Beverly Oden is a Stanford University graduate and former member of the United States Olympic volleyball team. Follow her on Twitter here. Here, she offers her take on the media reporting Andrew Luck’s retirement—before Andrew Luck could.
Thirty five minutes.
That’s how close Andrew Luck was to a completely different ending.
Thirty five measly minutes.
Had he been granted those minutes, he might have continued chatting and laughing with his teammates on the sidelines as the Colts finished up their otherwise uneventful pre-season game against the Bears. Sure, they lost by 10. But Luck would have walked off the field content, able to fully experience being on the field, amongst his teammates, as part of his football team for one final time.
Perhaps when the last few seconds ran off the clock, he would have taken a moment to let it all in. He might have taken a long last look around the stadium, at his teammates, at the staff and the ownership. At everything that had been his life for the last seven seasons.
Maybe he would have shaken hands with the opponents, taken a deep breath and shed a quiet tear knowing what was to come. The guys would gather around him in the locker room, aware of the bombshell news he was about to unleash on the sports world. Maybe he’d say a few emotional words and thank everyone. They’d congratulate him on his career, embrace him, wish him well and promise to stay in touch.
He would have walked out to his car, gone home to his family and prepared for the press conference he scheduled for the next day at 3 pm. He’d be dressed in a suit, with his family in the room and his carefully prepared remarks. It would have been painful, but he’d exit on his own terms and in his own words.
Luck could have been given that last gift as he gut-wrenchingly ended his pro football career. One last taste of normalcy.
But that’s not what happened.
Because 35 minutes before the clock ran out, ESPN’s Adam Schefter decided he needed to break a story. He decided that being first was more important than being a decent human being — even though no other news outlets seemed to even be sniffing this news yet. Luck’s close friends who he’d talked to just the night before didn’t even know. The story likely would have been safe for 35 minutes. And Schefter could have still been the hero and claimed the scoop. And if someone broke it first in an attempt to establish a career, Schefter would have been just fine. He’s made his name. He’d still be employed and on television daily. He didn’t need it.
I get it. Schefter had a job to do and he did it. I worked in journalism for years. I understand the business and the pressure to be first. But this was just cruel.
At the time he broke the story, Schefter said he was at an Italian restaurant celebrating his mother-in-law’s 75th birthday. In those 35 minutes, maybe he could have been mentally and emotionally present with his family for this milestone that will never happen again. Maybe he could have put his arm around his wife while his mother-in-law blew out the candles. Maybe he could have enjoyed his personal moment while allowing Luck to have his.
But it wasn’t to be.
Thirty-five minutes before the end of the game, while Luck shot the breeze and chuckled with teammates, Schefter tweeted. As the news of Luck’s retirement traveled through the stadium, the fans began to react. They angrily shed their Luck jerseys. They buried their heads in their hands. And yes, some of them booed as he walked off the field for the very last time.
Luck deserved better.
I’m admittedly biased. As a fellow Stanford athlete and long-time football fan, I’ve watched Luck play from the beginning of his collegiate career and all the way through the pros. I don’t know him personally, but I have enormous respect for his talent, his grit, his integrity and the way he has represented our school, his team and himself. Warriors know warriors. By all accounts Luck is just that, respected by teammates and opponents alike.
It breaks my heart that this warrior of an athlete who has given his body and seven years of his life to this sport, this team and these regrettably ungrateful fans, had to walk off the field for the final time to a chorus of boos. That will forever be his last memory of a remarkable football career. And that’s a shame.
At his impromptu press conference, dressed in a “ratty t-shirt” for which he apologized to his mother, he admitted that “it hurt.” Of course it did. Athletes as strong-minded and cerebral as Andrew Luck don’t walk off into the sunset at age 29 if there is any other option. For him to make this decision, and to have clarity about it, shows that none of us knows how unbearable it must have been for him. He talked about being in a dark place. He talked about the difficulty of his four year injury/rehab cycle. He talked about becoming briefly resentful of his back up QB. Every elite athlete, active or long-retired, listening to him speak could viscerally feel his pain. None of this was easy.
The man loved the game of football. He had so much more that he wanted to accomplish and a legacy to solidify. He gave his heart and soul to that organization and what did he get in return? Boos from a bunch of talentless, armchair quarterbacks who neither have the adequate intestinal fortitude to hold Luck’s water nor have the slightest inkling of what it takes to play at that level for all those years in that much pain. It was clearly a heartbreaking decision to walk away.
Shame on you, Colts “fans.”
Shame on you, American sports media.
But most of all, shame on you Adam Schefter. I suspect that in the past seven years, Andrew Luck has been nothing but gracious to you, giving you all the time you needed for interviews and stories as they arose.
You couldn’t even give him 35 minutes.
Shame. On. You.