The Booger and the Kiwi

Even classic works occasionally require an update. Today, it’s Aesop’s turn.

Once upon a time there was a professional football player named Anthony Darrell McFarland. His teammates called him “Booger.” He was a star defense tackle at LSU and played on two Super Bowl championship teams in the NFL. He is now an analyst on ESPN.

Last Wednesday, during a guest appearance on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” Tony Kornheiser asked him whether he thought quarterbacks Tom Brady and Aaron Rogers would retire. Kornheiser prefaced his questions by quoting former San Francisco quarterback Steve Young who once compared retirement to death.

The quarterback position is a little bit different. I saw football as a means to an end. I wasn’t in love with the game. The game was not something I stayed up at night and dreamed about. For me it was an opportunity to take care of my mother and my family. And it gave me the platform that I continue on, even to today.

For me, once the means to the end didn’t make sense anymore, when the last contract I was offered wasn’t beneficial to me, I knew it was time to move on and do something else.


Halfway across the kingdom there lived a princess named Jacinda Ardern. She was known to her subjects as Madam Prime Minister. Announcing her abdication, Princess Jacinda told her subjects:

I am not leaving because it was hard. Had that been the case I probably would have departed two months into the job. I am leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility, the responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead, and also when you are not. I know what this job takes and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.


After Booger achieved his original goal, ensuring his family would never again want for food or shelter, he hung up his helmet and shoulder pads. For Princess Jacinda, ridding her country of assault weapons following a mass shooting of school children was the accomplishment of a lifetime. It was someone else’s turn to wear the crown. Despite Booger’s absence, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won another Super Bowl. New Zealand remains a desirable place to visit, work and live under the new monarch.

I thought about Booger and the Kiwi while watching news of the January 20 “March for Life” in Washington, D.C. Would the Dobbs decision be the law of the land if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had stepped aside when Barack Obama could have appointed someone with equally strong women’s rights credentials to the high court? Would Donald Trump been able to appoint three justices if his 2016 opponent, despite all her qualifications and experience, had recognized voters suffered from Clinton fatigue? And, in turn, would Trump himself go down in history as a disgraced, twice-impeached seditionist if he had been content living a fairy tale in his palaces in Manhattan, Palm Beach and Bedminster?

A wise mentor told me the day I accepted the position as director of the entrepreneurship center at Miami University, “The first thing you need to do is find your successor.” He knows I do not always take his advice, but on this occasion I did. And when I moved on nine years later, I did so knowing the program was in good, if not better, hands. The transition was seamless. And, to this day, I have no regrets about leaving a job I enjoyed.

I wonder if Brady and Rogers will ever experience that same sense of personal satisfaction. Or, for that matter, will Joe Biden if he chooses to run for a second term? Last night, Biden’s departing chief of staff Ron Klain ticked off the Biden administration’s accomplishments over the past two years. Even those who disagree with the content must marvel at the skill with which his team marshalled the president’s agenda through Congress with little room for error in a 50/50 Senate and an equally divided House of Representatives. No one would think less of Biden if he rested on his laurels and rode into the sunset.

At some point in every life, a person faces a similar decision. It does not matter whether it involves retirement from a prestigious post or knowing when it is no longer safe to drive a car. He or she can emulate McFarland and Ardern. Celebrate past success and move on. Or keep hanging on. Sports is a perfect lens through which to view one’s options. Look no farther than Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays or Mohammad Ali. The only opponent they could not defeat was Father Time.

The moral of this story: Actors who believe they are irreplaceable are those most in need of exiting the stage. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Norma Desmond.

For what it’s worth.

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