Sports and the Afterlife: What happens when careers die?

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Sports and the Afterlife: What happens when careers die?

Do you believe in heaven?

No, wait. Dont answer that. At least not here. But if youre at all interested in that tiny little issue of what happens after we die, check out this story in Newsweek Magazine.

It was written by neurosurgeon (and former closet atheist) Dr. Eben Alexander, who had a near-death experience back in 2008 and now claims, with astonishing certainty and indirect neurological evidence, that heaven is not only a playground, a cornfield in Iowa and a monster ballad by Bryan Adams, but also a real thing.

He was there. Or so he says.

After reading, its up to you to decide whether Dr. Alexander has actually solved one of the life's great mysteries or is just a manipulative windbag, but either way, the story will make you think. When youre done, youll want forward it to your friends, troll through the comment section, maybe even mention it in a blog you write for a regional sports network. Then youll go back and think about it some more.

Anyway, after I carried out the steps above, it was time to get back to sports, but in this case, it was difficult. And there was really only one topic that made sense: The Sports Afterlife.

Not what happens to athletes after they die, but what happens after their careers do. When they're faced with an eternity outside of the only life they've ever known.

It's obviously a huge issue in the NFL, as former players are being haunted by all sorts of mental and physical issues, but I'm not touching that aspect of the conversation right now. For this post, I'm thinking about the mere act of walking away; about taking the podium the way Kevin Faulk did yesterday afternoon at Gillette and Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield and Matt Light all did this past year and saying goodbye to your life as a professional athlete.

After all, for some of these guys, the concept of retirement is as terrifying as death itself.

"There's just not much else out there," Tom Brady said last week, when asked about how long he plans to play. "Other than my family, it's like the abyss, you know? There's nothing else."

It was a pretty morbid statement from the typically lighthearted, borderline-hokey QB, but you can understand where he's coming from. I mean, imagine you're 36 or 37 years old, and someone tells you that your greatest skill and ultimate passion in life no longer exists. Imagine you're a wildly successful artist who's now only allowed to help your child do paint-by-numbers. Imagine you're an accomplished saxophone player, who suddenly has all his instruments replaced by the plastic recorders they sell at Wal-Mart. Imagine how much that would suck.

And it does suck. While there's plenty to envy about the lives that these athletes live, I'd don't envy having to retire in your mid-to-late 30s and not just from a job, but from something that you absolutely love.

Of course, some athletes make a seamless transition into the afterlife. For instance, Rob Bradford has a story this morning on JD Drew, who to no one's surprise hasn't missed a beat since leaving baseball. But guys like Drew are in the minority. That's why we see so many athletes go into coaching or TV and bend over backwards to stay in the game. Not just for the limelight, but so they can still be apart of it; because it's the only life they want to live. I've made this comparison before, but it's like that old SNL skit with Tracy Morgan and Jim Breuer: "Wong and Owens, Ex Porn Stars." Sports is all they know!

It's funny, if you think back over the last five years in Boston sports, which three athletes would you say were the ones most criticized for not caring about the game, or not always trying as hard as they should?

Over the last few seasons, I guess Josh Beckett became the poster boy for that, but before him there are three names that stick out for me:

Rasheed Wallace, Manny Ramirez and Randy Moss.

Wallace retired in 2010. Manny retired in the spring of 2011. Moss retired later that summer.

Not one of them could stay away.

Manny's comeback with the A's failed, and he's since found God to help cope with his life after baseball.

Moss signed with the 49ers, and has been a near non-factor he's caught only nine balls in five games and was targeted only twice in Sunday's win over Buffalo. But while this used to equal a Moss Meltdown, this year he's (at least according to Jim Harbaugh) been a model teammate, a consummate pro.

And last month, Wallace signed with the Knicks. While we have no clue how it will turn out, or if Wallace will try any harder or be in any better shape than he was with the Celtics, it's obvious that life away from basketball wasn't right for him.

It didn't work for any of these guys. You can imagine how much the idea of retirement haunts guys like Brady.

Players like him don't need the afterlife. As far as they're concerned, this is already heaven.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Stars, studs and duds: Bradley delivers another two-way gem

Stars, studs and duds: Bradley delivers another two-way gem

CHICAGO – Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s series-clinching 105-83 Game 6 win over the Chicago Bulls.
 
STARS
 

Avery Bradley

He delivered yet another two-way gem for the Celtics, scoring nine of his 23 points in the first quarter that set the tone for Boston’s win.
 
Jimmy Butler

Gutsy performance by Butler whose sore knees didn’t allow him to be as explosive as he’s accustomed to at both ends of the floor. He still managed to score a team-high 23 points along with grabbing seven rebounds.
 
Al Horford

It’s almost to the point where you expect Horford to deliver a balanced scoring line. In Game 6 he had 12 points, 7 assists and six rebounds.
 

STUDS
 
Isaiah Thomas

His shot wasn’t falling (he was 4-for-12), but Thomas still managed to make his presence felt. He finished with 12 points, six assists and five rebounds.
 
Robin Lopez

He has had better games, but he still finished with a decent stat line with 10 points and five rebounds.
 

DUDS
 
Dwyane Wade

Absolutely brutal night for Wade who may have played his last game for the Bulls if he decides to opt-out of his contract and become a free agent. He had just two points, missing nine of his 10 shots from the field.

Celtics blow out the Bulls in Game 6, move on to face the Wizards

Celtics blow out the Bulls in Game 6, move on to face the Wizards

CHICAGO – The Boston Celtics were at a crossroads just two games into their first-round series against Chicago.

Down 2-0, something had to change – and change fast – if they were going to avoid being remembered as one of the worst number one seeds in NBA history.

“We didn’t have a meeting, but it was a reality check for us,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley who talked about how the team was “humbled after losing two games.”

They had a choice.

They could feel sorry for themselves and continue to struggle, or as Bradley put it, “come here (Chicago) and make history.”

The Celtics did just that, becoming the first number one seed in the best-of-seven series era to lose the first two games at home, and respond by winning the next four which includes a 105-83 Game 6 win to eliminate the Bulls.

Boston’s blowout victory was fueled in large part by a furious third quarter in which they dominated the Bulls in every way imaginable, outscoring Chicago 34-16 in the quarter which gave them a decisive 88-59 lead going into the fourth.

The 29-point lead after three quarters was a historical moment. It now stands as the largest lead the Celtics have had in a road playoff game after three quarters of play.

Boston moves on to the Conference semi-finals where they will face the Washington Wizards with Game 1 expected to be at the TD Garden on Sunday.

Fourth-year coach Brad Stevens advances past the first round of the playoffs for the first time, while the Celtics franchise is in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

And in the final game of the series, the Celtics’ depth proved to be just too much for the injury-riddled Bulls to overcome.

Former Celtic Rajon Rondo, who led the Bulls to wins in Games 1 and 2, suffered a fractured right thumb injury in Game 2 and was unable to return in the series.

And while Jimmy Butler had a strong 23-point performance in Game 6, he was hampered to some extent by sore knees which more than anything, seemed to take something away from his explosiveness both as a scorer and to defend at a high level.

The player benefiting most from Butler’s less-than-ideal status health-wise, was Avery Bradley.

After scoring a playoff career-high 24 points in Boston’s Game 5 win, he got off to a fast start in Game 6 with nine of his 23 points scored in the first quarter.

Bradley’s scoring, primarily from 3-point range, was indicative of how the game began for the Celtics.

They opened with a 9-4 run, with all nine points coming from 3-point range.

Chicago got a couple shots to go down, but Boston went on an 8-2 spurt that gave them their first double-digit lead 21-11, after back-to-back dunks by Gerald Green and Al Horford, respectively.

Boston’s control remained strong as the first quarter ended with the Celtics ahead 30-23.

And the Celtics’ second unit picked up where the starters left off by scoring eight of the first 10 points of the second quarter to lead 38-25.

Boston’s second unit helped push the Celtics’ lead to as many as 17 points in the second before the Bulls began to chip away at it.

A lay-up by Chicago’s Paul Zipser capped off an 8-0 run by the Bulls that cut Boston’s lead to 42-33 with 5:50 to play in the first half.

Boston continued to play with in the double-digit neighborhood before closing the quarter by scoring nine of the last 13 points to lead by 13 at the half.