Ask any athlete whose career comes to an end this question: “What will you miss most of all?” Almost universally, the response is something like this:
“I will miss the games, but even more so, I will miss being with the guys in that locker room. That kind of camaraderie is something I will never experience again.”
In the NFL, unless they go into coaching, management or broadcasting, many former players struggle in the “real world.” They may have trouble managing their money. They don’t know what to do with themselves. They have a lot of free time on their hands, which can lead to all kinds of trouble. They may have trouble dragging their permanently-injured bodies out of bed each morning. They may no longer feel relevant. Younger men are now hearing the cheers. Other athletes (baseball, basketball and hockey players) struggle, but the problem is particularly acute among former football players.
Additionally, it would be interesting to see if male and female athletes react differently “when the cheering stops.” I suspect they do. I suspect that men need — and miss — the adulation from thousands of cheering fans more than women do. In this subtle way, women generally are mentally tougher than men.