Andrew Luck, Matt Cassel and the frustrating behavior of NFL fans
By Grant Tuttle
The unfortunate booing at Andrew Luck’s retirement from some fans reminded us when some Chiefs fans did the same at Matt Cassel.
Andrew Luck emotionally left the NFL on Saturday, citing lack of joy and an inability to “live the life that (he) wants to live.” Luck told his teammates to expect a retirement on Sunday, but his deadline got moved up after news broke during the Colts third preseason game against the Chicago Bears.
During the announcement, Luck was seen talking calmly among his teammates on the sideline. After the game concluded, the media stormed the field to get a final picture of Luck walking off of the field. Something less-than-extraordinary happened as Luck left the field for the final time: Colts fans expressed their feelings by booing.
Booing is a normal part of sporting events. If the opposing team does something well, or a specific player that you find particularly irritating does something well, a home crowd will likely express displeasure with a united boo—except Andrew Luck was not on an opposing team or asking for a trade or a release. Luck was walking away from the sport that he once loved to spend more time with his wife and experience life in a different way, one more enjoyable and pain free.
Colts fans were obviously shaken from the news. Instead of greeting Luck with cheers or observing the moment in silence, they made a conscious decision to boo the 4-time Pro Bowler. Yes, the team will suffer on the field without their star quarterback in 2019. However, a focus on that misses the point of what this moment and this league are supposed to be about.
Almost seven years ago, the Chiefs were experiencing a similar story—one with a darker side to it. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was knocked out of a football game with an apparent head injury. Instead of observation and worry, some Chiefs fans decided to cheer.
After the game concluded, Eric Winston went on his epic rant about how the NFL is not made up of gladiators and calling the cheering “sickening.” The point being, that he was protecting his quarterback as a person. He emotionally stated that NFL players may not live as long as those who don’t play the game because of these kinds of injuries. This speech shook the NFL at the time and helped to change the way that we think about injuries.
In 2019, we have still not realized what makes up a team, a league, or a sport. We have separated our feelings about the game from the people who play them. Whether or not anyone realizes it or wants to talk about it, the Colts fans that booed Andrew Luck did not actually care about their quarterback as a person. They cared that their favorite team would likely win fewer games in the upcoming season. Caring more about the game more than the person who plays it is toxic and must be addressed by us as the fans.
Luck has been nothing short of incredible to the community of Indianapolis and has been one of the league’s “nice guys” since his arrival. As a player, Luck was a different kind of person than most. When sacked or having the ball knocked away from a receiver, Luck was known to go out of his way to praise a defensive player and let them know they made a nice play.
He was an exceptional quarterback in his career, but a quarterback is not all that his worth relies upon. He has dedicated time to making literature a bigger part of American culture with his own book club. As an avid reader himself, Luck often expressed excitement with his teammates about books that he recommended.
As the NFL enters its 100th year, it is our job as fans to realize what players are beyond how they fit into a scheme or how fast they are. It is important to realize that there are human beings underneath the helmets and shoulder pads on the football field. While we can all sit in amazement at all the things that we love about sports and the competitive nature that football brings, we must simultaneously understand that we are all connected as one human race—separated by nothing but social constructs.
Unfortunately for the Indianapolis Colts, the booing of Luck will be a stain on his retirement and the Colts fan base as a whole. Those fans were undeserving of what Luck brought to their community and locker room. If we have not connected the human aspect to a sport in a century of the sport’s existence, we have failed. Perhaps in retired life, Luck will be treated like a human being, which is more than what the NFL could give him.
At Arrowhead Addict, we wish Andrew Luck the best in his retirement and hope that he accomplishes everything that he has planned on doing with his personal life.