The MLS season enters Week 4 and the USA faces two crucial World Cup qualifying games -- Friday vs. Costa Rica and Tuesday at Mexico. Missing is Landon Donovan.
The New York Times' Sam Borden writes that Donovan's self-imposed exile from soccer has often been described as unprecedented or unusual, but this is hardly true. There is a rich and compelling history of surprising celebrity sabbaticals, with a wide variety of outcomes. Some stars return from their time off to tremendous success (Bob Dylan, the director Terrence Malick); others return to find that it might have been better if they had stayed away (the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the comedian Dave Chappelle). Still others, of course, do not really come back at all (J. D. Salinger).
In all likelihood, Donovan’s return will fall somewhere in the middle, not rising as high as Michael Jordan’s blistering resurgence nor falling as low as Bjorn Borg’s complete disaster.
“If he didn’t take the break, it would have been unhealthy,” says Todd Dunivant, Donovan's friend and Galaxy teammate. “It wasn’t just that his legs were tired. It was everything.”
“I’m the first to say that when I first heard about it, my thought wasn’t, yes, that’s a wonderful idea,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “I thought it was a bad idea. These are the challenges that professional athletes have. None of us get any breaks — coaches don’t get any. So I told him that. I respected his decision but that’s how I felt. ... But I have made peace with it and in this case, with this player, it makes sense.
“Do I think, ultimately, that it will help Landon?” Arena added. “Yes, I do.” He paused. “At least I certainly hope so.”