Last night, I was sitting with an old friend, chasing another week of bragging rights on the ol’ Madden. Around the third game of the night, when his 2016 Patriots were getting dominated by a far inferior 2016 49ers squad, we got to discussing the could-haves of sports. It wasn’t necessarily restricted to football, but ended up giving way, after some time, to discussing 49ers of bygone eras, almost exclusively.
We discussed Marcus Lattimore, perhaps the ultimate in “man, he could’ve been great” wist. That portion of the conversation ended with a short disagreement in doing away with the “3 years removed from high school” rule for NFL draft eligibility. The topic moved to Chris Borland, and how early voluntary retirements like his could hypothetically influence future HOF voters’ opinions on career length (a la teammate Patrick Willis).
Next, we tiptoed around the Aldon Smith case. We found a short career highlights video, and marveled at what a monster he was on the field. We exchanged some indescribable look as Smith sacked Tom Brady, blowing past the late Aaron Hernandez. There was this incredulous moment when the narrator mentioned that, as a 2nd year player, he had fallen just short of the NFL yearly sack record, with 19 and a half. Then, the video took a turn - the on-field highlights ran out, and the rap sheet began. Thankfully, the video was made in 2017, and didn’t mercifully ended before some of his later charges.
As the evening was coming to a close, we finally landed on discussion the Reuben Foster situation. Being removed from the situation as a Saints fan, my friend said something that really resonated. In response to my stating that as 49ers fans, we were lucky that the charges ended up being duds, he said “I don’t know about lucky, man. All of these things either happened, or they didn’t. Aldon couldn’t control his substance abuse. Borland made a conscious decision to hang ‘em up. Lattimore had a freak accident. But, the Foster thing apparently never happened. I wouldn’t think of this as having a second chance, as luck, but maybe now you won’t take the dude for granted” (paraphrased, but the message is what counts).
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