J.J. Watt came to Arizona as a real-life superhero. He did not disappoint.
He drank beers with fans at a dive bar in Scottsdale. He had his heart shocked back into rhythm and played the same weekend. He unveiled “Turbo Man” cleats on Christmas night, paying homage to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the holiday classic, “Jingle All the Way.”
He was every bit the person and the player we hoped for. And that’s saying something.
Watt also stuck the landing on his brilliant NFL career, announcing his retirement following the Cardinals’ 19-16 overtime loss to the Buccaneers. He did so after his final game at State Farm Stadium, following a stellar performance against Tom Brady on Sunday Night Football.
As usual, his timing is impeccable.
Watt’s retirement comes before the final two road games, in the dying light of a failed regime. Things might get worse before they get better, and Watt shrewdly pre-empted the eulogy for the most dysfunctional season in team history. On his terms.
Watt’s retirement also comes at a time of flux and confusion in Arizona, where our NFL team has 28 other unrestricted free agents and can no longer afford Watt’s high-end, luxury services, even if he wanted to return.
Watt was visibly emotional following Sunday’s loss, the first game attended by his newborn son, Koa James.
He has given a lot to the Cardinals in two seasons, more than I ever expected — maybe more than he ever expected. He’s ending the 2022 season like a true legend, in a feeding frenzy, as a proud father and a proud man, a charitable behemoth whose brute strength and Hall of Fame cred are carrying a broken team to the finish line.
He did the Cardinals another favor on Sunday. He made his final game at State Farm Stadium an extremely big deal, framing it with reverence. In effect, he generously included Arizona football fans in his touching, emotional, circle-of-life retirement ceremony on Christmas night.
He did that at a time when Cardinals fans are suffering with embarrassment, loyalty and identity issues; where collective pride is waning; and where the past 20 games have caused great attrition for everyone. We are living through one of the most dysfunctional periods in team history, a team that seems to have boarded a dreaded spaceship to yesteryear.
Watt gave all those Cardinals fans who showed up on Christmas night an unexpected gift and a forever memory. We can say we were there for the final home game of Watt’s indomitable, glorious career.
Turbo Man would’ve been proud.
Reach Bickley at email@example.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.