I looked up at the Madison Square Garden video board. Bruce Springsteen strummed his guitar with a grin.
I looked around. Thousands of middle-aged fans cheered.
For the first time in my 22 years on earth, I questioned my dream of becoming a star athlete. Why was my dream never to become a star recording artist?
Springsteen is 66, and he still sells out arenas. He does not have the vocals and stamina he once had, but fans buy tickets and transform themselves back to 1980 when the original The River Tour launched. Imagine Michael Jordan selling out arenas to run pickup games. It can't happen.
That is the thing with professional athletes. They all suffer injuries. They all retire. And before they retire, they all deal with chaos.
Consider Tom Brady penning a handwritten letter to Patriots fans, apologizing for losing a game. Brady has it all: Money, rings and a supermodel wife. But his job is about competition and the unpredictable. Brady's success is defined by wins and losses, not by selling out stadiums. He underperformed. Now, he has a whole offseason to train with a chip on his shoulder.
Consider Stephen Curry, who is experiencing the most stunning NBA prime since Michael Jordan. In 10 years Springsteen can do another The River Tour if he would like, but Curry will not be able to average 30 points per game at the NBA level. The 27-year-old is displaying a level of focus, consistency and class that is making him the most popular athlete in the country. His prime may only last a few years and he is making the most of it.
Serena Williams and Roger Federer have both established themselves as the best players of their genders in tennis history (call me biased). Both are still milking everything they can out of their careers at age 34.
This brings us to Peyton Manning, who has maybe one more game left in his Hall of Fame body. On Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, The Sheriff will patrol the NFL likely one final time. The days of fans paying good money to see Manning whip elegant spirals are behind us. The same goes for Kobe Bryant, who is now lucky if he can string together five consecutive games.
Springsteen sings on. He is having a blast. He still gets to travel around the country with his wife and best friends, as they sing the same songs over and over. Billy Joel makes one trip a month to Madison Square Garden to sit at a piano and hang out with fans for two hours. Glenn Frey and David Bowie, who both passed away last week, were performing until their deaths. In a way, they never retired.
Would I rather be Taylor Swift or Carli Lloyd? Jay-Z or LeBron James? Mick Jagger or Willie Mays?
Justin Bieber can stop recording music tomorrow, and he would still be able to tour for decades.
But this is why I love sports. Nothing is given and nothing is constant. Competition is riveting, and money and fame cannot replace that. The same songs are not played over and over again. New scripts are written.
On Sunday, B.o.B said the world is flat. On Wednesday, Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa engaged in a vicious Twitter war.
Cam Newton is spending his week preparing for the Super Bowl while fending off ridiculous questions about ignorant Americans calling him a thug. Newton is 17-1 this season, his only loss coming days after he had a child. He will keep doing his talking on the field.
Call me crazy, but I'd be a star athlete over a star recording artist. Scratch that, I would take professional sports role player over star recording artist. That is right. I would rather be J.R. Smith than Bruno Mars.
I know. Performance artists work their tail off to achieve success, and nothing is given. I watched Straight Outta Compton for the first time last week. N.W.A. changed an entire business. I get it.
But athletes have cooler jobs. They get to play a game of skill and chance every night without anyone in the world knowing what the outcome may be. I still want that.
Nothing beats the rush of competition. Not even selling out Madison Square Garden on night when the Knicks and Rangers are off.
Hey, the Yankees could use a utility infielder with some pop. I am not ready to let that fantasy die yet.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.