Andrew Luck’s Retirement Was a Perfect Storm of Modern Sports Media

On Saturday, Adam Schefter tweeted that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was planning to retire. After making sure it was the real reporter and not a fake account like “Adarn Schefter” or “Adam Schefer,” the sudden retirement of the 29 year old former #1 overall pick set off shockwaves through the NFL and through Twitter, bringing out the best, an mostly the worst in sports media takes.

Luck’s retirement came as a surprise in the moment, given the timing with just a week left in the preseason, but thinking about it for maybe 30 seconds provided some clarity. He’s 29. I’m 29. Some days I wake up so sore the extent of my physical activity will be walking to my car, walking to my desk at work, walking back to my car, and then upstairs back to my condo. When I watch baseball, my legs hurt watching catchers crouch, and I don’t play football for a living. This probably shoul have his me earlier this year when Rob Gronkowski retired at 29, but I wasn’t 29 yet and I saw the hits he took every week for his whole career.

Independent of age, Luck got beaten up more than most modern QBs. Tom Brady is heading into his age 42 season (and has now outlasted both Peyton Manming and Peyton Manning’s successor) and has become quicker, both in releasing the ball and in moving his feet, than he was in his 20s. But Brady has always had a good offensive line in front of him, coached by maybe the best positional coach in the NFL. The Colts did a terrible job buildng offensive lines early in Luck’s career, and he spent the second half of his career always either injured or recovering.

Luck showed brilliance when healthy with, even with a less than stellar supporting cast around him. The curse of being a top pick in the draft (“Suck for Luck” will go down as the greatest nae for a tanking campaign ever) is the teams that pick in the top of the draft are by definition not the best situations to join as a young player. The Colts had Super Bowl aspirations when Peyton Manning was healthy, and bad enough for the top pick when he missed an entire season due to injury. Former Colts GM Ryan Grigson did Luck no favors with poor draft after poor draft.

While all of this makes perfect sense after even a little bit of critical thinking, the reactions brought out some of the dumbest takes the Internet has to offer.

Former college basketball player turned credit card thief turned professional sports radio moron Doug Gottlieb got ratio’d Saturday night for this tweet. There’s nothing older people lover more than bashing an entire generation, in a tradition as old as living long enough for younger people to annoy you. Maybe it’s because I’m a millenial, maybe because Gottlieb has made a career of ripping young athletes when he himself was a famously stupid college kid, but a college basketball pundit going after an NFL player for not being tough enough is particularly rich.

Andrew Luck joins Rob Gronkowski and Calvin Johnson on the list of great players to retire young while stiall being very good. Anyone who says this is unprecedented has been quick to forget Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, and Sandy Koufax did the same thing in earlier eras. Those players are romanticized for there greatness, but their legend is even greater because we never saw them broken down and unable to be great anymore. If Luck decided to hang on, hobbling through hi early 30s on a middle of the road Colts team, the same pundits who ripped the decision to retire and the fans who booed him off the sideline in a preseason game would be killing him for hanging on too long. There’s no way to win unless you’re Tom Brady and possibly a Terminator, and even then, most of the country hates him.

Also ranking among the worst reactions to Luck’s retirement was a video by a meber of the Pro Football Hall of Fame expressing his dismay because he just drafted Luck in his fantasy league. I won’t link to it and give him the views because that Hall of Famer, of course, was O. J. Simpson.

For all Luck’s promise, the was 0-6 against the Patriots, and the furthest he ever advanced in the playoffs ended with his team getting thumped in the AFC Championship Game, and conspiracy theories around air pressure in the footballs turning into the NFL’s answer to Watergate and the JFK assassination put together. In 2012, he and Robert Griffin III were supposed to be the future of the NFL, and for a time they were. But seven years later, Luck is retired and Griffin is a journeyman backup. Injuries got the best of both of them. Such is football.

A lot of people said this was the craziest story of the decade but saying that is like saying whatever Trump just said is the craziest thing he has ever said. The constant barrage of executive level stupidity has melted our collective brains and we can’t remember what happened last week, let alone in 2011.

The long-suffering St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, Toronto Raptors, and Houston Astros won their first ever championships. The San Francisco Giants won their first championship since moving to that city, and became a dynasty. The city of Clevelandwon their first title in any sport since LBJ was president. The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series title in 108 years. The Atlanta Falcons held a 28-3 4th quarter lead in the Super Bowl and lost the game somehow. A racist scumbag of an NBA owner was taken down by his mistress’ Instagram account. A Heisman Trophy finalist from Notre Dame suffered a personal tragedy only for him to actually be the victim of a bizarre catfishing scheme. Joe Paterno turned out to be every bit the righteous hypocrite as the leaders of the Catholic church, but unlike the Pope, the longtime Penn State coach faced real consequences and lost everything on his deathbed. Other scandals of abuse, coverup, and prioritizing over the protection of young people were also realized at Ohio State, Michigan State, and Baylor, and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. This decade has been ridiculous on and of thr field, but injured football players retire all the time.

The Colts are my least favorite team in the NFL, but I always liked Luck going back to his Stanford career, and I hope the next chapter for him is satisfying. I will have a hard time rooting against Jacoby Brissett, who is now the starter in Indy. No one died, and football will continue. As ethically uneasy as I will feel about it at times, I will absolutely be watching. At the end of it all, Andrew Luck was a generational talent, who lived up to his promise when it comes to regular season production, but was a victim of his circumstance. Five days later, maybe everyone just lost their minds because it was a Saturday night and people were having a good time before the season-altering news broke.

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