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To Be a Legend it Helps to Be Dead

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Typically, one must be dead to be a legend. Fortunately for athletes, they only need to retire. Still, the principle is the same in that at the very least those who have attained the status of legend are expected to be well past the days in which their deeds might earn them such status.

For some there may be argument over whether Jamie Carragher in the end will deserve to be thought of as an all time legend, a local player who would have fully earned such status through his actions in Istanbul even had he retired the minute the game ended. Or if instead, being second for many behind Sami Hyypia in his time at the club and down the pecking order for his country while in his prime there must be some qualifying modification made to the honour. Often this involves appending the term local to that prospective legendary status; other times it goes a step further and asks that he only be called a loyal servant to the club.

All of that, though, leaves that one awkward point unstated, ignored, or otherwise glossed over. All of that does its best to avoid mentioning that to become a legend in the eyes of those watching one is, as a general rule, expected to no longer be doing anything especially legendary. And that, when one gets right down to it, reflects an inherent problem for those who when faced with the suggestion that Jamie Carragher should no longer be considered first or second or even third choice at centre back fall back on claims of his legendary status as though they make for a worthwhile counter-argument.

In his absence throughout much of the season it has been thoroughly proven on the pitch that the always suspicious argument a pair of defenders who oraganise the backlines for their respective national sides would be unable to play without Carragher setting the defence in fact has no basis in reality. Meanwhile, since his return, the defence has only gotten worse, the club's player of the season has been shunted into a less effective role, and all of a sudden what had been the one consistent in a season full of inconsistencies has become just as unreliable as everything else.

And so with his legs going, and his jumping a liability, and the rest of the defence appearing increasingly shaky around him, those who would defend him are left with just the one argument to fall back on: He's a legend. Only in insisting that he's a legend and deserves special consideration because of it one has already admitted that on merit he should no longer be playing. For a footballer, being a legend means having long ago tottered off to a television studio or to sit on a beach on the Costa del Sol, and every time somebody argues in favour of Carragher's legendary status that argument contains the suggestion—intended or not—that that is what he should now be doing instead of playing football.

Jamie Carragher may not be ready for that just yet; he may still have it in him to bring something of value to Liverpool Football Club on the pitch. But in the here and now his eventual standing as a legend, local legend, or loyal servant to the club is entirely immaterial. There is no place for it in the issue of his role in the current team, and far from providing reason for him to play, raising the spectre of Jamie Carragher: Legend only serves to condemn the football player in the present while doing a disservice to whatever legacy he will leave behind when he does hang up his boots.