Why would the Extraterrestrial quit now?
Why would Michael Jordan retire now?
Grief, obviously. The devastation he feels from his father's murder.
And fatigue. He is tired clean to the bone, not physically but emotionally. He has been through the sewer in the last year, with all those gambling stories, some speculative, some just plain nasty.
And perhaps the grief and the weariness explain the seeming selfishness of the moment, the apparent lack of consideration.
Maybe he didn't think it through. Grief can make you fuzzy. Maybe he didn't think of the implications, even though he knows what a shell-burst of news this is.
If he decided he didn't want to wait until the White Sox were through playing, whenever that might be, he could have at least waited until Thursday, the travel day in the American League playoffs. You might not want to keep the cork in for two weeks, but two days is hardly torture.
But for whatever the reasons that have prompted it, one overriding thing strikes you about this retirement.
That it is very likely to become an unretirement.
Michael Jordan has been holding a basketball virtually his whole life.
He is about to find out that, all this time, it has been the other way around.
He will miss the game, miss it so deep down in his soul that it will ache like nothing he has ever felt.
He is a performer. He is the bald-headed man who can fly. He will miss not flying. More, he will miss people watching him fly.
Like Muhammad Ali, like Sugar Ray Leonard, like a thousand boxers, Michael Jordan will rethink his decision.
And change his mind.
And we'll all be the richer for it.
It must be confessed that this is wishful thinking. It is to be fervently hoped that he does not go away, and if he does, that he hurries back.
Money surely is not a consideration. He has it stacked higher than the Alps.
No, what they all miss, what hurts the most about the letting go, is the light, the shining of the light.
Surely everything in Jordan screams at him for relief now. Three NBA championships in a row, the Olympics, the terrible tragedy of his father, the squalid mess about the gambling . . . the man has endured more than he feels he can stand.
Bereavement will do that to you, suck the marrow right out of you. But, in time, Jordan will take a deep breath and he won't cough up pain anymore, and he will come to regret this decision.
Fortunately, it is nothing that can't be undone.
He can always change his mind.
Expect him to.
In the meantime, he will go ahead with what his heart tells him to do now, and you understand that; you understand that #i unspeakable loss leaves you hollow, wanting only to make the world go away.
And perhaps he has convinced himself that now is the time to leave anyway, now when there is no world left for him to conquer.
There isn't much he hasn't done, so you understand if he has a sense that the only way off the mountaintop is straight down.
The only consolation is the certainty that he will come back.