Andrew Luck walked off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for what is likely the final time as a player Saturday night amongst a smattering of boos, having drawn the ire of the Colts fan base with his shocking retirement announcement that was leaked during Indianapolis’ third preseason game.
It was know doubt jolting for a fan base that was preparing for a season where they were expected to be Super Bowl contenders, helmed by the uber-talented - though oft-injured -Luck, one of the most gifted quarterbacks of the modern era. Sure, there were confusing injury reports that seemed to indicate that no one really knew what was actually wrong, but by all accounts, the 29-year-old Stanford graduate was being held out for precautionary reasons, not because there were actual concerns. But, it appears that there was something more than a physical ailment challenging Luck; as he put it “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game.”
Luck has been through a lot in his relatively short career - there has been torn cartilage in 2 ribs, a partially torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney, at least 1 concussion, a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and, most recently, an ankle/calf/bone issue.
He literally laid his body on the line for the Colts organization and its fans...
... and yet...
... he was booed off the field Saturday night.
The man has literally PEED BLOOD because of injuries suffered playing football, and the fans BOOED HIM OFF THE FIELD.
Let that set in for a moment.
I’ve booed players before - I mean, I’ve been a Sacramento Kings fan since I was five years old, that’s a lot of bad basketball to sit through.
I’ve even been booed as a coach (sometimes deservedly so).
We take it as our inalienable right as fans, to express our displeasure at athletes, coaches, officials... whoever gets in the way of what WE think should be happening on the field.
But it’s a lot harder work than we realize, and there are a lot more sacrifices than most of us will see. Sure, they’re making a lot of money or getting a free education that most of us are still probably paying off. And sure, maybe they hit a genetic lottery that we never even had the chance to buy a ticket for. But, if you think that makes it easy or means that they OWE us something, it’s just plain wrong.
Listen to Gary Patterson speak out how he has only had five weekends off this year, and think about how exhausting that must be and the toll it takes on the relationships that matter. Read about Sonny Cumbie balancing football and fatherhood and think about how nice it all sounds - and imagine your career and the financial well-being of your family being at risk if you make one wrong six second decision at the worst possible time. Watch the players limp around after practice or struggle through rehab or spend some time with them when football is long gone but the aches and pains are as present as if they last suited up yesterday. Then you’ll see the toll it takes. Then maybe you’ll start to understand.
You see, if we are being honest with ourselves, a lot of this displeasure comes down to jealousy. Many of us long to have the opportunities college and professional athletes and coaches have been given - to have the athletic gifts, to be cheered by tens of thousands of people, to make millions. And most of us say we would gladly take the negatives if given the chance to have even just a moment in that stratosphere. But, it’s easy to only see the green grass when you’re it’s all you’re looking for.
So, as we count down the days, the hours, the minutes until kick-off Saturday night at Amon G. Carter Stadium, as we hem and haw for the final few moments before a starting quarterback is named, as we clean out the trailers and fill the coolers for the first tailgate of the year, I hope that we also remember that the 18-22 year old kids who are about to make a lot of Saturdays either really good or really bad are... just... kids. And people. And when they do something great, we should stand and cheer and get behind them every step of the way. And when they do something bad... we can put our head in our hands, we can surrender cobra, we can endlessly complain in the Frogs O’ War Slack channel, but it shouldn’t go farther than that. The same can be said when a recruit chooses a school that isn’t ours or when a coach interviews for a job somewhere else or when folks eventually decide to move on from the program that they’ve built.
Let people live their lives and just worry about yours. We will all be a lot better off for it.