J.J. Watt can’t wear No. 99 in Arizona. Unless he can.
Officially retired in honor of running back/fullback Marshall Goldberg by the Cardinals, one member of Goldberg’s family has paved the way for a dispensation. His daughter, Ellen Goldberg Tullos, told TMZ.com that the family wouldn’t object to the number being unretired for Watt’s use.
“He has my blessings,” Tullos told TMZ.com, “and I’m sure my father would be more than delighted for him to carry it on. . . . I know dad was really honored when they retired his number but also he’s always respected other players. And if J.J. Watt had the number 99 with him for a long time and it meant something to him, I think he’d be delighted to let him use the number and unretire or whatever the proper word would be.”
The proper word is “retired,” because that’s what the number is. When teams retire numbers, they surely are aware of the possibility that, at some point in the future, there could be someone who wants to wear it and/or someone to whom they’d like to issue it. To allow that, don’t retire numbers.
Goldberg’s number is retired. That should be the end of it. Just like it should have been the end of it nine years ago, when Peyton Manning wanted to wear No. 18 in Denver but it had been retired.
All-time great players can be honored in ways other than permanently setting their number aside. If, however, the number is going to be permanently set aside then (wait for it) the number should be permanently set aside.