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Let’s Double Down on Athlete Farewell Tours

David Ortiz has found the key to ending season-long goodbyes

Getty Images
Getty Images

David Ortiz is retiring at the end of this year. You know this, and you’ve probably known it for a while: The nine-time All-Star, who helped snap the Curse of the Bambino, is in the midst of an extended farewell tour, joining stars like Kobe Bryant, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Chipper Jones in having a season-long goodbye. Along the way, bells have clanged at nearly every stop: He’s been called up to home plate after home plate to be serenaded with congratulations, video tributes, fond recollections of home runs past, and topical gifts, which so far have included: peanut butter from the Twins, a box of cigars from the White Sox, a cowboy hat from the Astros, barbecue sauce from the Royals, a cable car bell from the Giants, and a golf cart and stadium seats from the Red Sox spring training facility.

And, man, is he sick of it all.

“I’m too busy. I have too many things to do. I barely have time to do anything,” Ortiz told ESPN Deportes on Sunday when asked about all of the attention he’s been getting. “It’s very difficult for me. If I had even imagined that it would be so difficult, I wouldn’t have announced anything. There are too many people I have to pay attention to, and on top of that I have to prepare for a game.”

You might think that Big Papi, who is hitting a resurgent .339 this season, has a point: We’ve gone too far with farewell tours, and this has got to stop. Jeter’s tour was too long. Kobe’s show was too much. The tours are tedious, distracting, self-serving, and just all-around bad. Do we really need to carry out month after month of heartfelt so longs?

To which I say: Hell yes we do. Ortiz has finally shown us how to stop the Athletic Farewell Tour Industrial Complex: Make the goodbyes so big, so extravagant, and so totally and fantastically annoying that they exhaust our most beloved stars and make them beg for mercy — or, more specifically, for peace, quiet, and sports.

So let’s double down. Let’s triple down. Let’s show the stars who might be thinking about tropical beaches soon enough — our Ichiro Suzukis or Dirk Nowitzkis — just what a terrifying, soul-sucking miasma of love we can create for them. Let’s see if they don’t think twice about announcing their retirement way in advance of actually retiring.

Let’s write them songs to be played by an orchestra of volunteer musicians, all of whom just took up the recorder. Let’s bring in every child with a broken arm within city limits and arrange them along the foul lines, with only their casts, Sharpies, and the odd vuvuzela, and call out the athletes to say hello. Let’s present our favorite players with 100 different things in denominations of their jersey number: 34 mitts, 34 doubloons, 34 Milwaukee parakeets, 34 authentic Tampa Bay microwaves — all for you, Papi.

Let’s make them long, saccharine tributes in black and white. Let’s commission fan tributes in the same style. Let’s make the athletes judge them, tucked into conference rooms with nothing but 12 hours of amateur adulation, four gallons of LaCroix, and thoughts of their still-distant freedom. Let’s make them come out in the summer heat and host an award ceremony.

I want our athletes with closets full of bedazzled cowboy boots, pantries stuffed with Vegemite, driveways filled with barrels of popcorn, and garages lined with American Girl dolls refashioned in their likenesses. Let’s make it so our love is all these players can think about through month after month of commemorative pins and Hawaiian shirts. Let’s love them and squeeze them and make them wonder if we’ll ever let them go.

We will, of course, and we’ll miss them dearly in the end. But maybe the next farewell tour won’t drag on for quite so damn long.