Now football does a wave it would rather not, waving goodbye to the players who simultaneously grew the game and their legacies.
Say goodbye to the greats
One after another, the legends of the fall have become casualties of the winter and spring. It was as if Brett Favre threw open the door, then Michael Strahan and Jonathan Ogden exited through it, together, in the same week.
But they had teammates. This offseason alone, the league also lost Warren Sapp, Priest Holmes, Steve McNair -- and still could lose Bryant Young, Larry Allen and Junior Seau.
This is the offseason version of piling on, but really, it isn't all that different from many other offseasons.
In 2006, the NFL lost Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Willie Roaf and Doug Flutie.
In 2005, the legends that departed were Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Emmitt Smith and Eddie George.
In 2004, the game lost Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson and Bruce Smith.
As we've seen in the past, and as we will see in the future, the result is always the same. The game goes on.
But what distinguishes this year's headline departures is the length of time they served in one city. These were one-city-in-one-career men, each of whom helped his respective franchise win a Super Bowl.
While Favre spent one year in Atlanta, he was Green Bay, not entirely different from Vince Lombardi. Strahan was New York in a way few athletes ever have been. Ogden was as much a fixture in Baltimore as he was at left tackle.
Other players still will have the chance to finish their careers where they started them. Marvin Harrison could do it in Indianapolis, Tedy Bruschi in New England, Ray Lewis in Baltimore and Tony Gonzalez in Kansas City.
But something about this year's ever-growing list of retirees feels different. Something feels lost. For years, the players that helped deliver wins for their teams now have dealt a collective loss to their sport.