmer to open his very own medical marijuana dispensary, sometimes you just need change.

The assumption is made that professional athletes have been given a great gift that must never be altered, squandered or taken for granted, but the truth is that they’ve had to work for most of their lives to be in the top tier at a given skill set, and they must maintain that skill set in order to keep their job. Every decision an athlete makes in life, whether it pertains to health, family or the media’s perception of them, must be heavily weighed in regards to their professional future.

There are many careers that require total dedication, but if a neurosurgeon decides that the pressure has gotten to him and he wants to explore tap-dancing, his fans won’t burn his effigy in the streets while shouting expletives in his name. The neurosurgeon will be allowed to pursue his passions quietly. (Well, as quietly as tap-dancing can be pursued.)

But it’s easy to get caught up in the fanfare of major sports and forget that real drawbacks exist. Never mind the constant hounding by the media, the heavy scrutiny about how you treat your body and the rigorous training schedule, issues of long-term physical, mental and emotional health are driving more and more players from professional sports.

Especially prevalent in today’s NFL, young, promising players are retiring in order to prevent one too many concussions and to improve their post-football quality of life. No matter how much you love your job, if it were brought to your attention that continuing in that particular field could result in brain damage, which could lead to depression and possibly suicide, it would at least produce cause for a pause.

So the next time you’re elbow-deep in a bag of potato chips and cursing a 27-year-old for losing his passion to play the game, remember the jobs you’ve had before, or maybe the one you have now, and how much passion was lost after months and years of the same grinding, perpetual demands. Then add the possibility of life-altering damage to your physical health to your list of duties.

Everyone deserves the right to find their own path in life, and for most of us it’s not the same thing we thought it was when we were nine years old. Why should an athlete be any different?

Nic R. Krause was born a cranky, curmudgeon of a child in a Minnesota suburb. He was plucked from the muggy tundra and relocated to Colorado Springs 22 years ago. From intramural jai-alai, to his complicated relationship with the Minnesota Vikings, Nic, plainly stated, is bonkers for sports. Follow him on Twitter @NicRKrause.

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