Here we are back at the Calvin Johnson carnival. You just couldn't keep away, could you? Naughty rapscallion. It was a mere two weeks, but you're back here once again, ready for all the fun and thrills and takes. It's what you want. Indulge. You'll never leave us.
We have Nate Burleson to thank for this new whirl around the carousel. This is how it will be for a good two, maybe three years of Calvin Johnson's retirement. Some player somewhere will opine that the former Lions wide receiver known fondly as Megatron is worthy of [platitude of greatness and excellence] followed closely by [some variation of "he still has plenty of fire to compete"] which is then capped off with the inevitable screaming gibberish of [potential return to the NFL with recklessly speculative time frame and casual justification, often with a projection of personal values and/or invocation of the Patriots]. This will then generate a good two to three days of blog posts and bad sports opinions in the offseason. To be clear, we're indulging here too; this column, after all, exists.
Nate was so close to avoiding all of this too! It almost feels a little opportunistic, almost. But after about 700 words on NFL.com on why Calvin Johnson deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, Burleson veered violently right before the finish line and...
So does Calvin deserve to be a Hall of Famer? Absolutely. He was the best receiver in the business for years, and not enough can be said about what he's meant to me, Detroit and the game. Yet, there is one final message I'd like to give him ...
Congratulations on your retirement, man. Now, take this year off ... then find a way to land with the Patriots and get a championship ring. You deserve it.
Nate. Nate! Nate! What are you doing, Nate?!
In fairness, Burleson is echoing a sentiment that's been common among Lions fans and football fans for some months now, if not years prior. This is a trope that has refused to die even after Calvin Johnson walked away from football and by God we're back here again now.
Here are two things I didn't want to get into with this article: if Calvin Johnson can join the Patriots (he can't; the Lions hold his rights should he return) and if he should rather than stick with the Lions. Those are both premises that lead the conversation down a poop vortex because they assume, nigh automatically, that Calvin Johnson wants to and will come out of retirement. That's kind of important.
The logic follows as such: Calvin Johnson, after deciding at some point before the 2015 NFL season to retire from football, after informing his close friends and his coach, after weighing that potential decision for additional three months ould will suddenly turn around six months to a year after that very impactful and life-changing decision, reverse fortune and soul searching on a lark and come back to football. After that? Just get out from under the Lions, who are Losers and will always Lose, go join the Patriots -- whose bosoms swell at the prospect of altruistically taking another superstar to Elysium -- and with Victory Guaranteed follow the Randy Moss Path to glory and immortality that only a Super Bowl ring can bring.
(Except Moss never won a ring with New England, but facts are for idiots.)
If this all sounds ridiculous, it's because it is. It's not a logical analysis of the situation, or even speculation with heft. It's fan-fiction. It's the testosterone-fueled version of Hermione furiously making out with Harry in a black magic library.* That's where we're at with the post-retirement thoughts: grown men openly pining for Johnson to return, to return with the Winningest Winners and win.
And let's be clear, being a fan is fine! Being a fan is 90 percent of the reason why this site exists in the first place and why I get to write about football; players certainly have a right to be fans too. No one is blaming the blogging media, or far less Nate Burleson or Adam Jones (who forecasted a six-month return for Johnson) for looking at what Megatron did over his career and becoming fans and wanting better for him than years of struggles with, historically, one of the worst teams in the NFL.
That all said, isn't there a point where perhaps the fan dreaming becomes just a bit disrespectful to the wishes of the man in question? Doesn't it matter that Johnson told the world that this was his decision? Shouldn't there be some consideration on what Johnson wants to do rather than what everyone wants to see him do, including the projections of current and former players? Shouldn't his will trump the mythology we've built, not just around Megatron but around all football superstars?
At some point, we need to stop assuming that every football player treats Football As Life, that the best in the game are the ones who will be playing until they're old and infirm. Calvin Johnson walked away from football because football was hurting him and he didn't want to be hurt anymore. He decided to quit after a long heartfelt decision. He competed at a high level, enjoyed football for as long as he could, made good money and now he's eyeing life beyond the game. That's hard for lifers and fans alike to understand.
*I don't know if Hermione+Harry actually happened, I didn't read the books. Please don't email me with your "Well, actually" or any Fanfiction.net links.