Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
Bye Bye Barry – Prime Video
The day that Barry Sanders was supposed to show up for training camp in 1999 he sent a fax to announce his retirement and refused to speak to the press or any management. At the height of his career he just walked away, when at the time considered the best running back ever to play the game and on the verge of breaking every record there was for his position. For those who truly knew Barry, this was just the quiet way he always went about doing things throughout his life.
Barry was a Heisman trophy winner from Oklahoma State, drafted in Round One of 1989 NFL Draft to the Detroit Lions. After the draft Barry just disappeared and didn’t seem to want to be in the spotlight. In his first interview he explain he wasn’t a shy person but he felt that people in his situation were not respected by the press. Barry expressed that the press needed to respect his judgment and the way he was as a person because every individual was different and he was aware of people in the NFL who didn’t really care to deal with the press.
Barry’s first few seasons under head coach Wayne Fontes were winning seasons, but never reached the playoffs or superbowl. In 1997 Barry was working with a new coach in his ninth year in the NFL and by the end of the season was set to break the record of over 2000 yards rushing in a season as a running back (only two other players in the history of the NFL). The Lions last game of the season was against the Jets and they needed to win the game to get into the playoffs.
In the first half Barry was only able to get 20 yards, but took off in the second half and in the middle of the game the ref handed the game ball to Barry to let him know he had the 2000 yard rushing record. Barry humbly shook the ref’s hand and just quietly went over to the sideline and tossed the ball to his father. One of Barry’s teammates Herman Moore asked for his shoes, asking him to sign and date it and still has those shoes to this day.
The Lions also beat the Jets, though Barry’s teammate Reggie Brown was injured and paralyzed, similar to what happened to his other teammate Mike Uttley in 1991. Shortly after Barry mentioned thinking about quitting football to one of his childhood friends due to the dangers involved and the grind. In1998 Barry began to lose his drive and passion due to a losing season for the Lions and many of the other Lions players going to other better teams. Unknown to anyone else, Barry had decided to quit football.
In 1999, Barry Sanders boarded a plane to London the day the Lions were starting training camp after sending a fax to announce his formal retirement from football. Barry chose London having been there before and feeling it would be a good place to get away from all the craziness that was happening back in the US. Barry called to tell his mom, though his father was very angry thinking that Barry threw everything away.
Shocking the world, Barry faxed a statement to his local paper that his desire to be out of the game was greater than his desire to remain. If he played another season he would beat Walter Payton’s rushing record, but Barry was never one to care about records. Today Barry would say that the main reason was losing the drive to continue as his heart just wasn’t in it anymore.
In 2004, Barry Sanders was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, thanking his father for all his support. Barry’s father passed away from cancer in 2011, and Barry continued to live in Detroit and became a beloved member of the city.
Runtime: 1h 33m