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Sun, Sept. 22

Kobritz: Indianapolis Colts fans just don’t get it
BEYOND THE LINES

Most sports fans are fickle by nature. We cheer for our favorite players and teams when they win and boo them when they lose. But the behavior of some Indianapolis Colts fans when quarterback Andrew Luck announced his retirement was both deplorable and unacceptable.

While Luck was roaming the sidelines during the team’s third preseason game, word spread around the stadium that he was retiring from the game. Shockingly, a number of Colts fans booed their quarterback, a response even more surprising than the news of his retirement.

Luck has been dealing with leg and ankle injuries, the latest on a long list of ailments he has battled during his six-year career. The list also includes a shoulder injury, torn cartilage in two ribs, a partially torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney and at least one concussion.

During a brief news conference following the game, the mental anguish Luck had endured over the last several years was evident. “I’m in pain,” he said. “I’m still in pain.” So rather than put himself through more anguish and continue to hold the Colts franchise hostage any longer, Luck did the only thing that felt right to him: He called it a career.

Luck is no stranger to challenges and never shirked any of them. He entered the league as the number one pick of the 2012 draft and his immediate task was to succeed team icon and certain Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. He proceeded to lead the Colts to three straight playoffs before injuries began taking a toll on his playing time and abilities.

The booing reflects a lack of understanding of just how much Luck or any football player puts himself through to play the game. Fans see the bright lights and nine-digit contract numbers and feel like players “owe them,” rather than the other way around. They don’t see, hear or feel the punishment that comes with the stardom, nor do they endure the depressing moments when players try to fight through debilitating pain, repeated surgeries and rehab setbacks.

Luck earned approximately $100 million in his career, but forfeited $58 million on his current deal. He could have earned an additional half-a-billion dollars had he been able to play into his late 30’s, as a host of recent NFL quarterbacks have done.

As classless as the boo-birds were, at least the Colts organization took the high road. They could have recouped approximately $25 million in signing and roster bonuses but waived their right to do so, a parting gift if you will to the quarterback who had done so much for their franchise.

Although Luck said he heard the boos and admitted they hurt, he nevertheless wrote a heartfelt thank you letter addressed to “Colts Nation” in a full-page ad published in the Indianapolis Star. In the letter he said, “It has been the honor of a lifetime to represent the Colts and the City of Indianapolis,” proving that in addition to his prodigious talent, Luck possesses the class and dignity sorely lacking in some of his “fans.”

Jordan Kobritz is a non-practicing attorney and CPA, former Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog, sportsbeyondthelines.com. The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Kobritz can be reached by email at jordan.kobritz@cortland.edu.

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