Sports fans always fear the inevitable. Players move to other teams. Players retire. When this moment comes, whether the athlete is a lifetime member of a certain team or an influential player for the team, there are proper ways for teams and the cities they reside in can do to say goodbye. Proper ways and regrettable ways.
Peyton Manning was drafted first overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 and played 14 seasons donning the blue and white jersey. Many, if not everyone, believed Manning would remain a Colt for his entire career, adding himself to a list of athletes who remain with one team for an entire career (an increasingly rare feat). Yet after an injury caused Manning to miss the entire 2011 season, many believed Manning would retire. By the nature of being the worst team in the NFL, the Colts were to receive the number one pick in the 2012 draft, meaning highly touted quarterback Andrew Luck was theirs for the taking. Manning decided he would not retire, and the Colts were faced with a decision.
A) Keep Manning and hope he fully recovers from his injury. Draft Luck and have him be mentored by one of the best of all time. Start a slow transition.
B) Release Manning and move on. Draft Luck and throw him into the fire.
The Colts decided to go with option B, a logical, yet reluctant move. Jim Irsay (CEO of the Colts) then called a press conference which had duel purpose. First, they made the announcement of their decision. But the second half of the conference was meant to honor Manning, unofficially retiring his number 18 jersey, remembering their Super Bowl victory, and giving the proper praise to the 11-time All Star and four time Most Valuable Player.
Fans of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls had to face the “move on” music twice when Michael Jordan retired (then came back, then retired again). Recently in the MLB, third baseman Chipper Jones announced he would retire at the end of the season after a staggering 20 year career, all with the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have taken measures to make sure that Jones is honored at all game, home and away, that the Braves play in this season, as it will be the final time Jones plays in these stadiums.
In the middle of the 1998 baseball season, the Los Angeles Dodgers traded their superstar player, Mike Piazza, a fan favorite. The trade was done without the knowledge of Fred Claire, the General Manager of the Dodgers at the time. It was done without the knowledge of Tommy Lasorda, longtime Dodger manager and spokesperson. It was done without the knowledge of Piazza himself. When the news broke to the public, those who constructed the trade had no answers. They had no kind words to remember Piazza’s time served in Los Angeles.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post. There is a proper way to do things, and then there is the way to alienate your fan base. If you were a General Manager, CEO or PR for a team, which would be the road you would choose?