Veteran athletes draw out careers to audiences’ dismay


Professional athletics are a pinnacle of human achievement and represent outstanding athletic talent, unmatched dedication, and unwavering love towards the sports they accommodate. Fame and fortune come to all of those who succeed in the arduous journey to be the best. Professional athletics pose the unique challenge in the fitness required to compete at such a high level, with most athletes only able to compete for a few years before being unable to continue. This brings up a major debate presented by sports fans: are older players who stay involved in professional sports past the average age causing detriment to the level of performance, and thereby entertainment, in sports? 

The National Football League (NFL) brings up the largest spark of controversy for aging players staying involved in professional sports. The average age of individual players in the NFL is around 27 years old, which is low even for professional sports. Despite this low average, many individual athletes choose to compete between ages 35-40. These older players bring a host of benefits to teams but may bring downsides that can lead to major defeats and most importantly, disappointment to fans.

“There is definitely…an age where players are too old to compete at the level needed,” said senior Matthew Mansor. “I feel that [they] eventually just need to retire to…open space for new talent.”

The issue of older players taking up room for potential new talent is a key question of many sports fans. Each NFL team is only allowed to roster 46 active players, making every position on the roster vital to current and future team success. A major issue is posed for a team such as the Arizona Cardinals, a team with 16 players over 30 years of age on their roster.

“The usage…[of roster space] on older players is a waste of potential opportunities to recruit [new] players that could improve the team,” said junior John Hutchinson. “Keeping players over 35 due to their…previous success is a gamble that typically ends in disappointment.”

One recent example of an older NFL player debatably staying past their welcome can be found in former Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. At 45 years old, Tom Brady just recently announced his supposed final retirement from football, news that has been met with mixed emotions.

“To a large extent I am glad to see…[Tom Brady] retire,” said Matthew Mansor. “It gets boring watching the same player play for [23] seasons, regardless of their ability.”

Audience entertainment serves as a major point against older players, especially those seeing repetitive media attention and influence. Seeing new prospective players rise from being a rookie to becoming a starter is exciting for viewers and promotes interest in the state of team rosters.
Credit does have to be given to older athletes for their achievements, however. While their presence may not be fully appreciated by some audiences, the physical and mental care to ensure that these athletes can remain in playing condition is one of the highest feats. Furthermore, the influence of older players on new rookies can help grow talent due to the experience veteran players possess. 

The biggest question is whether or not something should be done to limit the presence of veteran players by setting age caps on athletes. However, this may not be necessary due to the competitive nature of professional sports.

“The only thing that really matters about…[an athlete] is the skill and benefits they bring to their team,” said sophomore Aiden O’Neill. “Whether you like a specific athlete or not, they should be allowed [to play] if they have the talent to back it up.”

Others argue that limits and regulations should be set in places for extreme cases.

“Eventually it gets to the point where some athletes just need to retire already,” said Matthew Mansor. “Some athletes continue to play due to teams wanting them due to their past achievements.”

Regardless of the positives and negatives involved, veteran athletes provide major impacts on the sports community and their team. The amount of effort and dedication required to compete at the professional level of sports on its own is an achievement, but the furtherment of an athletic career by 10 or more years at the professional level is a triumph very few get to celebrate. Without veteran players, professional sports would be unrecognizable, for better or worse.