Professional football is a BIG deal here in Indianapolis. I get it. I spend a good portion of my Saturdays in the Fall riding a roller coaster with the Georgia Bulldogs and watching the SEC. I used to pay very little attention to the NFL, but since moving to Indy I’ve learned if you want to be able to have conversation with people here, you better know what’s going on with the Colts, so I do watch the NFL now, at the very least the Colts.
The breaking news alert came across the phone on Saturday night; Andrew Luck was retiring. QB1 here in Indy, the franchise player, was calling it quits two weeks before the regular season. At 29 years old, he decided that enough was enough. He was hanging it up.
I love watching football. God knows, I’ve spent a lot of time and money watching football. Some of my favorite moments in life have occurred at a UGA football game. I know what the Colts mean to the city of Indianapolis, as many NFL teams do in their respective cities.
I’m also aware of the physical and mental toll the game takes on those who play the game. We’ve been conditioned to care about the player’s performance and little else. We sometimes forget these are ACTUAL people with families, friends, passions, gifts, and dreams beyond the football field. We are ready to cheer them with they score a touchdown but unwilling to care about them fifteen years from now when they have difficulty getting out of bed.
The truth is that too often we care about the player, but not about the person. It is a false dichotomy. You can’t separate the player and the person. Because to the ones who love them the most, they are one in the same.
Andrew Luck did the right thing. He did what he discerned best for his life and for his family. He was living in constant pain as a 29-year-old. He had lost the passion, the calling to play the game. He has most of his life ahead of him. He wanted to be able to truly live. He doesn’t need you or I to understand or agree with his choice. He made the right choice for him and his family and that is what truly matters.
There are two things in this decision that stand out to me about Andrew Luck’s character:
The first is that money is not everything to him. Yes, he’s made a LOT of money, more than most of us will make in our life. He also could have made a LOT more money. A LOT. I am sure it is difficult to walk away from that much money. Andrew Luck is telling us that you can’t put a price on the life you feel called to live. You can’t put a price on your well-being.
The second is that Andrew Luck is being honest and transparent about pain. Both the physical and mental pain that football has caused him. We are in a day and age where it is becoming more acceptable for people, especially males, to embrace and deal with the pain in their lives. In sport, we are still too quick to tell athletes to “ignore their pain” or “play through the pain.” We are quick to judge athletes for being “weak” if they sit out. Perhaps what Andrew Luck is doing in retirement, by acknowledging the pain, is more impressive than any time he played through pain. He is doing what he needs to do so that his life is whole. He is setting an example for the rest of us that it is okay to confront your pain and take the necessary steps of healing.
Andrew Luck might just have completed his most important pass- passing on football and embracing the rest of his life. I suspect he will be a difference maker off the field, far greater than even was on the field.