LaDainian Tomlinson Joins Roger Clemens in Burning the Twilight Oil

BHLCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11:  LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the New York Jets runs the ball against the Minnesota Vikings at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 11, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets won 29-20.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Roger Clemens spent the first 13 years of his illustrious Major League Baseball career with the Boston Red Sox, making five All-Star appearances and collecting three Cy Young awards.

At the end of the 1996 baseball season, former Boston Red Sox General Manager Dan Duquette declared that the once proud "Rocket Man," Roger Clemens, was "in the twilight of his career."  Clemens, the boyhood idol of many New Englanders, and a career-long member of the Red Sox, was taken back.

Clemens spent the bulk of his time in Boston as the most notable member of the Boston Red Sox.  How could the general manager question his capability of remaining on top?

Taken back so much so, that Clemens would find the fountain of youth with the Toronto Blue Jays. The apparently mediocrity bound 34-year-old twilight firefly proceeded to take his 1993 to 1996 performance, which most definitely was not close to his former dominance, and mysteriously rewound the tape four years to return to his capabilities of age 29.

With Clemens, the Fraud Triangle was there:  pressure to prove others wrong and return to form, the opportunity to extend his time as an ace, and the rationalization that everybody was doing it.

Clemens would go on to win consecutive Cy Young Awards in 1997 and 1998, proving to Duquette and the rest of the naysayers in the Boston media, that the sun still shone brightly on this Texas cowboy.

The media was naive when it came to analyzing what lead to this miraculous turnaround.  It was reported time and time again that Clemens dedicated himself to the gym upon his departure from Boston, and was a workout machine.  His animal-like workouts were the reason for his dramatic ascent back atop the Major Leagues.

LaDainian Tomlinson, a five time Pro Bowler and three time 1st team All-Pro, spent nine full seasons with the San Diego Chargers.  Tomlinson spent the bulk of those years as the feature back, and one of the most notable personalities on the Chargers.

Tomlinson's numbers began to decline in 2008 and 2009, and seeing his value descend, Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith decided it was time to part ways with the face of the Chargers franchise.

Tomlinson's speed was down, and age was catching up with him.  It appeared the twilight of Tomlinson's career was upon him.

At the over-the-hill (for running backs, especially) and twilight bound age of 30, Tomlinson took his aching and injury-prone legs to the New York Jets for the 2010 season. Smith chose to avoid the low class yet true call out of his former star, but it was clear Tomlinson had something to prove.

Through the first four weeks of the 2010 season, the Jets' Tomlinson appears rejuvenated and youthful. Tomlinson's dwindling speed has experienced a rebirth.  Tomlinson has amassed over 400 yards rushing, and is averaging a pompous 5.7 yards per carry.

October 13th's Wall Street Journal nicely summarizes the historic feat Tomlinson has accomplished in his dramatic performance enhancement in 2010, as compared with 2009.

Numbers like that are reminiscent of a 27 or 28 year old Tomlinson, so how is he pulling it off at age 31?  Did the Fraud Triangle of pressure, opportunity, and rationalization enter the equation?

For those who remember the reports surrounding Roger Clemens' resurgence in 1997, and their focus on Clemens' intense workout routine, October 7th's Wall Street Journal paints an all-too-familiar picture.

A worn and tired Tomlinson, staring down the waning moments of his career.  An intense off-season workout routine, and as per Scott Cacciola's October 7th Wall Street Journal article, squat numbers mysteriously returning to 600 pounds for the 1st time since Tomlinson was in college, ten years and over 2,000 NFL carries earlier. 

Time will tell if Tomlinson can maintain this level of performance throughout the 2010 season.  As baseball taught us recently, a healthy amount of skepticism should accompany any evaluation of this type of age-defying productivity.  Should Tomlinson bolt his way to an All-Pro season, and continue to experience things he hasn't since his college days, perhaps he will join Clemens in similar post-playing-day activities.