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Luck's Retirement Provides Rare Surprise In Today's Sports Culture


It’s been said that we as a culture have lost the capacity to be surprised, that there’s little in this day and age that truly shocks us anymore.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I was truly taken aback Saturday night when word leaked out that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was retiring from football.

Going into his seventh year in the NFL, Luck seemingly had everything to play for. He’s thrown for nearly 24,000 yards and 171 touchdowns.

The latter figure is second only to Dan Marino among quarterbacks in their first six years, an indication that Luck was headed for possible all-time greatness.

And in a fiscal sense, Luck had a lot on the table too. He signed what was then the richest contract in football history three years ago, and while he has been subsequently been passed on that list, Luck still had nearly $65 million in salary to make over the remaining years of his deal.

The next contract would have been staggering, particularly if he had duplicated his 2018 numbers, which found Luck throwing for nearly 4,600 yards and 39 touchdowns, while leading the Colts into the postseason and winning him Comeback Player of the Year honors.

The possibility of a championship for Indianapolis and Luck was real.

Yes, the road forward for Luck figured to be nothing short of amazing. So, why, two weeks before the start of a new season, with so much ahead of him did Andrew Luck walk away?

In a word, pain. In many words, potentially debilitating injuries. Here’s a list of the aches and ailments that had plagued Luck in his career:

^torn cartilage in two ribs

^partially torn abdomen

^a lacerated kidney that left him urinating blood

^at least one concussion

^a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that cost him the 2017 season.

This year, Luck was slow to heal from calf and ankle injuries that had sidelined him for most of the exhibition season.

With a new wife and a baby on the way, Luck, a witty Stanford graduate, decided that the "cycle of injury, pain, rehab, injury, pain, rehab" was "unceasing, unrelenting, both in season and offseason."

And enough was enough, money, championships and fame be damned.

While Luck’s decision to leave the game may have been surprising, the reaction that followed, sadly, was not. As word of Luck’s retirement leaked out at the Colts’ stadium Saturday, he was booed as he left the field.

And on social media and on sports talk shows, those bastions of compassion and understanding, Luck was savaged for being soft and selfish.

Luck’s injury count should refute the soft accusation. And, as for being selfish, there’s likely not a single person in the Colts’ locker room who doesn’t understand what Luck did and why.

The only people balking are the braying idiots who populate social media forums or call into or run talk shows. Or worse, the morons who wanted Luck’s stats for their fantasy football teams. None of them matter.

It should come as no surprise that all that matters, or should matter, is whether Andrew Luck can break his cycle of injury, pain and rehab in time to have a healthy rest of his life.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.