Were Colts fans booing Andrew Luck or the circumstances?

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

It’s become extremely popular in the last 12 hours to wag fingers at Colts fans who booed after learning via their cell phone devices that quarterback Andrew Luck was pulling a belated Barry Sanders, 15 days shy of the first game of the 2019 regular season. The widespread assumption is that the fans were booing Luck personally, as if they chose with premeditation to show up and boo Luck on the day they put him in the Ring of Honor or whatever the Colts eventually may do to honor his career.

There’s possibly another explanation for the booing. The fans may have been booing the circumstances, not the player or his intensely personal decision.

Put yourself in their shoes. They showed up for a meaningless preseason game. They held their noses through a no-starters scrimmage, supporting a team that once again had been hyped up by a guitar-collecting huckster, who four weeks earlier had made his latest reckless promise of a return of the franchise’s glory days.

“This team is one of the best teams that I’ve had the privilege to bring to our fans,” Irsay said on July 29. “It honestly matches some of those days of Peyton [Manning], Edgerrin [James], Reggie [Wayne], all of those guys.”

And now? Not. Because Andrew Luck supposedly woke up one day this week and decided he’d had enough, with the team knowing not a thing about the possibility. (There are rumors the team has known since March that it was a possibility; the Colts insist they learned of the decision recently.) And then the Colts had him show up and hang out on the sideline at a preseason game, serving as a reminder to the paying customers that the player they’ve paid to see will no longer be seen playing. This stark realization comes only two seasons owner Jim Irsay grossly overstated (and possibly deliberatly misrepresented) to fans Luck’s ability to play in 2017, before the time came for definitively deciding whether to renew their season tickets.

Make no mistake about it, selling tickets without a franchise quarterback isn’t easy. The Colts experienced that during the donut hole between Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. If fans had known in 2017 or in 2019 that they wouldn’t see Luck play at all, maybe they would have made the not-so-hard decision to spend their hard-earned money elsewhere.

While it’s indeed Luck’s absolute right to walk away from the game, it’s also the absolute right of the paying customers who reasonably may believe that they have been toyed with over the past couple of years to react negatively in the moment of having their non-enjoyment of a meaningless game, for which they’d sacrificed hundreds of dollars and a latesummer Saturday night, interrupted by tweets informing them that, by the way, the next time they come to Lucas Oil Stadium for a game that actually counts, Andrew Luck won’t be working there anymore.

If it’s reasonable to be upset about learning this news while in the team’s home stadium watching a boring-ass game featuring 60 minutes of slappy vs. slappy, how should those people who are reasonably upset voice their opinions in that specific moment? They do what fans assembled at a sporting event always do to voice a negative opinion: They boo.

Maybe they’ll eventually regret it. Maybe they should. Or maybe those who are so quick to condemn them should ask themselves how they’d feel in that same intent, and whether they’d be able to navigate the nuances of booing Luck or booing the Colts or booing Irsay or just booing because they’re pissed off and need to vent?

Unless and until the American sports fans has more options beyond “cheer” and “boo” for their in-stadium arsenal of reaction, rare and unusual and upsetting circumstances like those that unfolded last night will definitely draw a reaction, and the reaction won’t be cheering.

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