Quitting vs Retiring
by Brian North

Two different sports stories grabbed headlines earlier this week. Lance Armstrong retired after seven straight Tour de France victories. He says he wants to devote more time to his children and family, and do things he has been unable to do while he has recovered from cancer, and trained vigorously for the Tour. People are applauding Lance and his decision.

A day later, Ricky Williams ended his one-year retirement and returned to pro football. Williams retired last year because he said his heart wasn't in it, and he wanted to do other things with his life, things he was never able to do while playing football. Williams was vilified for his decision last year. Of course, a lot of it had to do with the fact that he failed the NFL's substance abuse policy and was going to be banned for the entire 2004 season. Williams then lived in a tent in Australia, and took courses in holistic medicine in California. Many think Williams decision to return to football is based on the fact that he owes the Dolphins over eight million dollars.

Lance Armstrong is being debated as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Ricky Williams is a former first round pick who has battled injuries and addiction. Lance Armstrong's success is attributed to his competitiveness and hard work. Ricky Williams is being called a deserter and is trying to win back the trust of teammates and fans. Lance Armstrong is on top of the world and dating a rock star. Ricky Williams is the source of comedian's jokes, and betting establishments are taking wagers on when he will quit again.

Both athletes officially retired to do things they wanted to do but never had a chance to. But the difference in perception is as wide as the ends of the solar system. It's a simple life lesson. Trust and respect are earned, they take a lifetime to build up, but take just a few minutes to break down. Lance Armstrong may return to cycling one day, but his legacy is secure just like Michael Jordan's is. But Ricky Williams has a lot of work to do to restore his reputation. He will always be labeled a quitter because he walked out on his teammates, and that's the difference. It's an old little league saying, "winners never quit, and quitters never win." It will be interesting to see if Ricky Williams gets this concept. Give everything you have while you can, then enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Brian North