We have now had a few days to get over the shock of hearing Andrew Luck announce his retirement from the Indianapolis Colts and the NFL. For those who do not know, Luck dedicated seven years of his professional sports career to be the quarterback for the Colts. For a newer player, he certainly made a name for himself- he ended up being a runner-up for the Heisman trophy back in 2010 and 2011 and was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year both years. In 2018, he was awarded the Comeback Player of the Year award by the NFL.
Like most contact sports, injuries can be fairly common in football. Luck sustained a shoulder injury back in 2016. He played through it but the overexertion caused him to be out for the entire 2017 season. He is attributing his early retirement to the never-ending cycle of injury and rehab;
“I’ve been stuck in this process,” he said. I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football. This is not an easy decision. It’s the hardest decision of my life. But it is the right decision for me.” (1)
After his announcement, several fans booed Luck as he walked off the field. The overall negative remarks that have been made towards Luck for his decision to retire have honestly been baffling and quite sad.
No player wants to willingly stop playing the sport they love. In fact, it’s pretty safe to say that all retirements are forced- either your body stops working for you or the team/owners/players think you are past your prime.
Andrew Luck is doing what is best for his body and his future. He already has the unfortunate event of living the rest of his life in a body that is aged several times over due to injuries he sustained from the sport; why add more pain to the situation by shaming him and making him feel guilty? Even though he amassed a fortune of $97.1 million (2) over the course of his seven years, will the money make up for the toll on his health, or is it just the price to pay for a dream?
“Colts owner Jim Irsay estimated on Saturday that Luck could “potentially” be giving up as much as $450 million in future salary” (2) due to his early retirement. This estimate was based off of the type of contracts that were expected to be given to Luck after he finished out his current contract that would have taken him through the 2021 NFL season. Now, this sum may seem like a large amount of money- more than enough to spend in a lifetime, but if the cost was your body, would you do it?
Michael Serazio from the NY Times attributes the need for players to “play through the pain” to hegemonic masculinity- “N.F.L. veterans who cope with a lifetime of pain, from arthritis and failing knees to headaches and memory loss, have to minimize, trivialize or write it off as an inevitable burden to bear, a mentality fortifying masculine norms (3).
Since contact sports like football, hockey, etc, are the epitome of masculinity and the embodiment of a “strong man”, it would only make sense that the image of walking away from that, even if it’s for your own (and even the team’s) best interest, is looked down upon. “The body is an instrument of violence in this rationalization — alienating the player from his own feelings of tenderness, or at least neutralizing them via cortisone shots.” (3) Not only does Luck have to deal with the loss of future contract money and loss of future body mobility, he now also has to deal with the loss of fans/support for his decision.
I know that a lot of Colts fans were hoping to have Luck pull the team through to the next Super Bowl, but now we have to put our efforts toward hyping up the rest of the team to do their best on their own.
May Andrew find peace and passion in a different avenue of life that won’t take as big of a toll on his body, and may we as fans support the decisions of players to do what’s best for them.
1. Wells, Mike (August 24, 2019). “Luck retires, calls decision ‘hardest of my life'”. www.espn.com.