Tony Gonzalez is moving into retirement, and we want to do his legacy as much justice as possible. To that end, I collected the fondest memories of our staff writers here for your reading pleasure. May retirement be kind to you, Tony Gonzalez.
I'll hold on to many fond memories of watching Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta. Crazy, clutch catches, making guys 15 years younger than him look foolish in coverage, and his professionalism and team-first attitude all come to mind. My most enduring memory of Gonzalez will always be watching him react to beating the Seahawks to advance to the NFC Championship Game last season. It was the first playoff victory of the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era for the Falcons, but for Gonzalez, it was the first--and would remain the only--playoff victory of his entire lengthy career. We stayed to watch him leave the field, and even from our seats, his joy was palpable.
When I think of Tony Gonzalez, that is the moment, for me, that will forever be emblematic of his time in Atlanta.
I'm crying as I type...
"My favorite memory of Tony Gonzalez has to be the one time he talked to me in the Falcons locker room. We were all standing around his locker, and he was answering questions from about a dozen media members. For one of the questions, Tony was looking right at me and talking to me the whole time. Sure, the guy behind me asked the question. OK, maybe Tony was directing his answer at him, but he was looking in my direction. OK, maybe he looks at everyone when he's talking to the media, but we made eye contact, I think. Shut up, when was the last time you talked to him, huh?
In all seriousness, just seeing him play for the Falcons was a privilege. He's the greatest tight end to ever take the field, and we were spoiled to have him in Atlanta for five seasons.
Also, I'll never forget this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7auCKU_uGYQ"
It was an Eagles game, I think it was a few years ago.
Gonzo had a catch in the back of the end zone where he one handed it while toe tapping and falling out of bounds. Wes Durham's call of that was great, too.
It was one of those plays where you sit back and realize that there's not another being on this earth that could've done what he just did. Really drove home just how great the guy is/was for me.
I saw some blowback on Twitter recently from an Atlanta-area radio host who asked, in essence, why fans were thanking Tony Gonzalez. The guy isn't handing out money to fans, so why thank him, and not any other player?
This question misses what being a fan is about. There's nothing rational or sane or logical about hitching your wagon to a pro sports team and investing countless hours of your life into following their progress and foibles. You put much more into this experience than you ever get out of it, and so when the great moments come, of course you're going to be quasi-reverent about them.
We watch this game to be entertained, and for some of us, to worship our heroes. It's rare that we get a player who produces every game and serves as a testament to what profound decency and a peerless work ethic can do for you. We want to believe that good people who bust their asses in life succeed, and while that's rarely true in any arena, Gonzalez has embodied it in Kansas City and Atlanta. Fans thank him because he affirms that believing in and investing in an athlete can be rewarded.
You can point to toe-tapping catches, huge grabs under smothering coverage or hilarious pre-game introductions. You can pick a moment out of the constellation of great ones from Tony Gonzalez's years in Atlanta. For me, the enduring memory will be Gonzalez's outsized role in this team's sustained quality play from 2009 until it all came crashing down this season, and the way he remained a professional despite needing to just say the word to get himself shipped off to a contender. He has been everything we imagine a great athlete to be when we're still young and naive.
So thanks, Tony.