Sadly, it seems rare these days when I see something that a professional athlete does that I feel sets a good example for my children and even inspires me.  One could argue that the physical abilities of athletes has grown considerably since I was young.  Their exploits on the field seem to continually set a higher bar for what’s possible on any given playing field. However, more often than not their behavior off the field seems to be immature and disappointing.  Maybe it’s because they make so much money while they are still so young?  Maybe it’s because the accomplishments of athletes are praised disproportionate to their societal value?  Maybe it’s because we live in a world that values celebrity over just about anything else?  Maybe it’s the impact of an overreaching social media presence? Whatever the reasons, I must say I’ve become a bit jaded about the sports role models my kids have to look up to these days.

This week something different happened. An athlete who could have created considerable problems for his team by putting himself first decided to put the team first.  An aging veteran who could have blocked the rise of an emerging young star who had successfully seized his opportunity decided to step aside.  A man who has fought vigorously through injuries throughout his career, some known many probably unknown, got himself fit again to play on a team with great potential (possibly the best team he’s played for) and realized his drive to still compete was less important than maintaining the winning culture that had grown in his absence. An athlete who obviously still has the competitive fire within him began coming to grips with the harsh realities of the competitive marketplace.

If you haven’t seen the press conference, here it is:

 

As a lifelong Cowboy fan, I’ll admit to having taken Tony Romo somewhat for granted.  While his statistics have been great, his ability to get his team to the highest levels has always been thwarted for one reason or another.  Most teams probably would be thrilled to have a quarterback with a 78-49 record and who has won so many games in the last minutes through heroic play.  Sometimes we forget how hard it is to play quarterback in the NFL.  It may be the hardest position in all professional sports. With Tony, you always had a chance to win which probably spoiled all us a bit and created unrealistic expectations.  He also operated in the large shadows created by his Hall of Fame predecessors Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman which would be hard acts for anyone to follow.  He even waited 4 years to become a starter himself dethroning another aging accomplished veteran in the process.

Tony has been a class act throughout his Cowboy career.  There was never a whiff of scandal with him.  His teammates past and present truly seem to like and care about him.  What more can you say about the guy?  Greatness can appear in many different shapes and forms. It isn’t always just about winning and losing.  I always hoped there would be a Hollywood Super Bowl ending for Tony Romo not just because I would benefit as a fan of the team but because it felt like he deserved it. If stepping aside in this fashion is his last leadership act as quarterback for the Cowboys, then he goes out as true leader in my book. He is someone I would be happy for my kids to look up to.  The ending may not be the one he wanted but it was a gift he gave to us all.  And, I still hold out some small hope that he also gets that Hollywood ending.