I have never understood why people expect good athletes to quit. These are the people with the most competitive spirit and determination in the world; why should they walk away from the activity that has driven and dictated their entire lives, especially if they still enjoy it?

Mean-spirited articles by journalists, like this one suggesting Jerry Rice get out of football, completely miss the point. Sure, Rice may not be the superstar he once was, but he’s still a powerful presence and a potential contributor who wants to be in the game (which is more than one could say about many pro athletes, and most journalists, for that matter).

So Rice wants to play? Good! Let’s see him push himself to new goals, see if he can be the first 42-year-old wide receiver to score a touchdown in the NFL. So long as he’s better than the worst receiver on a roster, he deserves to play, if he so desires.

This haranguing is the same thing Rickey Henderson has endured the past few years. Henderson, rather than quit the sport he loves, has played minor league baseball for two seasons, in part to campaign for a major-league job, and in part because he still loves the game and still finds ways to contribute. And for that, I admire him.

“I’m going to play until I get it out of my system. It’s still fun, and that’s the main thing,” Rickey says in the article linked above. “I still love the game of baseball. I’ve accomplished everything there is to accomplish, but I still want to win.” More power to you, Rickey, and to you, Jerry. Play hard and play proud.