A sportswriting friend, early in his career, asked an old-timer how he had enjoyed his professional lifetime of covering games, interviewing characters and ducking wet towels. "Well, the first 25 years were great," the geezer said, face lighting up for an instant.
Then came the shrug: "After that, meh."
It wasn't that the fellow lost interest. It was that his bosses started moving furniture around, discovering new phenoms (of the sort he had been back in the day) and taking the veteran a bit for granted.
It's a career arc with which many people are familiar, and now it is Shaquille O'Neal's too.
And it is OK.
Gold watches and comfortable pensions after 30 or 40 years with one employer are largely relics for many of us. Sometimes, for the lucky ones, it's a love of their work that enables them to transfer their passion to a seemingly lesser role.