Let me tell you something about the Indianapolis Colts fans who booed Andrew Luck as he was walking off the field Saturday night.
They’re idiots, yes, but no different than the Toronto “idiots” who booed Kevin Durant when he tore his Achilles tendon in the NBA finals.
Humans, as an anonymous horde, have always screamed things in a group they would never scream to your face.
Philadelphia fans, in the ultimate display of mob rule, once booed Santa Claus.
My guess is most of the people who booed Luck for not asking their permission to retire, in a one-on-one situation, would sheepishly cower in his presence—and then ask for his autograph.
Let’s move on and appreciate, not denigrate, Luck’s decision to retire from the NFL at age 29.
Luck was, perhaps, when healthy, the most perfect quarterback I’ve seen play at the collegiate level—at least this century.
It’s a close call between Luck and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. (Mariota did have a teensy-weensy fumbling problem).
Sitting in a press box in 2009, when Luck was a redshirt freshman at Stanford, a sports information director approached me and reported on a young quarterback his school had played against the week before: “Have you seen Andrew Luck? He’s going to be one the best quarterbacks in conference history.”
He wasn’t wrong.
Luck, in three years, was prototypical and spectacular. He rarely made a bad read or a bad throw.
What people forget: in 2010 he RUSHED for 453 yards, averaging 8.2 yards per carry.
He was tall, intelligent, feckless, fearless and energy efficient. In 2011, he completed 71.3% of his passes.
Luck was funny, goofy, smart and had a life outside football.
His short-but-spectacular NFL career will look better the farther we get away from it.
He threw 171 touchdowns (against 83 interceptions) and 23,671 yards in only 86 career starts.
Joe Namath, in his Hall of Fame career, threw more interceptions than touchdown passes.
I hope, with time, our knee-jerk Twitter instincts will come to respect a player who has the courage to walk away in his prime. Fat chance?
A series of injuries, some very serious, have reduced Luck to a shell of his former self.
Listen to his words:
“I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live,” he said of the injuries. “It’s taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football.”
How is Andrew Luck different from Sandy Koufax, who retired from the Dodgers at age 30?
Koufax walked away, at the height of success in 1966, because he was no longer willing to tolerate the pain in his arthritic left arm.
“I don’t know if cortisone is good for you or not,” Koufax said at his retirement announcement. “But to take a shot every other ball game is more than I wanted to do.”
“I’ve got a lot of years to live after baseball,” Koufax said, “and I’d like to live them with complete use of my body.”
Koufax, like Luck, is a highly intelligent person who wanted to live a full, healthy, productive life.
For what it’s worth Sandy is still living that life.
Of course, there was no social media then so only god knows what some Dodger fans might have said about him.
Imagine word leaking on Twitter, during the 1966 World Series, that Koufax was going to retire after the season.
Koufax, in his last career start, Game 2 of the Fall Classic at Dodger Stadium, allowed four runs in six innings and took the loss.
Luck was on a Hall of Fame trajectory before the stacked-up injuries forced him to retire without street cred enough to make it to Canton.
But Luck was pretty damn good.
Koufax, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders all walked away early—but with their HOF legacies secured.
It took a lot of guts for Luck, in very different times, to do what he did. He left millions on the table.
They asked Koufax in 1966 about walking away from all that money.
Sandy said he'd rather, given the choice, have his arm.