Athletes, coaches, and refs enjoy what they do — at least most of the time.
Athletes and coaches are competitive by nature, and officials enjoy being around the game and the challenge that it involves.
But there comes a time when it’s time to move on. Everyone eventually says, “Enough!”
When I officiated basketball, I didn’t want to have fans, players, and coaches think, “Why is he still out there? The game has passed him by.”
I wanted to retire from officiating on my terms.
While some coaches and fans likely thought I never should have started officiating, most thought I was still doing a more-than-competent job when I decided to hang it up at 60 years of age.
It wasn’t that I was forced to retire, but there were too many nights on the basketball floor when I caught myself thinking, “What am I doing out here?” Granted, I still enjoyed the well-played competitive games, but there were too many nights when the games weren’t as much fun anymore. And I didn’t want that feeling to affect the way I officiated.
My decision to retire from officiating basketball pales in comparison and significance to the recent decision of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, arguably the most significant and unexpected retirement of note among professional football players. Luck decided right before the 2019 regular season began, even though he was just 29 years young.
His career was defined by wins and injuries, and it was the injuries that led to his decision. He missed nine games in 2015 and the entire 2017 season.
Luck finally said, “I haven’t been able to live the life I want to live. It’s taken the joy out of this game. The only way forward for me is to remove myself from football and this cycle I’ve been in.”
Who can blame him? He, unlike some athletes, realized there’s more to life than football. He’s a bright and wealthy young man who doesn’t need to play for money.
In fact, if he were greedy, he could have stayed on the roster and been handsomely paid this season, even while playing little, and then retire. While the decision to retire in August might have made it more difficult for the Colts, who had high expectations for Luck, they had to know that his health was going to be a challenge even if he remained on the team.
Colts owner Jim Irsay estimated that Luck could potentially be giving up as much as $450 million in future salary.
Consider that through six NFL seasons, Luck is said to have suffered torn cartilage in two ribs, a partially torn abdomen, a lacerated kidney that left him peeing blood, at least one concussion, a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, and a mysterious calf / ankle issue that led to his most recent health challenges.
Luck is one of only a few high-profile athletes who have decided to step away from the game in their prime before reaching the age of 30.
Luck, whose career started in 2012 when the Indianapolis Colts made him the first overall pick of the NFL Draft, has earned more than $97.1 million in total salary in his previous seven NFL seasons, according to Spotrac, a sports data company.
Retiring when he did means that Luck gave up roughly $58.1 million on his current contract.
The Indianapolis fans who booed Luck during a preseason game illustrate how far removed they are from the realities of football and life. Given his laundry list of injuries, the game was no longer fun.
Luck called his retirement “the hardest decision of my life” at a news conference.
I suppose he could change his mind, but who can blame him if he doesn’t?
Don’t worry, Luck will have plenty of options going forward. One person noted that retirement from football is just the first page of a new chapter for the former quarterback.
Fans can say what they will about Luck, but quitter shouldn’t be one of them.