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Strange Luck And Extreme Skiing, With Seth Wickersham

4:09 PM EST on December 8, 2022

Andrew Luck after losing the AFC Divisional Round Game in 2018.
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

Andrew Luck always seemed a little bit unlike his fellow elite NFL quarterbacks, although he also seemed a little different in general. Given how unlike virtually everyone else NFL quarterbacks are, though, and given how stilted and mediated any understanding of them necessarily is, what this perceived difference amounts to is less like an actual insight and more a matter of noticing that Luck's beard was a little sloppier and his laugh a little dorkier than those of his fellow apex weirdos. In a world where Aaron Rodgers is now a little bit better understood, the standards for peculiar quarterback personalities have been adjusted downward somewhat. But thanks to Seth Wickersham's remarkable story on Luck—what drove him as a football player and what drove him away from the game, and the toll that all that obsession took on him as a person—the broader mystery of just how strange NFL quarterbacks are, and what this strange job does to push them in that direction, feels a bit more comprehensible. So Drew and I had Seth on to talk about it all—about Luck, and about how this long-gestating story came together, and about the physical and emotional toll of what has to be one of the loneliest jobs in the world.

I don't know that I've ever read a feature quite like it, both because of how open and insightful Luck himself is about it all—he really is different, it turns out—and because of how much Wickersham did with the access that he had. Elite athletes have granted reporters this kind of access in the past, of course, but in the absence of the kind of work that Luck has done on himself, and that mostly amounts to a front-row seat at various workouts and team events. Football didn't just break Luck's body, although it did that as reliably as it always does. It also warped his being in the game's image, and around the gnarled values and perverse incentives that make up its culture. Luck, his wife, and his former teammates and co-workers offer perspective into how this worked, from his pathologically inward seething to the control-freakery that led him to order for everyone else at the table in restaurants. Seth was patient with Drew and I when and where we veered into smoke-blowing mode, and insightful whenever we stopped talking long enough to let him be.

And that was just the Retired Quarterback portion of the program! During the back half of the show, you will find Seth answering our questions about the ongoing degeneration of the New England Patriots and how it does and doesn't fit with Bill Belichick Best Practices through history, as well as some informed speculation on just how ugly and stupid things may get before Daniel Snyder finally sells the Washington Football Organization, or doesn't. Also he explained what "extreme skiing" does and does not mean, although I didn't catch all of that because I kept saying the word "extreme" in various stupid ways.

You will likely not be surprised to learn that things get stupider after Seth left, presumably to do some important work on a game-changing story. Left to our own devices, Drew and I talked more about Arnaz Battle than was strictly necessary, and romped hideously through the Funbag, with a discussion of whether pot actually counts as "drug use" and which kind of objectionable college football fans are the most objectionable. After all that insight into the very limits of personal drive, it felt good to be back on our home turf: getting mad about people we have never met, because of mad those people get about other stuff. If I had to be elite at anything, I'd much rather it be this than being a NFL quarterback. It's easier on the back, and on the spirit.

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