It was in the parlance of recovering alcoholics, born-again evangelicals and Oprah viewers what is known as a moment of clarity.
Two years after walking away from professional football in 1994, former NFL defensive tackle Mike Golic glanced at a mirror and deduced that either:
A) The glass was shrinking.
B) His waistline was expanding.
“One day I kind of caught myself,” said Golic, a football analyst and radio host for ESPN. “It might, God forbid, have been after a shower. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to start doing something. It’s time to rein it in a little.”
When it comes to reining it in a little or in some cases, a lot Golic is hardly alone. For many retired athletes, re-entry into everyday life is cushioned literally by a sudden and startling weight gain, a soft, mushy parachute of flabby thighs, sagging stomachs and jiggly love handles. Consider:
Washington Wizards part owner and president of basketball operations Michael Jordan jumped from 212 pounds to roughly 240 pounds after retiring from basketball in 1998; his recent efforts to slim down have fueled rumors of a comeback.
During his 44-month hiatus from hockey, Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux reportedly gained 25 pounds.
Former basketball star Charles Barkley never svelte to begin with clocked in at an astonishing 337 1/2 pounds during a nationally televised January weigh-in, some 70 pounds more than his playing weight.
“You can work out all you want, but no matter what you do, it’s just not the same as running up and down the court,” said Jeff Ruland, men’s basketball coach at Iona and a former Wizards center. “There’s no question you’re going to put on a few pounds [in retirement].”
A tough choice