Will Leitch, writing in New York Magazine, explains the complicated relationship between fan and athlete. His focus is on the recently retired Andrew Luck and the bevy of boos and downright ugliness of his retirement.
Even using the callous calculus of the fan-athlete relationship, this seemed to break a contract. Being upset that your team has lost its franchise quarterback is perfectly reasonable; being angry at him, to instantaneously forget all the joy he provided you, all the joy you experienced with him, for taking care of his physical well-being felt boorish … flat-out mean. Athletes often treat fans (and media, really) as a single-faced mass, a public-opinion meter that is either lovers boosting their ego too high or haters trying to take them down. It had mostly balanced out what had mostly been considered harmless and ultimately, I’d argue, a positive: Fans cheer when you are up, they jeer when you are down, but no matter what they care, and that’s what makes this whole world go ’round. But to see, so starkly, the response to the end of nine years of dedication and hero worship be a pounding of the table and a demand for More! More! felt not just a betrayal, but even brutish, gladiatorial bloodsport. It felt legitimately ugly in a way fandom is never supposed to be ugly.
It sure makes being a fan feel toxic.