For Reinsdorf and Urlacher, time is relative

  • After 13 seasons, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has played his last game in the NFL and is retiring.

      After 13 seasons, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has played his last game in the NFL and is retiring. George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Updated 5/22/2013 6:56 PM

This week demonstrated how much better it is to own than be owned.

We're talking about sports teams, but it could be about destinies.


One day, longtime White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf remarked that he plans to still be in his position in 20 years. The next day, longtime Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher announced that he won't be around for another season of pro football.

No matter how many years an athlete has leverage in contract negotiations, in the end the game will determine his fate.

Urlacher earned a lot of money as the face of the Bears, but then the McCaskeys and their operatives said he wasn't worth all that much anymore and parted ways with him.

No matter how many years that owners pay an athlete more than they want to, in the end they'll determine his fate along with their own. Urlacher is gone and the McCaskeys aren't going anywhere.

Seriously, a player is the man for a while, but the owner is the man for as long as he wants to be.

After a mere 13 years, which is barely a blink in most professions, Urlacher is retiring from the game he was born to play. (Think about it: Urlacher was 2 years old when Reinsdorf's group bought the White Sox.)

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Man, it seems no longer than a decade since 1981 when Reinsdorf took over the Sox, and much longer than three decades since 2000 when Urlacher embarked on becoming the latest in the line of great Bears' middle linebackers.

Time flies in sports, but faster for the owned than for the owner.

Reinsdorf can't see the end at age 77. Urlacher sees it at age 34. A businessman can feel young and useful in his late 70s, and an athlete can feel old and useless in his early 30s.

If Urlacher chooses, he can transition from being an old athlete to being a young businessman like Reinsdorf once was. Or he can be a football analyst. Or he can be a full-time father. Or he can be a philanthropist. Or he can be anything else that he decides he wants to be.

Owning a sports franchise is a second career while playing is a first career in search of an encore. Heck, maybe Urlacher will put together a syndicate to buy the Sox and Bulls when Reinsdorf finally feels he is ready for a third career.


Reinsdorf will be recalled as the managing partner that managed the Sox to their first World Series title and the Bulls to their first NBA titles. We say the first in reference to each because the chairman professes to plan to try for at least 20 more years to add on.

Meanwhile, Urlacher's playing legacy will be based on his current credentials, which football historians will begin now to place into context.

Urlacher will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in five years. As of Wednesday, he can't do any more to embellish his career. He was a great player, he's worthy of enshrinement and the most compelling question now is how long it will take for him to make it.

The championships that Ray Lewis won with the Ravens place him ahead of Urlacher, and come to think of it the one that Reinsdorf won with the Sox does too.

Isn't ironic, then, that Reinsdorf has all these additional years to add to his accomplishments as an owner while Urlacher's resume as a player is complete?

Longevity alone sure does make it better to be an owner than to be owned.

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