Hanging It Up

News of the retirement of Andrew Luck, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and only 29 years of age, shocked the sports world. As recounted in Yahoo News:

After a lengthy battle with injuries in recent years, Andrew Luck is officially calling it a career.

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback announced that he is retiring from the NFL after just six seasons on Saturday night.

“This is not an easy decision,” Luck said after the Colts’ preseason game against the Chicago Bears. “Honestly it’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.

“For the last four years or, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab. Injury, pain, rehab. And it’s been unceasing, unrelenting — both in-season and offseason. And I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football.”

“I’m in pain. I’m still in pain,” Luck said. “I’ve been in this [pain] cycle … and for me to move forward in my life the way I want to, it doesn’t involve football.”

The 29-year-old was on the sidelines at Lucas Oil Stadium for their preseason game against Chicago and remained there even after news of his retirement broke. Colts fans picked up the news during the game, too, and then booed Luck as he walked off the field following their 27-17 loss.

In and of itself, the news of a professional athlete retiring is noteworthy — especially an athlete as talented as Andrew Luck. But what makes this story particularly disturbing is the crowd reaction.

For some reason the brain trust at the Colts organization decided to announce the quarterback’s retirement during a pre-season football game. The announcement might have been made on Friday a press conference with no crowd around to express their disappointment and disapproval of the man’s decision. But they chose instead to announce it during the game. One wonders why.

The crowd at the game booed mightily — and that’s the disturbing part of this story. Some took off their Luck jerseys and threw therm to the ground. I am reminded of the day many years ago when Johnny Unitas was still playing for the Baltimore Colts and, after many years of playing a brutal game he was struggling. The crowd reaction was to boo him mightily. This was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time who had made the Baltimore Colts one of the best, if not the best, team in professional football at the time. What’s with those people?

And that is the question: what is wrong with people that they would boo a man who has displayed such remarkable athletic ability for so many years. Andrew Luck, as the story recounts, has been dealing with pain for years. Many professional football players cannot get out of bed when they are in their forties. Pain is a fact of their lives. And, for some, it is relentless. Apparently Andrew Luck doesn’t want to be among those men.In my mind this is admirable, it shows signs of prudence. But the fans see only the blaze of glory on Sunday fizzling out and know that now they cannot hope to be able to strut with pride when their team wins the big prize. Seriously folks, it’s only a game and these are people who feel pain and hurt when booed.

In a word, the fans care only about the fact that the odds of the Colts winning the Super Bowl this year dropped from 15-1 to 30-1 after the announcement of Luck’s retirement. Their hopes are dashed. The man is that good. But, in addition to being a man in pain, he is a player who was smart enough to know when to hang it up. A great many athletes play on long after they have passed their prime. I suspect they don’t know what else to do. But then there’s the dopamine that is released when they make a great play and the fans go wild. That keeps many a star athlete going — men such as Johnny Unitas. The game can be addictive.

I applaud Andrew Luck for knowing when to call it quits. The fact that he is walking away from an estimated half-billion dollars in retiring at this point suggests that this is a man of courage and even wisdom. And the fact that the fans booed this man is deplorable.

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10 thoughts on “Hanging It Up

  1. They only care about winning. That’s the truth of it. Anything else … they don’t care. Translate that into politics & that’s why we have such a F’d up situation right now.

  2. Hugh, given the amount of foregone money with Luck’s decision coupled with playing a marquee position in a game you love, the fans should respect his decision. Troy Aikman retired after repeated concussions. Joe Dimaggio retired after a scouting report of the World Series opponent was leaked and it said Dimaggio had a lost a step and his arm was questionable, so runners were encouraged to go from first to third.

    On the flip side, I wish Muhammed Ali retired after the Foreman fight. I wish Joe Namath retired before he did. We must respect any athlete’s decision to retire as it is a personal and painful decision. Keith

  3. We are an arrogant society. We (in general, not specifically you or I), seem to think that professional athletes, rock stars, movie stars … all owe us something. We pay for a ticket to a game or a concert, we see them perform. When they decide they can no longer live up to their own standards, they are ready to hang it up … we boo them? Seems we should thank them for a job well done.

  4. Dr. Curtler,

    When I learned that Andrew Luck was retiring and the reason he was doing so, my first thought — as well as my second — was that he was a smart person.

    I am disgusted at the behavior of the fans .Instead of applauding him for his contributions to the team and the sport, they acted like ill-mannered fools.This says nothing about Mr. Luck and a great deal about them.

    I wish I could say that I was surprised by their behavior. Sadly, I am not.

    Respects and regards,

    Jerry Stark

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