Urlacher's time in Chicago over, but legacy remains

Urlacher's time in Chicago over, but legacy remains
March 21, 2013, 10:15 am
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Jen Lada

You're invaluable. Until you're not.

You call the shots. Until you don't.

You're the toast of the town. Until you aren't.

Think, for a moment, of all the players who enter the National Football League. All the men who spend their Sundays moving or halting the chains. Every. Last. One.

It's a daunting, impossible, unfair request. I apologize.

The reality is hundreds of thousands of athletes toil in relative anonymity year after unforgiving year. Beyond fans of their franchise or rabid fantasy commissioners, they are mostly unknown. Specimens in their own right certainly but compared to the Hall of Famers, the Faces of the Franchises - the guys - they are just a guy. A number. One of 53. And that's the lucky ones.

[MORE: Bears, Urlacher part ways]

By those standards, No. 54 is one of the luckiest. Thirteen years in blue and orange, Brian Urlacher earned the luxury of never understanding such indistinction. He has been the Monster (in the middle) of the Midway since 2000. A hard nosed, punishing, decorated player, but also an articulate, charming and lovable ambassador. For many years, his popularity extended throughout the entire country, evidenced by his jersey being one of the league's best sellers season after season.

Now he's being cut loose. Shown the door and separated from the life, the environment and the family he's settled into. It's a crappy situation. But one that anyone who's been dumped, cut, fired or demoted can sympathize with.

No one wants to hear they're not good enough. No one wants to hear that the job they've done for years doesn't cut it anymore. No one wants to hear that there's nothing they can do to change the minds of those who dictate their fate. But (shrug) it happens. And amazingly, everyone but a select privileged minority, has experienced it.

So why is there such shock and disbelief that it's happened to Urlacher? Why are so many fans disgusted by the brass' decision to go in another direction? Are our favorite sports stars somehow immune to the pink slip?

[RELATED: Bears-Urlacher negotiations doomed from the start?]

You know it's a business. You know there's very little loyalty. You know that sentiment has no place in the cut-throat, talent talks, roster-building process. You may think your guy is still the stud he once was but the dudes making the call see it differently. You might not want to see your hero sporting new duds, but if he can latch on with another team and earn another NFL paycheck, God bless. No amount of handwringing or pleading or petitioning is going to alter that outcome. It never has. Not with your old, jerk boss. Not with your ex. Not with the coach or manager or GM.

Urlacher has nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing to prove. He boasts a long and celebrated career with statistical highs and league honors. He is a beloved sports figure who's spent his entire career -- to this point -- in one place. These are just a few things to be proud of and revered for.

Sometimes it's hard to find perspective in the middle of the "shove-off" scene, but the number of guys who would give anything to claim such distinctions in practically incalculable. Urlacher busted his tail on the field for more than a decade and now can walk away -- maybe not on his own terms -- certainly a winner. He's one of the lucky ones. The luckiest, actually. So are you. If you allow yourself to bask in the glow of his collective career and not get wrapped up in the details of the breakup.