This past weekend the New York Times ran an obituary for a 69-year-old former football player named George Sauer. Mr. Sauer was an accomplished wide receiver who made four Pro Bowls. In 1967, he led the American Football League in catches. In 1969, he played a prominent role as Joe Namath led the New York Jets to an improbable win in Super Bowl III.
He also hated his sport. Sauer considered professional football “a grotesque business” that “both glorifies and destroys bodies.” Lacking the passion to continue, he retired at age 27.
Mark DeRosa isn’t sure what to make of Sauer’s long-ago decision to give up the game. It isn’t for lack of thoughtfulness or insight. The Toronto Blue Jays infielder received his education at the University of Pennsylvania and was the starting quarterback on the Ivy League school’s football team. Still playing baseball at the age of 38, he has never lacked the passion to continue.
DeRosa offered his thoughts on Sauer’s obituary prior to Sunday’s game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Mark DeRosa on George Sauer: “The impression I got is that he was a man conflicted. He was great at something he probably didn’t want to be great at. He didn’t truly have a passion for the game, but rather a passion for writing and different interests. As a football player he didn‘t really want to conform to all the rules and regulations. In his own words, he didn’t want to be treated like an adolescent.
“I understand where he was coming from in certain respects. “We’re in a grind in this game. I obviously don’t feel as strongly as he did, but for me, the family stuff is tough. Pursuing other interests is tough.
“I think you make a decision early on in your life what you want to do, and baseball is something I knew I wanted to play. I had a passion for it. I didn’t have parents that pushed me in any direction, I just fell in love with the game and wanted to get to the big leagues regardless of the rules and regulations that were in place when I got here.
“When I was [at Penn] I lived with football players. I played two sports in college, but most of my time was spent with the football team. As far as my passion for baseball, I don’t think my roommates even knew how deep it ran. It was never a conflicting issue for me. I went to Penn to get the best opportunity academically, in case baseball didn’t pan out. But I always had my eye on the prize.
“I don’t think the mentality of the two sports is completely different. Obviously, you can’t take out your frustrations in a baseball game the way you can in football. Going 100 miles an hour in a baseball game doesn’t bode well to getting the results you want. But in big situations, when the game is on the line and the fans are going crazy, I always go back to my football days and how you’re able to drown everything out and concentrate at the task at hand. You have to embrace those moments, rather than shy away from them. If you lose that passion, it’s going to be hard to continue to have success.
“Like I said, it seems like his true passion wasn’t what was he was good at. God blesses you with certain abilities and you want to take full advantage of them. Based on what I read, he wasn’t necessarily excited with the ones God blessed him with.”