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Three Takeaways from Amazon’s ‘Bye Bye Barry’

On Sanders’ retirement, a funny Eminem quote and some small world moments.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

When Barry Sanders took his last NFL handoff, I was 3 years old.

I’ve seen the highlights. I’ve looked at the stats. But for me to say that I knew what it was like when Sanders was playing would just be an outright lie. So, when Amazon released the documentary “Bye Bye Barry” on Tuesday, I was intrigued not only for the Oklahoma State angle, but just to see what the moment of time was like when Sanders was playing.

It’s a good documentary that any OSU fan should give a try. There are some mentions to his college days in Stillwater, but it is mainly focused on his sudden retirement. Without spoiling all of the fun stories from the documentary, here are three takeaways I had, as someone who wasn’t watching Sanders live.

Why Barry Retired

My prevailing thought on why Barry Sanders retired: Because he wanted to.

That shouldn’t be as hard to get through to people as it is, but it sounds like the guy didn’t want to play anymore.

He seems like a guy who walks to the beat of his own drum. Although he has many records, it doesn’t appear as if he cares much about them. The documentary made note of him wanting younger players to play his senior season at Wichita North High School at the expense of Sanders not securing the city rushing title. That’s a similar sentiment Mike Gundy often shares about Sanders’ time in Stillwater. Then he didn’t care to capture the NFL rushing title as a rookie. Personal accolades be darned.

The man was dozing off during his Heisman Trophy ceremony, and there was a story about him leaving an individual award at a banquet that had to be brought to him on the bus. He then left that award on the bus so a teammate took it home for safekeeping, and he apparently just left that award at that teammate’s house.

It sounds like the big sticking point as to why so many people are surprised he retired early had to do with him closing in on Walter Payton’s rushing record. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to believe that Sanders simply didn’t care as much about having that record as most would based on his history of not caring about individual accolades. I guess, I get it to an extent because that would be something that most do care about, but not the abnormally humble Sanders.

He retired because he wanted to, it seems like. Let’s not try to make it complicated.

Two Funny Quotes

I wrote down two quotes from the doc that I found rather hilarious.

The first came from Detroit rapper Eminem. It pertained to the arguments back in the day of people comparing Sanders to Emmitt Smith. Eminem’s argument as to why Sanders was better is because Sanders was doing all that while being on some bad Lions teams, while Smith had a better team around him with the Cowboys. Here is the quote that made me chuckle:

“If we would’ve had a team like Emmitt had, and we had Barry — f—,” Eminem said.

The other came from Sanders himself. The end of the doc featured his four sons asking him questions in London — where he escaped to after his retirement announcement.

Sanders faxed his retirement letter in. After establishing to one of his sons what a fax was, another asked why via fax?

“I guess email was around,” Sanders said.

The dry manor in the delivery is what got a chuckle out of me.

Imagine nowadays if LeBron James faxed in his retirement letter and tried to get off the grid by escaping to another country before things tamed down.

Small World Moments

When Barry Sanders won the 1988 Heisman Trophy, USC’s Rodney Peete finished in second place and UCLA’s Troy Aikman finished third.

Peete would end up with Sanders in the Lions after the franchise took both in the 1989 NFL Draft — sort of peculiar.

Aikman is from Henryetta, Oklahoma — the state Sanders played his college ball in. Aikman would end up going to the Dallas Cowboys to play under Jimmy Johnson. Johnson had just gotten to Dallas after a successful stint at the University of Miami. Before coaching the Hurricanes, Johnson coached at a smaller school in Payne County, Oklahoma called Oklahoma State, where he was 29-25 in five seasons and led the Cowboys to a Bluebonnet Bowl win.

Sanders’ first NFL playoff game came in the 1991 season, and it was played against none other than Johnson, Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps more crazy than all of those connections is the fact that the Lions won that game 38-6.

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