When you look at athletes, normally you’re doing so with envy and annoyance.
I mean, what sort of God creates and moulds such a perfect human, physically, genetically and everything in between? If you’re an NFL fan, the last few seasons have taught us the same thing; athletes are the same as us, they have tendons, bone, muscles, feelings. And, sometimes, the gifts we so often envy and hate, can come at a high price.
For Andrew Luck, the mesmerising gift of healing was not bestowed upon him and last week the 29-year-old quarterback, close to tears, announced his retirement.
Luck quite literally ran out of luck on the injury front and chose a life after sports instead of another intensive rehab program. Luck had made enough money out of his slowly ailing body and he knew it was the time to leave. But many fans reacted with boos for the Colts quarterback as he trundled his way off the field for the last time.
The first thing that has to be noted is how the evolution of the NFL players has resulted in them knowing when it is time to take a break. Players have now begun to understand that while their body is the money maker, once that shuts down, so does the money.
Those who are obsessed with fantasy football bemoaned Luck's decision and even .J Simpson called out Luck for ruining his fantasy team
While that brings many pressures to continue to play on injured, nowadays, players want to live long and healthy lives, and with recent CTE cases and older players having numerous difficulties with muscles, joints, tendons and general physical activity, players have become more cautious.
Just over two years ago, a weary and half-broken Ben Roethlisberger almost called it quits. The then 35-year-old Steelers quarterback decided life with his family and his brain intact were the most important things to him.
Big Ben, both by nickname and stature, faced some ridicule, bemusement and a lot of questions when he arrived for pre-season, ready to go and back in love with the game. Was it all for publicity? Is it because Roethlisberger is a slightly over dramatic ego maniac?
Nobody is quite so sure, but Roethlisberger was one of the first to commend Andrew Luck on his decision.
“No one wants to be not able to walk when 10 years later they’re trying to play with their kid. I think there’s a combination. I don’t want to speak for him, but that’s my assumption.”
Since then, Roethlisberger has seen Steelers team-mate Ryan Shazier have his career pretty much ended and his life changed after being on the receiving end of a tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals.
While admirably Shazier has never given up the dream to play football again, it is a stark contrast with Andrew Luck. Shazier was on the field just two weeks ago throwing around and was widely applauded for his warrior-like attitude and his never-say-die attitude despite the pain and the cost to his health.
Both men deserve to be applauded for displaying warrior-like attitude in two very different ways.
And yet, Luck still faces some criticism. Those who are obsessed with fantasy football bemoaned Luck’s decision and even .J Simpson called out Luck for ruining his fantasy team. Of course Colts fans voiced their displeasure in the stadium. Typical Millennials, they ruin everything, players of old would definitely never do that.
Fans must be aware that despite the physical prowess and god like structure, these players are human beings
In an article looking at the varied reaction to Robert Griffin III and Jay Cutler's injuries, researcher Jimmy Sanderson, an assistant professor in sport management at Texas Tech University, concluded that, "Football is closely tied to a narrow version of masculinity that normalises and values playing through pain and suppressing injuries in the name of toughness.
“In that vein, media coverage of players who decide to sit out (Cutler) or play through an injury (Griffin III) may impact players’ future decision-making as well as fans’ attitudes towards these players.”
Sanderson believes players who opt out or retire are seen to be lacking the necessary toughness demanded by football, while those that play through pain are looked at as ‘’warriors’’ who epitomise their sport.
So while the likes of Luck, tight end Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett sit out their beloved game to keep hold of a future that does not render them near disabled, other players will continue to be lauded in an environment that promotes steeliness, playing through injury and a win-at-all-cost attitude.
Players have every right to show off their gladiator-like bodies, but fans must be aware that despite the physical prowess and god like structure, these players are human beings who face highs and lows, physically, mentally and emotionally, day in day out.
And while the average athlete’s attitude continues to evolve and they strive for long-term quality of life, it is clear some fans are happy for short-term happiness to cost those athletes in the long run.