For too long an undeserving group has fought an uphill battle trying to prove they don’t always finish last. Now, Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck stands ready to plant a flag for the Nice Guys at the apex of the last sport of gladiators.
This is for you Duckie. Hold your head up high Kenneth Wurman. Here’s looking at you, Gilbert Lowell.
The cape for Nice Guys everywhere is being carried by Andrew Luck. The former Stanford quarterback has already proven nice guys don’t finish last. Now he’s out to show they can finish first.
If you haven’t seen it yet, Luck went on a tirade never before seen in the NFL. On the league network’s SoundFX this week, Luck is heard saying “nice hit, big man”, “nice hit, buddy.” Buddy! He’s calling his opponent buddy? After Terrell Suggs knocks him down at the end of a play, Luck says “good hit, big boy”, all Suggs could do is laugh as he jogged away.
“In all the years I’ve played football I have never heard anything like it,” said Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. “Nothing even close.”
We are talking about the N.F.L.
A league where the distaste for opponents on game day is so thick, opposing teams do not refer to each other by name but rather just by number. One of the best players every to play the game, Deacon Jones was once asked what regrets he had from his days playing in the NFL and he said, “I’d kill more quarterbacks. That’s the only thing I could do differently. I couldn’t be any nastier. I couldn’t have any more intent. The only thing I do is ‘execute’ better.” (We profiled that “killer instinct” in these very pages just last month.)
Brooklyn Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher was the first to slander the Nice Guys. In 1975 Durocher released an autobiography, Nice Guys Finish Last.
“My baseball career spanned almost five decades—from 1925 to 1973, count them—and in all that time I never had a boss call me upstairs so that he could congratulate me for losing like a gentleman. ‘How you play the game’ is for college boys. When you’re playing for money, winning is the only thing that matters. Show me a good loser in professional sports, and I’ll show you an idiot. Show me a sportsman, and I’ll show you a player I’m looking to trade to Oakland…”
Nice isn’t an adjective used…well…ever in the NFL. Execs don’t want someone who’s nice. They want a Deacon Jones. They want Tom Brady. The Super Bowl winning quarterback prompted three FCC complaints this season for using the f-word multiple times. Brady’s response, if you don’t like it blame the networks that air the game.
Then again, Luck is an odd bird. He still uses a flip phone and is genuinely scared of smart phones. He’s not on Twitter, and his favorite film stars a hunky Brad Pitt, but it’s not Fight Club, but rather Legends of the Fall.
When NFL executives scout for potential quarterbacks, nice isn’t at the top of the list. In fact, the only personality trait many execs look at is the leadership qualities associated with a potential franchise player. This is where Luck’s “niceness” flows in direct contrast with what people associate with niceness. In a Notre Dame study on effects of gender and agreeableness, their research concluded that many men who were deemed agreeable or nice earned less or had a lower ceiling than those more stubborn.
This is what makes Luck such an iconoclast. He defies historical beliefs that an NFL player must be mean, and press the killer instinct at all times. Luck plays the game in a way that doesn’t detract from his ability to lead, fight, and more importantly win.
Luck is coming into his own, growing up before our eyes.
In November of last season, Luck and the Colts were down 38-8 in the fourth quarter when Head Coach Chuck Pagano decided to bench Luck. The nice (agreeable) Luck turned to Pagano and said, “Please let me stay in, I got to go out fighting…I can’t go out with my tail between my legs.” The conversation continued and when Luck was asked what is best for the team. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselback finished the game.
Later that season, in the playoffs, the Colts were down 28 points to the visiting Kansas City Chiefs. Luck didn’t give up. He didn’t concede to the Chiefs. The Colts followed his lead pulling of the second biggest comeback in NFL postseason history.
In Luck’s third season he will make the postseason for the third consecutive time, putting him in rare air for quarterbacks. Can his ability to win in the regular season translate to a championship?
The Nice Guys sure hope so.
Photo Credit: Associated Press/Marc Slocumb
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