For the last seven years, I have tweeted, posted, debated, wagered — even purchased advertising space — in the name of the Russell Wilson versus Andrew Luck rivalry. I can’t think of any other aspect of my Wilson fandom that has consumed as much time or provided as much intrigue and frustration and enjoyment.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
Many have wondered why it even began in the first place, and why Seahawks fans cared so much about a “rivalry” among two players who in seven NFL seasons only ended up playing one relatively inconsequential regular season game against each other.
But that one is easy to answer: we are captivated by stories of heroes facing off against supervillains.
A better villain makes a better hero, and no other quarterback seemed more fit for that role opposite Wilson than Andrew Luck. Undersized and underdrafted against the prototypical #1 draft pick. Wilson vs. Luck was supposed to be Brady vs. Manning. I envisioned another decade of statistical comparisons, playoff results, MVP odds, expert analysis and Sando QB Tiers rankings to complain about.
But it is not to be.
As Luck emotionally recounted the excruciating cycle of injury/pain/rehab in his retirement speech, I couldn’t help but think of how hard he must’ve been fighting. Everyone expected him to be the next Peyton Manning while, in reality, he was dealing with this:
I was happily sitting and tweeting less-than-flattering Andrew Luck football stats to rile up the Colts fans, because, in spite of his injuries, I always just assumed he’d be back at 100% and on the field again, ready to continue the rivalry. It was a child-like dream that was brought to a halt by the more harsh realities of life; where our dreams often don’t pan out how we had hoped; where QBs are not superheroes and supervillians, but human beings with bodies and minds that are fallible.
The news of Andrew Luck’s retirement hit me with a flood of emotions that were palpable. And while it has been suggested by some, the thrill of victory was not one of them. Luck to me may have been the Lex Luthor to Wilson’s Superman, but it was always about plays that occurred on the football field. It was never personal, and yesterday’s announcement was something deeply personal for Luck.
I wish it had been different. I wish this game was more forgiving. I hope Luck is able to recover from his injuries. I am now more grateful than ever for Russell Wilson’s resilience, perseverance, and strength of body and mind.
Thank you, Andrew, for being a worthy adversary to my favorite quarterback. Even though I considered you a rival, I wouldn’t have enjoyed football over the past seven seasons nearly as much without you being a part of it.
By Sam Hawkbadger