Andrew Luck, the superstar quarterback who just quit professional football at the tender age of 29, has received mixed reviews from the sports world. Colts fans booed him. And any number of sports writers see his decision to get out of football to avoid more injuries as tragedy combined with weakness. One called it "unthinkable."
This is not the beginning of the end for football. The beginning began when kids started showing up in smaller numbers for high school football, no doubt spurred by their parents. It continued in 2017 when sportscaster Ed Cunningham of ESPN decided to stop calling college games because of his "growing discomfort" with younger players' brain trauma.
Luck has suffered a lacerated kidney, ripped labrum, fractured ribs and torn abdomen, not to mention at least one concussion. That would seem enough punishment for one career.
But many sport journalists don't seem to understand. Nor do they comprehend the lasting negative impact Luck will have on their beloved game.
"His career will be remembered for his lengthy list of injuries and for what wasn't accomplished as much as for what was," one sports writer declared. Translation: The sport will do just fine without him.
And those who idolize athletes who "play through the pain" don't understand the decision of this thinking man. It doesn't quite register that the cycle of hurt and rehabilitation might justify passing by perhaps hundreds of millions and eternal fame as a football great.
At times, Luck couldn't open a door because of the pain. Rehab can be slow, and he's experienced great frustration in having the hurt return. And then there was the prospect of early cognitive decline.
Anyone who's suffered serious chronic pain knows that some things are worse than being poor. And Luck will not be poor by any sane standard. He's already pocketed about $97 million.
Sports writer Michael Serazio got to the bottom of a cruel paradox: "Participation almost guarantees eventual injury, yet the culture simultaneously celebrates only those healthy competitors who survive the winnowing."
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"Football announcers," Serazio charges, "legitimize this macho violence" through worshipful praise of injured players "who can suck it up."
Still, it seems beyond the cult's imagination that someone would say no to both fabulous wealth and a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I keep telling the football fanatics in my life that whatever side most skillfully moves a prolate spheroid across the field is of no consequence to most of humanity or even to them. No one owes the team anything. Leaving the game isn't like a captain abandoning a sinking ship with orphans aboard. Yes, Luck was handsomely paid, but he did endure bodily sacrifice for the franchise.
You don't understand, the fanatics tell me. They're right.
So I'm a girl. Women compete aggressively in basketball and soccer, but they rarely expose themselves to football's kind of physical brutality. The woman's job in football is to shimmy on the sidelines in a skimpy costume and encourage the masculine self-destruction on the field. The cheerleaders get to end their careers with their brains intact, more or less.
Luck should inspire those who feel stuck in damaging (and far less glamorous) jobs. One can walk away from good money in search of less stress, a punishing commute and long hours. Sometimes the better job is the one that pays less.
As for Luck, he won't become a storied quarterback in the mold of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Quarterbacks these days can play until middle age. Luck's not going there.
But he is giving us a valuable call on setting priorities for our limited time on Earth. Luck is the quarterback we all need.