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August 29, 2019

Natalie Egenolf: Why Andrew Luck was right — and Sean Rodriguez was very, very wrong

The sports world went into collective shock when superstar quarterback Andrew Luck announced his retirement from the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. The NFL is notoriously known as being the “Not For Long” league, but not for guys like Andrew Luck. 

Despite some injuries, the 29 year old decided he would endure pain no more and leave the “what could have been” question for the sports world to ponder. 

“For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab. It’s been unceasing, and unrelenting, both in season and in the off-season," Luck said in his retirement press conference. "I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away.” 

For years, fans of the NFL have watched their favorite players go to battle through injury and return to the field only never to be the same. For some reason, the negative reaction to Luck’s retirement, including it being called “a millennial move,” reminds me of an old mentality that we as football fans have been conditioned to accept. 

What is so millennial about wanting to live a long life in good health and not sacrificing your body? 

Since when does anyone in any profession (outside of joining the military) knowingly agree to potentially severely damage not only their physical body but their mind? 

Athletes are conditioned to believe they must not show weakness, that in order to be a “true man” they must sacrifice everything for the ultimate glory of being champion.

With all of the information we now have with CTE and the repercussions from the trauma sustained in football, I believe that Luck taking a stand and walking away from what we believe is the most glamorous sports role in the world will incite a change in the way football players will begin to prioritize their mental and physical state over the millions of dollars and fame. 

If what defines someone as a champion is consciously choosing to inflict self-harm and mental suffering, then we need a new mindset — and this explains way more issues we have as a society. True strength is taking control to prioritize your own life over the societal pressure to be great. 

We can be thankful for Andrew Luck’s contributions to football, but we should be even more thankful to Luck for taking a public stand for mental health and leading the way for those who no longer want to suffer in silence.

Call us what you want, but we’re not entitled

Living as Philadelphia sports fans, we’ve heard our fair share of names tossed our way. Hell, we even sang a song called “No One Likes Us” as we marched toward Super Bowl victory in 2018. So why did Sean Rodriguez’s comments set the Twitterverse and Philly on fire? 

It's the use of the word “entitled.” 

Sean Rodriguez could have not picked a worse word to try and convince the Philadelphia fanbase to not boo. Unless you live under a rock, the entire universe is aware that this city is known for booing. We’re never allowed to forget it, so it’s part of who we are. 

I’ve written before that I don’t know if it’s the most effective way to boost a team. However, “the boo” is multifaceted and mostly used to shake a player up. I can see how it can get under someone’s skin and in no way should any player being subjected to verbal abuse.

Calling fans “entitled,” though, feels like a low blow for a fanbase starved for decent baseball for a decade. As Joe Santoliquito wrote only less than a month ago:

The one team that’s carried the woeful MLB numbers in terms of live gate and viewership has been the Philadelphia Phillies.

Say what you want about the signing of Bryce Harper, his addition has attendance up a MLB-high 425,812 and viewership up locally by 20% on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Phillies are so far ahead of every other team in MLB that the nearest team, the Chicago White Sox, are 258,787 behind after 47 home dates (the Phillies have played 51 home dates before 1,809,093). The Phillies are up 8,349 per game with the White Sox a distance second, up 3,554, for a difference of 4,795 per game. (It also has to be noted, Guaranteed Rate Field, the White Sox home stadium, holds a capacity of 40,615 to the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park’s 43,035).

If being the only fanbase in the MLB to show up night after night to cheer on the Phillies makes us “entitled,” then so be it. Perhaps if you would like to play for a less entitled fanbase, you can go play in an empty stadium. 

This is Philadelphia, where 30,000-plus are showing up each night, spending their hard earned money to come watch this team play. There are a few bad apples in every bunch, but it should take just one look around Citizens Bank Park at ALL of the fans who care so show up to watch you play to make you realize the magnitude of the fanbase you’re playing for. 

Yes, we can be aggressive. I think sometimes we're too abrasive. But, entitled? We’re never that.

Follow Natalie on Twitter: @NatalieEgenolf

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