Andrew Luck announced his retirement on Saturday night. The news broke on social media during the final minutes of the Indianapolis Colts loss to the Chicago Bears, 27-17, at home.
As Luck left the field, Colts fans could be heard booing for their soon-to-be former franchise player. One Colts fan was seen removing his No. 12 jersey.
Just like that, Luck went from hero to hated.
You could only assume that the fans remaining at Lucas Oil Stadium as the final seconds ticked away on a meaningless preseason game were in the rabid, hardcore category. You know the type. Passionate. All In. The first to arrive and the last to leave. Totally sold out for their team.
There is an emotional connection between the fan and the team. During the football season, those fans schedule their week around game day, whether it’s Thursday, Sunday or Monday. They stand somewhere along the extended fencing for OTA’s. Draft Day is considered a national holiday. Football is serious business.
But all that passion does not justify what some Indianapolis Colts fans did on Saturday. When fans can’t see past the wins and losses and understand that the people on the field are people too, something is inherently wrong.
Andrew Luck spent half of his life playing the game he loves, and the last seven years, working tirelessly to bring a championship to the people — those same people who booed him on Saturday — that spend their hard-earned money supporting the team. Luck has played through multiple injuries and overcome concussions until the pain became heavier than he could bare to carry.
Instead of hiding behind the pain, Andrew Luck showed his character. He looked the team owner and head coach square in the eye and told them he could no longer perform at a high level.
“(The injuries have) taken my joy of this game away. I’m in pain, I’m still in pain. It’s been four years of this pain, rehab cycle. It’s a myriad of issues — calf strain, posterior ankle impingement, high ankle sprain.”
None of that was of importance to some Colts fans Saturday. They were angry. They were frustrated. They were confused. They were also wrong.
Andrew Luck led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons and to the 2014 AFC championship game without missing a start. His career stats — despite a laundry list of injuries — in seven seasons were among the best in NFL history.
As fans we have no idea the beating NFL players are taking week after week. Former teammates and friends spoke out on behalf of Luck’s decision.
Richard Sherman tweeted:
“This is a very rough game. Most people who have not played at this level will never understand what we put our bodies through season after season. We don’t need the sympathy because this is what we signed up for but to ‘boo’ a man that battled for that city is disgraceful.”
The response from some Indy fans was truly disappointing, but it should be a lesson — a reminder — that these athletes are just like us. They are people. Under those uniforms those athletes are silently struggling physical and, sometimes, emotional pain. In Andrew Luck’s case, the pain eventually overwhelmed his ability to perform and stripped him of the joy of playing the game he loves.
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