Column: Wild and Wylie

Chad Wylie Asst. Sports Editor

There are only two types of unscripted reality TV shows – politics and sports. And while politics has some real-world implications, sports only has one purpose: entertainment.

The conflict between entertainment and real life has never been clearer than in Indianapolis on Saturday night, where the Colts 27-17 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears was overshadowed by one man standing on the sideline in a grey Colts T-shirt.

In a bizarre scene at Lucas Oil Stadium, news circulated around the stadium in the form of an Adam Schefter tweet that Andrew Luck, the team’s seven-year quarterback, was retiring from football. The four-time Pro Bowler’s career has been derailed by injuries. He has suffered torn cartilage in his ribs, a partially torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney, one diagnosed concussion, a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and most recently a calf and ankle injury that has not been diagnosed or treated.

Following the game, Luck spoke to the media, explaining why he is retiring in the prime of his career at 29 years old. 

“I’ve been stuck in this process,” Luck 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.”

Schefter explained on Twitter that Luck had been contemplating this decision for two weeks and is mentally worn down from the constant rehab. 

But the people who really need to get their mental faculties checked are a group of fans who booed Luck as he was leaving the field. In a viral video that trended on social media, Colts fans showered boos onto Luck as he walked across the field and into the tunnel toward the locker room. During his press conference, Luke said, “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hear it. It hurt.”

The mentality of fans booing a player for making a decision that is best for his life speaks to a culture of entitlement among sports fans.

When a player plays poorly, fans criticize him or her for hurting the team. If a star player suffers injury, fans wonder how quickly he can come back to help their team again. Fans celebrate a player once he or she retires, but only if they played for as long as physically possible.

Fans must not forget that these players are people, with their own lives, their own issues and their own goals. When a player makes a decision that is best for his life and happiness, and fans boo him as a result, at the very least those people need to step back and reexamine their priorities.

Andrew Luck was not just the franchise quarterback who followed Peyton Manning – he provided the Colts with stability at quarterback when much of the franchise was in turmoil. During his seven years, the team has hired a new head coach, their No. 1 wide receiver retired, and the offensive line has essentially been a revolving door. The only constant during all that turnover was Luck’s stable presence behind center.

NFL players took to Twitter to criticize fans for disrespecting the man who showed loyalty to his team for almost a decade. Richard Sherman, cornerback with the 49ers, said, “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.”

As passions calm and cooler heads prevail, Colts fans should fully appreciate the commitment Luck showed his team and the loyalty he displayed at a time when the organization struggled. They will remember the deep playoff runs he took them on and the AFC Championship appearance.

Andrew Luck deserves a better farewell than what he heard from Colts fans Saturday night. His legacy deserves the adulation of anyone associated with the game of football, as best summed up on Twitter by his divisional opponent, J.J. Watt.

“An incredible competitor and a truly great person,” Watt said. “I’ll miss competing against a guy who always played the game extremely hard, with an immense amount of respect. Wishing Andrew nothing but the absolute best moving forward.”

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