I haven’t watched football in over two years now. I gave it up to stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. I gave it up because I couldn’t stomach watching men slowly kill themselves on the field for my Saturday and Sunday viewing pleasure. I gave it up because college football is, in the words of Taylor Branch, part of a “planation mentality,” an utterly exploitative industry that profits from the free labor of young men.
I can tell you the exact day I finally gave it up for good: the day that Aaron Hernandez killed himself. He was just 27, and reports said he had the worst CTE of anyone his age they’d ever seen. Fuck football.
(Funny, it took a NE Patriot to make a lifelong Broncos fan quit watching. But there you go.)
I still watched Last Chance U on Netflix until I couldn’t stomach it at all. (I have a lot of thoughts on college athletes and second chances. But that’s another story.) And for a while, I still followed how the Broncos and the Ducks were doing, even if I never watched a single game.
I’d like to think football season means nothing to me these days. That said, the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck caught my eye.
I have never been a fan of Andrew Luck, I won’t lie. The guy went to Stanford, for starters. My PAC–12 loyalties lie elsewhere, and I remember what happened to the Ducks when he played in the conference.
It’s not that all Stanford quarterbacks are necessarily terrible. For a time, I would have argued that the best QB to ever play graduated from the school, and like Luck he was a number one draft pick. (But fuck John Elway and his racism and his team’s decision not to hire Kaepernick. And fuck Pat Bowen too. Oh and while I’m at it, fuck Stanford.)
And I’ve never liked the Colts. I never really liked former Colts QB Payton Manning all that much, even when his jersey turned orange. (Yes. Okay. I liked him a tad more when the Broncos won a Super Bowl with him hobbling about in the pocket. But really just a tad.)
I caught a clip of Colts fans booing Andrew Luck as he left the field for the last time. I watched his press conference where he confirmed his retirement. He was broken. Utterly broken. Physically. Mentally. He spoke of a cycle of pain and rehab – a cycle he said he’d been going through for the past four years, meaning more than half the time he’s played professionally. It was a cycle he knew he could only break by quitting the game. He’s 29 years old, for crying out loud, and his body and his mind have given out.
He said he’d lost his joy. I blame some shitty management at his franchise. And I blame a game that, really, no one should be playing.
So honestly fuck any fan who booed Andrew Luck last night. Fuck the NFL. Fuck Jay Z while I’m at it. And maybe check yourself if you still watch this game and make excuses for this game. Maybe you can say it still gives you joy. But come on. Look around. It does more harm than good.