"I will always cherish the moments of running in front of you in small shorts and long socks with other grown men while trying to kick a ball in a certain direction." ~ Jimmy Conrad
After the announcement yesterday, the news is official: Jimmy Conrad has retired from soccer. The Chivas USA defender only played two matches for the Goats, but it was an unexpected end to a long and successful career, most notably with the Kansas City Wizards (he also spent a few years with the San Jose Earthquakes early in his career). But even in his short time in Los Angeles this year, Conrad was a welcome presence around the team. He started out as the captain, and before the final concussion that ended his season, and ultimately career, against Colorado back in March, was expected to be a key leader for a young squad with few returning veterans. His leadership was still available to his teammates even while he was sidelined, and he has stepped in a coaching capacity on a formal and informal level over the past few months.
In his statement released today, Conrad cited the health concerns associated with multiple concussions over his career and the lingering symptoms following the latest concussion as the cause for his midseason retirement. Obviously, any player that is forced into retirement because of injury and not on their own terms is sad, but I think it is wise to hang the boots up rather than risk brain damage later in life. In the past year or so a great deal of change has been made regarding concussions in American football, but soccer has not seen the same kind of scrutiny about concussions and quality of life for athletes who suffer from multiple concussions.On the spectrum of sports, American football generally seems to be far more dangerous on a play-by-play basis, and soccer seems to fall even below ice hockey as far as danger in contact sports is concerned. But Conrad is just the latest of a series of soccer players who have cited multiple concussions as the cause of a premature retirement, and I think some thought needs to be given to improving protocol for players who suffer from concussions, in addition to studying the medical effects of brain trauma, both in the short term and long term. As somebody who is not a high-level athlete but has suffered from multiple concussions in childhood and adulthood, I take the unfolding narrative about athletes and concussions, as well as the lingering medical effects, very seriously, and it is something all soccer fans should consider.
Take a look at his statement as it really encapsulates Conrad's wit and sincerity.
Also, Conrad has been appointed to the staff of the Chivas USA Youth Academy, so he will still be hanging around the club, at least for the season. He did acknowledge, however, he had some options to consider long term. As a native of Southern California, he mentioned he will strongly consider staying in the area with his family, which includes an infant daughter. He said he will take stock of whether he wants to continue in coaching or move into broadcasting (or something else entirely).
As I mentioned yesterday, Conrad has received a very enthusiastic reception from MLS fans who want him to become a broadcaster, and his vast experience as a radio show and podcast host, not to mention his numerous interviews on soccer and sports shows throughout his career, as well as his long stretch as a columnist, means he should be able to make the transition much more easily than most ex-players. Furthermore, in contrast to the intense and guarded persona Taylor Twellman had as a player before switching his broadcasting persona to one that was much more warm and open, Conrad is a genuinely funny athlete. Some people think there is a distinction between being "normal funny" and "athlete funny" (the implication is that athletes are not as funny) but I think Conrad can cross the divide as a genuinely funny person, which could really help him find a place on television, radio, or in the press.
Adam Serrano's article on Conrad's retirement on the league website features a video clip of highlights from today's press conference. Well worth a look.
For more, take a look at the news article from the club that features some elaboration from Conrad on the retirement decision and what the future will hold for him.
Also, Gabe Dahl has an interview with Conrad on the club's website in the aftermath of the announcement.
And if you aren't familiar with it, Conrad runs his own website, jimmyconrad.com which is always good for information and entertainment. I assume he will keep it running even after today, and it is well worth checking out.
Good luck to Jimmy in whatever comes his way in the future!
What do you think of the news of Jimmy Conrad's retirement? Did you make it to today's press conference? Leave a comment below!