Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo, shown after being honored this week in… (Sebastiao Moreira / EPA )
The final whistle has sounded. The last goal has been scored. The game is over.
And so, in the aftermath of a truly dizzying, 18-year roller-coaster ride of a career, one that soared to unimaginable heights and plunged to staggeringly bizarre depths, what are we to make of Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima?
What will we remember now that his playing days are done?
Surely it will not be every one of those more than 600 games, although some stand out like pages torn from the scrapbook of the soccer gods.
Surely it will not be every one of those more than 400 goals, although some will be replayed again and again by soccer players not yet born.
So, would it be those surging runs that turned defenses into tissue paper and turned the man nicknamed the "Phenomenon" or simply "R9" into one of the world's greatest and most feared strikers?
Or could it be something as simple as that gap-toothed grin, the one that more than anything else identified Ronaldo as a fun-loving, one-of-a-kind character who was intent on enjoying life to the fullest, no matter the cost?
And he did.
Before reluctantly announcing his retirement from the game last Monday in Sao Paulo, Ronaldo had powered his way to the very summit of his chosen sport.
He won the World Cup twice — as a benchwarming 17-year-old in the U.S. in 1994 and as Brazil's goal-scoring hero of Japan/Korea 2002.
He scored more World Cup goals — 15 — than any player in history.
He three times was selected as FIFA world player of the year — in 1996, 1997 and 2002.
He played for some of the greatest clubs in the world, his career trajectory taking him from Cruzeiro in Brazil to PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, to Barcelona in Spain, to Inter Milan in Italy, to Real Madrid in Spain, to AC Milan in Italy and, finally, back home to Corinthians in Brazil.
Along the way, he was a supreme entertainer, a player who attracted crowds wherever he went. He played with the kind of joy that all the great Brazilians do, with a smile on his face.
He was also a little goofy, a little out of control. That regrettable incident in Rio de Janeiro with the three transvestite prostitutes comes quickly to mind, even though Ronaldo was absolved of any wrongdoing. Ronaldo the party animal always lurked just beneath the surface of Ronaldo the player.
Wine and women, song and soccer went hand in hand for the man from Rio.
He was also injury-prone, and the mystery of his will-he-play, won't-he-play performance in the 1998 World Cup final in Paris has never been satisfactorily explained.
The saddest sight in all of soccer was to see Ronaldo on crutches. Knee problems robbed him and us of all too many games and all too many goals and ultimately cut short his career at the age of 34.
The fact that Ronaldo chose Valentine's Day to announce his retirement was coincidental but fitting. His love of the game and the fans' adoration of him made it so, and the tears in his eyes were real.
"It's very difficult to leave something that made me so happy," he said. "I wanted to continue, but I have to acknowledge that I lost to my body."
He has suffered from hyperthyroidism for four years, he explained, the condition preventing him from keeping his weight under control and staying match-fit.
"It hurts when I go up the stairs," he said. "I've given my life to football. I don't regret anything, but I can't keep going. With this announcement, it feels like my first death."
All that remains now is to judge where Ronaldo fits in the soccer pantheon. Former Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has one opinion.
"We are not talking about just any player," Parreira said. "We are talking about one of the greatest players that football has ever known, among the top five all time."
Parreira's bias is understandable, but that would be pushing Ronaldo a little higher in the pecking order than he deserves.
Which of the real top five would Ronaldo displace? Pele? Diego Maradona? George Best? Johan Cruyff? Franz Beckenbauer?
I think not. There's no room for him to squeeze in among that illustrious company.
The list of all-time greats is lengthy and there is little point in arguing whether Ronaldo was better than, say, Alfredo di Stefano, Zinedine Zidane, Ferenc Puskas, Gerd Mueller, Garrincha, or even Lionel Messi.
Romario, who in 1994 scored the goals while Ronaldo watched from the sideline, got it right.
"I will miss him," Romario said. "We won't be able to see one of the greatest players in the history of football."
That's what we will remember — that and that boyish gap-toothed grin.