There is a right way to retire, just do not ask former LA Galaxy and United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) forward Landon Donovan for tips.

Donovan is fortunate he resides within the United States, because the abrupt way he has chosen to end his career would only be tolerated in America’s sports model of retirement.

Donovan was not selected to play for the United States and travel to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. For the record, neither was Ronaldinho, Kaka, Nasri, or Tevez for their respective nations.

So, his so-called “snubbing” was not special in this regard. While many believe this to be a mistake by Klinsmann, it should not be the major reason (which some may attribute it to) for our beloved 32-year old international hero to retire not only from the USMNT but also from Major League Soccer (MLS).

Americans watched the USMNT travel to Brazil and prove they could not only win without Donovan, but that they could compete with the world’s best by advancing to the knockout stages.

Americans have been actively watching the MLS more frequently bringing in big name players, far beyond the pedigree of Donovan. This is the natural progression of any successful sport. Eventually even the brightest stars fade and become replaced by new ones.

Why is Donovan any different? His list of achievements speaks for itself.

Donovan is both the MLS and USMNT leader in goals scored and assists. He is a five-time MLS cup champion, and played in arguably the two toughest first division soccer leagues in the world, Bundesliga in Germany and Barclays Premier League in England.

He was the face of American soccer for nearly two decades, and deservedly so. Yet, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, or Zinedine Zidane did as much for the sport of soccer, if not more than Donovan. This is hard for Americans to accept.

Thus, as athletes begin to age and approach retirement their performance level drops, but their desire to continue to play and to earn their salary remains.

Landon Donovan celebrates after scoring his 50th international goal against Guatemala in 2013. Donovan leads U.S. strikers with 57 career goals

Landon Donovan celebrates after scoring his 50th international goal against Guatemala in 2013. Donovan leads U.S. strikers with 57 career goals

It becomes a model not based on winning, but making money,” Assistant Professor of Philosophy and avid American sports enthusiast Dr. Daniel Kirchner said.

When we consider our American athletes to be special compared to the rest of the world, then the objective side of sports becomes compromised. We overpay our aging stars for a variety of reasons outside winning.

We allow for nonsensical acts such as a “Farewell Season” to occur in Major League Baseball. We allow past their prime National Basketball Association superstars to gobble up so much salary space that their team will inevitably fail as a result of their blatant selfishness.

One specific spectacle that is memorable is the Farewell Game that occurred roughly a month ago. Klinsmann actually re-instated Donovan back into the USMNT to allow the public to watch him play one more half of soccer for all the adoring American fans.

The game was a scheduled international friendly amongst two competing nations hoping to improve their squads for the upcoming qualification games that matter. The match against Ecuador resulted in a 1-1 tie.

We, as a nation, turned this friendly match into what a true American soccer fan and Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Chair of the Environmental Studies Progam Dr. Brett Werner, could only describe in one word as “bizarre.”

Donovan is not special. But … he was a wonderful player for the U.S., and he will rest amongst other American soccer greats such as Brian McBride, Cobi Jones, and Claudio Reyna.

When a player’s career is still active, organizations must treat their athletes according to what they are currently worth, not based on what they were in the past. Thus, separation in treatment between active and retired is necessary.

If the athlete is retired, then we can become subjective. If the athlete is active in their career, then we must remain objective in order to preserve the integrity of the game.

Donovan was cultivated in a subjective soccer model, and when met by the world’s standard of being objective, the clash was evident. His immediate retirement was a poor response to this clash of opposing ideals, and we as fans are the ones who will suffer.

If we want to watch our athlete’s age with grace, or retire on top we must be stern in our practice of objective measures within sports models.

This is a model that will not only produce more winning results, but more rational/humble athletes. Therefore, I do not blame Donovan for his retirement. In fact, it is quite predictable, though sad to say.

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