Before March 2018 I had never heard of Andrew Luck.
My son and I were on a spring break road trip, and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was our final stop. We took a guided tour and headed to the gift shop. My son, 8 at the time, approached the cashier. "Why do you have all this Andrew Luck stuff? He didn't play a single down in 2017." The cashier laughed and said something about next year.
I bring all this up, obviously, because Andrew Luck, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, recently announced his retirement from the NFL at age 29. This has very little bearing on my life — yours either, probably — but my son is obsessed with football and I'm always on the lookout for something to bring to the table, conversation-wise, about this sport he loves.
So as we were driving to flag football practice, I asked my son, "What do you think about the Andrew Luck thing?"
He said he wasn't surprised. Luck was always hurt. (Torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, torn cartilage in his rib cage, a lacerated kidney, a concussion, ankle problems.)
I asked what he thought of some fans booing him. Eh, he said. Those fans probably never played in the NFL or had a lacerated kidney.
I told him I saw on Twitter that a Jacksonville Jaguars player who used to play for the Colts (Matt Overton) offered to buy the season tickets from all the angry Colts fans demanding refunds and donate them to families at Indianapolis' Riley Hospital for Children.
He said that was cool. I agreed.
I told him Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern University's football coach and a hero of my son's, supported Luck's decision. "Cool," my son said, growing a little bored of this conversation.
Where my son (or any of us) stands on Andrew Luck's retirement, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't mean much. But as long as my kids play sports and watch sports and live in a culture that worships sports, I'm going to exhaust them with Big Life Lessons we can learn from sports. And I think Andrew Luck just handed us two biggies.
One: Your happiness doesn't trump someone else's health — emotional or physical.
Your fantasy league picks, your season ticket value, your enjoyment of a game that someone else is playing, your favorite team's prospects — none is more important than a person's brain function and desire to live a life that's not dictated by pain.
Outside of sports, you're going to have friends, roommates, boyfriends/girlfriends, coaches, mentors, colleagues who decide to move on before you're ready to say goodbye to them. You get to feel sad, obviously. You get to feel disappointed, maybe even hurt, maybe even rejected.
But before you rage at them or wallow in a stew of your own pity and scorn, consider whether this move was really about you. And whether this move was, if you're honest, best for that other person's health/happiness/career/family/ability to live a whole, authentic life.
And then decide whether booing is appropriate.
Two: You get to walk away from unhealthy things — friendships, relationships, jobs, hobbies, habits, the things consuming your time and your heart and your money. You get to decide whether they're helping you become the best version of yourself.
All your life, you get to do that. Some people might boo when you bid unhealthy things farewell. And some people will draw strength from you.
And that's what I want my son, and my daughter, to take away from a football player retiring at 29.
Heidi Stevens (email@example.com) is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.