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Out of Luck

August 25, 2019

Andrew Luck has a tough name. It can be used, misused, appropriated to make a point at his expense. And he has a second flaw we all have: We are human.

And the human Andrew Luck cannot play football any more. “I know that I am unable to pour my heart and soul into this position, which would not only sell myself short but the team in the end as well. And it’s sad, but I have a lot of clarity in this. ”

I played football, badly, in the 1970’s, but I loved it enough that I was captain of my high school team, coached in the 1980’s and was thrilled to watch my son play in the 2000’s. So I know that a basic truth is that football hurts. There is no pain free practice, game, career, in fact every aspect of football has pain as part of its extreme pleasure.

All sports have pain and pleasure, but football has pain as part of its essential reality, unlike many other types of athletics. Pain is unavoidable. But for most of us the pleasure is more compelling and the tolerance of the pain validates the power of the love we feel for those we play with. Perhaps like the brutal pain of childbirth making the joy of holding your baby elementally powerful, in a much lesser light the catastrophic pain of playing football bonds young men to each other and to the sport that is very hard for the rest of the world to understand.

But Andrew Luck is a human. And pain, after over a decade has triumphed, over come the pleasure, and even the love of being with his beloved friends in football.

A four year cycle of pain and reinjury, and more pain, and playing through it, and now, again, yet another, his ankle, is Luck’s crushing reality at 29. He probably could play, physically for a while longer. The drugs, the prostheses, the offensive schemes could allow him to move and play, but his joy is lost, it was crushed in the unrelenting realities of the pain and the knowledge of the dead certainty of more pain to come. All of the time.

You could wax philosophic and say that Luck simply got what his devotion ultimately created. Or that the huge money that he made was enough for the rest of his life. Or that the ruthless manipulations of body and mind in pro sports wrecked a pure heart.

No, it just hurt too much.

The pain, and the promise of more, overcame the deep love he has for virtually all those he played with and against, even for those who made the hurt that he has to leave.

Before all our devotions we are human. God gives us the “bags of water” our bodies all are, spiced with tiny bits of material that let me write this, let Andrew Luck play, that made the pain he feels excruciating, and let him know that that pain will simply be there, maybe escalate, maybe end his abilities in any number of ways.

But those bits also allowed him to love the old and young, black and white, smart and not so much with a passion that is why any of us do life beyond eating, sleeping and binge watching.

All the other animals are blissful simply being. They like eating, sex, safety, and they fear the moment, the pain, and the threatening, but they have no idea that there is anything other than existence. The meaning of things is simply not there beyond the day they are in.

God gave us a spark of something. That spark makes all the unnecessary: it makes one play football, another music, still another make buildings beyond shelter. Andrew Luck may do that (he was an architectural engineering major at Stanford.)

But he may just know God well enough through his devoted friend and back up Matt Hasselback, a devout Christian, to know the one reality that keys living life beyond ourselves: in the end, the pursuits of the moment are just what God has allowed us to do.

In the end the reality of all of life around us, including the realities that those bits of material we have in our “bags of water” bodies allow us to do any of it, and to simply live. Those bits are not made by us. We, every bit of us, is a gift from God.

There is no rationale or equation why the violence of football, the cruelties of human anger, the unnecessary suffering of the innocent, the extreme pain that kept Andrew Luck from pushing his body until debilitation ended it, why any of this happens.

But we want to know Why all this happens. Why some of us devote to some things, why some simply do not care, why any of it means anything. Right now Andrew Luck has answered a central part of his purpose, and it is painful in every sense of the word.

But the inevitability of end is just a matter of time in every life. The meaning of that time you have been given means that you need to understand what has been given, and where it came from. And the answer is not on your cell phone.

The meaning that forced Andrew Luck to leave what he loves comes from a place that every one of us can access, but all of us fail too often to address: that what we want is often not what we have, that what could be is not, in the end, up to any of us.

We need to understand what we cannot reason. Some say that is prayer. That, to me is listening to God. I think Andrew Luck listened, and heard.

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