The cruel reality of sports became full circle this afternoon when the Detroit Lions released concussion plagued Jahvid Best. Best, a former first round draft pick, said “I’ll always be a Lion,” and the team in Allen Park should figure out how to make that happen.
One of the few aspects of injuries people often forget about is what happens to the player himself when he is deemed no longer able to play. Sure, Best was always in the back of everyone’s minds, but he was no more than an afterthought. Dreams of Reggie Bush streaking down the sidelines erased the void left by Best for Lions fans, even though it created one in his life. With increased awareness of concussions in the NFL, it became abundantly clear that the person who only knew football would suddenly be faced with the reality that he will need to learn something other than football.
General Manager Martin Mayhew and the front office do not have to leave Best in the lurch though. We hear almost yearly about former athletes joining the organizations the shed blood for as executives, scouts and managers. Usually these are the great players, the faces of the franchise past, but the Lions could truly become a class-act organization if they would take Best in as an employee, even if he never led them to a Super Bowl or ran his way into any record books.
After all, Best jeopardized his livelihood, brain function and ultimately his football career for the Lions. The least they could do is make sure he is still pulling in a decent paycheck and participating in challenging, yet rewarding, work on a daily basis. There is any number of places Best could find a home in Michigan, as one of the aforementioned scouts, or even an ambassador to football leagues in the area. With so many young Lions fans suiting up on Saturday mornings to play football and learn the game, I’m sure kids and parents would more than welcome a former Lion onto their field to talk about how to play the game safely.
When all is said and done, Best failed as a draft pick for the Lions. It isn’t an indictment on him as a person or a player, but just a statement of fact. He was incredibly productive and part of the squad that got the Lions back to the playoffs, but his career was cut far too short by something he could not control. It was a miracle he even recovered from the hit he sustained at Cal and unfortunately he could not find another one to help him put on the Honolulu Blue and Silver again.
Best, by all accounts, seems to be one of more courageous athletes to ever participate in Detroit sports. Even though he cannot play them again, he certainly tried to and it should not mean he has to say goodbye to them. The Lions know they can do the right thing and keep him in the family and they should because at the end of the day, this franchise also needs more people who say things like “I’ll always be a Lion.”