By Ken Reed
Too many sports fans view athletes as robots designed to play games for their entertainment.
They sit in the stands, or on their sofas, a cold beer in their hands, and yell at injured players for being “too soft” and “not tough enough.” They think jocks should just “suck it up” and get on the field and play. They apparently believe they know how much pain athletes are in and when they should be playing or not.
It’s such a shameful and selfish outlook — not only on sports, but life.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck retired Saturday night, fed up with a four-year cycle of injuries, pain and seemingly constant rehab. Many Colts fans (hopefully, just a loud, inebriated minority) booed Luck as he left the field for the last time.
Former Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin reacted to the fan behavior this way:
“How dare Luck not sacrifice his body for MY entertainment,” Baldwin tweeted.
“Who cares if your shoulder is too messed up to pick up your child. Who cares if your knees are too messed up to play with your kids. Who cares about the quality of YOUR life, what about the quality of MY Sundays?”
The Andrew Luck these fans booed had given them numerous exciting memories during a short, but elite-level playing career. (Through six seasons only Dan Marino had more passing touchdowns and only Marino and Peyton Manning had more passing yards.)
The Andrew Luck these fans booed once played through a lacerated kidney that left him peeing blood. He also suffered torn cartilage in two ribs, a partially torn abdomen. A torn labrum. At least one concussion. And the calf/ankle injury that ultimately ended his career.
Luck gave 100% effort every minute he was on the field. As fans, that’s all we can reasonably expect.
Given what we know today about the long-term debilitating residual effects of injuries on former football players, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which results from too many blows to the brain, it’s amazing that more players don’t leave the game early.
“I think it takes an enormous amount of courage, an immense amount of self-reflection and a lot of guts to do what he’s doing,” said Houston Texans’ All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt about Luck.
Nevertheless, Macho Football Fan wants more. Macho Football Fan wants to be entertained and feels personally affronted if a warrior he or she cheers for decides he wants more out of his life than pain and constant physical rehabilitation.
Macho Football Fan mentality is represented by sports talk show host Doug Gottlieb’s comments about Luck: “Retiring (be)cause rehabbing is ‘too hard’ is the most millennial thing ever #Andrew Luck.”
Former Dallas Cowboys great Troy Aikman had the perfect response to Gottlieb, and all fans with this mentality.
That’s total bullshit Doug. What qualifies you to decide how someone should live their life? So you’re now the authority on what motivates Andrew Luck? And if his decisions don’t fit into what you think is best for him then you rip him?
Athletes are human beings, not cartoon characters. They go through physical and emotional pain like the rest of us. They have families they love and futures to think about. They aren’t warriors created by central casting for our weekend enjoyment.
And like us, they have the freedom to start and end careers when they want.
If Andrew Luck wants to get on with the rest of his life and do more than take some more brutal beatings week in and week out then more power to him.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- "How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Ken Reed's Author Page on Amazon
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
A League of Fans Special Report