As diehard fans, we want our teams to do well.
We don’t understand why a bad trade was made right before the deadline, and we scream at our televisions when our quarterbacks throw an interception. We are disappointed when a key player goes down with a season-ending injury, and we are ecstatic when our management drafts the best player.
All of that is just fine. Sports are supposed to get our competitive juices flowing and our emotions running high.
However, what’s not OK is booing a person who’s making a tough decision about his future.
That’s what happened Saturday night when Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck announced at a press conference he would be retiring prior to the start of this season.
I’ll admit when I first heard of Luck’s decision, which I’m fairly certain broke Twitter momentarily, even I thought to myself, “Hmm, I don’t understand that.”
Luck has battled injuries throughout his career but he’s a mere 29 years old and he’s making a boatload of money. He has the world at his feet, I thought.
But upon hearing Luck’s press conference a few hours later and watching as he had tears in his eyes and had to fight through his voice breaking, I understand where the man is coming from.
Throughout his short career in the NFL, Luck has suffered a shoulder labrum tear, a lacerated kidney (what even is that?) and a concussion. He missed an entire season of his seven-year career after finally having surgery on that shoulder tear nearly two years after the fact.
He’s been through the ringer.
But what’s more important than saving Luck’s body is saving his mental health and happiness.
These professional sports leagues pay a ton of money to athletes and sometimes our moods depend on their wins and losses. But at the end of the day, they are playing a game — plain and simple. Their livelihoods depend on a game, and when that’s the case, they should be having fun.
I’ll admit I’ve been through spells where it’s hard for me to go to work in the morning. Sometimes I work from 8 a.m. until long after you all go to bed, and it can be daunting. But I still truly feel like I have the best job in the world. I get to cover the sports I love and talk to coaches and players I love and really feel like I’m making a difference — however small — in kids’ lives.
Being a sports editor brings me joy, and I know personally how hard it is to go to a job that doesn’t bring you joy.
During his press conference, Luck admitted being a quarterback in the NFL does not bring him joy.
“I’ve been stuck in this process,” he said. “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. Taken the joy out of the game … I’ve come to the proverbial fork in the road, and I made a vow to myself that if I ever did again, I’d choose me, in a sense.”
And he absolutely should choose himself.
I’ve had a lot of hard lessons over the last year or so about how life can be instantly taken away.
I constantly ask myself: If this is my last day on Earth, how would I want to spend it? For me, writing this column Friday afternoon, I’d answer: “Covering the Clay Central-Benjamin Russell game, which I’ve been waiting for for months now.” If Luck couldn’t answer that by saying, “By playing an NFL game today” then he shouldn’t be in the game.
And fans need to respect that. Sure, it might change the Colts’ season, but management has said it knew of Luck’s decision well before it was made public. The Colts have a plan, I’m certain.
But even if they didn’t, we need to let Luck retire in peace. He’s given many years of his life to his team and to his fans, and now it’s time for him to do what makes him happy.
Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor of The Tribune.