It’s stretched beyond two weeks since the abrupt departure of the Colts quarterback, and so far, we seem to have been spared the awful kind of puns usually favored by newspaper headline writers and TV news readers:
“Colts are out of Luck.”
“Team can’t count on good Luck.”
And, what would have been my favorite,
“If it weren’t for bad Luck, we’d have no Luck at all.”
We have, however, been treated to a workshop on the pathology of sports fanatics. “Bad fan,” it turns out, might be a redundancy.
First, we had the absolute vilification of Andrew Luck, who selfishly quit the Colts at the unforgivable age of 29, just as another NFL season that would mean absolutely nothing in the history of the world was about to amuse Indianapolis residents and distract them from another record number of murders.
I was watching the preseason game against the Bears when word of Luck’s desertion under fire leaked. As he left the sidelines and walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium, he was taunted with a chorus of boos from the same people who had cheered wildly for him mere months ago.
The highlight of this snarling reversal was the young man, captured almost lovingly by the network’s camera, who yanked off his No. 12 jersey and threw it savagely to the ground. Take that, you dirty traitor. How can this heartbroken fan possibly go on with his empty life?
Somehow, after tsk-tsking the sad state of our sports culture for a few days, the coverage skipped right over the mundane details of an ordinary story. The one about the talented athlete who loved the game but decided the endless cycle of injury and rehabilitation had taken all the joy out of it.
Then it went right to the end phase, the near deification of Andrew Luck.
Colts owner Jim Irsay had “gratitude and thankfulness” for the “blood, sweat and tears” Luck spilled for the team. Goodness. He could win a world war next.
If he has time. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he hopes Luck will run for president of the United States. Move over, reality star Donald Trump, we can make politics in this country even weirder.
A Hoosier columnist was eloquent in his appreciation for the “heart, soul and distinction” Luck invested in “our community” and praise for his “displays of courage” that seem to be “lacking these days.”
If we have, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said once, defined deviancy down, we have done the same thing for our nobler virtues. “Courage” once meant the off-duty firefighter who rushed into the burning building. It described the heroic single mother sacrificing everything for her child. It enabled the otherwise timid bystander to stand up for what was right.
It would not have been used for a sports star with a whole life ahead of him and $25 million in the bank.
What is it in the modern condition that makes us invest so much of our own happiness in the performance of a frivolous game by highly paid, emotionally stunted perpetual adolescents? We love them, then we hate them, and often we do both at the same time. They are, notes the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro, “at the core of our dreamscape, forever young, forever strong ...”
Last year, I should confess, I wouldn’t have paid so much attention to this story. I might not have even noticed Luck’s retirement.
That’s because I was boycotting the NFL, annoyed at a few players’ flag- kneeling, anti-American posturing and the league’s disinclination to deal it. Took all the joy out of the game (as Luck would have it).
But that silliness seems to have evaporated, and I also decided I was wrong to let politics spoil my pleasant Sunday afternoon escapism.
So now I’m back.
It’s still not as much fun as it once was, though. I even find myself rooting for the Colts with much less enthusiasm than I had when Peyton Manning was the quarterback. He was much more entertaining than the always stoic, seldom smiling Andrew Luck.
Have you seen all those hilarious commercials he does these days? What a hoot.
Man, I love that guy.