NASHVILLE, Tenn. — I decided to give myself a night off on Saturday. No Weekend training camp practices ahead for the Tennessee Titans? The closest we have had to a normal work week leading to a Sunday night game with the Pittsburgh Steelers…what’s the worst that could happen if I went out drinking with friends?

And then Colts quarterback Andrew Luck retired from the NFL.

The 29-year-Old is the equivalent of the boogeyman in Tennessee with his 11-0 record against the local NFL team. This man has haunted my Twitter mentions with his memes and GIFs because of that one time Mina Kimes said I looked like him on ESPN. Luck’s book club, glandular voice and early balding are easy targets for jokes. But no one can deny the greatness he represented on the football field when in full form.

We’ve all seen the video clips of Luck walking out of Lucas Oil Stadium following Indy’s third preseason game. En route to a retirement press conference brought on by the violence of the sport he loves and his body’s failure of him. The boos that followed him were sports fans at their worst. Yes, it is easy to see where the disappointment of a Super Bowl contender getting kicked in the teeth by the loss of its best player can evoke a negative response. But no one deserves the kind ire Luck’s decision brought last night.

Those who would chastise Andrew Luck for taking control of his health and happiness never deserved him.

Aug 24, 2019; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck walks off the field after the game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports.

“It’s been four years of this injury-pain cycle,” said Luck. “And for me to move forward in my life the way I want to, it didn’t involve football.”

I am a proud Hoosier, a native of Indiana but never once claimed the Colts as a team I rooted for. Nothing against them, really. Football’s just never been a sport I care about in that way. If I had to have picked a favorite player from my years growing up there, it was never Peyton, Mathis, Freeny or Reggie Wayne. I was always partial to former punter Pat McAfee, because he was different and his stand-up comedy routines and Bob & Tom Show appearances made me gravitate to him.

Luck, too, is different. And I’ve always thought the world of him for it.

My mother, saint that she is, raised me as a single parent and sports were not a part of our life. The emphasis in our house was on learning, literature, history and foreign cultures. Because of my upbringing, I probably did not watch a full NFL game until freshman year of college and never really took interest in it until the postseason that culminated in the Ravens-Niners Super Bowl that next year.

Book clubs, EPL games and a better understanding of the history of any given city on road trips than even its local residents possessed, Luck is a dorky guy in a meathead’s world. But for me, and many people like me, he was the bridge for those of us who don’t derive our masculinity from “putting your hand in the dirt.”

I have never been man enough for this ultimate man’s game. But, in Luck, I identified with him on a level that I had with few other football players in my lifetime. Someone at the height of the sport that also shares my love of reading? Someone who doesn’t isolate the “nerds” from the testosterone junkies and and violence seekers?

Someone who allows us to appreciate the sport together in a way that I never felt previously existed.

Luck is Eddie George and his post-NFL career on Broadway and he’s Rashaan Evans’ psychology degree. Luck represents depth and interests outside of just his sport. Luck is the reason I do my job the way that I strive to. The accolades on the field tell only a fraction of the story and my goal has always been to get people to see the person, not just the player/commodity.

Certainly this will read as homer opinion. The connection is an easy and lazy one to make, given where I was born and where Luck played. But I would stan for anyone in any profession that I felt to be as genuine in their life pursuits as Andrew Luck and it makes me physically ill when someone like him is attacked for displaying public vulnerability.

We, as fellow humans, should always support one another for taking control of our situations for the sake of health and happiness where football allegiances, fan tribalism and sports fan selfishness tend to prevail.

The courage to make a decision like Luck’s is uncommon, just like he is. For me, I will always be eternally grateful to Andrew Luck for welcoming us uncommon football fans in where so many of us felt left out.

Featured Image: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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