There was a middling audience in attendance at Saturday night’s preseason game, and only a smallish portion of those fans remained late in the game, and a tiny group of those leftovers created such an enormous commotion. They were the ones who booed quarterback Andrew Luck as he departed the field at Lucas Oil Stadium for the final time as a member of the Colts, but their anger was amplified through modern media and lingered through the weekend as the NFL digested the shocking news of Luck’s sudden retirement.

It didn’t have to end this way. It was destined to, though.

MORE: Luck explains his decision to retire

This fiasco was the product of years of obfuscation from Luck and the Colts about the origin, nature and severity of his various injuries. Colts fans often have been in the position of being uncertain how their quarterback got hurt, how each issue might encumber his return and when to expect he would play again.

When the answer became “never” — well, no one saw that coming because no one really had been given the opportunity to understand how much pain Luck had endured or how long he’d suffered or whether it all might be terrible enough for him to consider giving up the game he loved.

And when that answer came during an exhibition game in which Luck was standing on the sideline as though mentally preparing himself for the 2019 season — the news leaking out of the spectators’ smartphones with no warning and minimal context — the combination created that unfortunate scene.

It was out of line for fans to boo Luck in that circumstance, no doubt. Luck’s retirement was a personal decision easy to justify given his means and myriad injuries. However, proper management of this occasion and so much that led into it would have resulted in an entirely different scene.

“I don’t think fans were booing Luck,” lifelong Colts fan Dustin Craig, who was not part of the crowd at Saturday’s game, told Sporting News. “I think they were booing because we feel like we’ve been taken for the proverbial ‘ride’ several times over the last few years.”

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In his time with the Colts, Luck has been afflicted with injuries to his throwing shoulder, ribs, head, kidney, throwing shoulder and, most recently, his lower leg. Through nearly every one of these episodes, there has been persistent uncertainty about what the impact would be for his team.

One of the only times we can be sure someone told the whole truth about the impact of Luck’s physical troubles, it was whispered to ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter, who broke the news of Luck’s retirement on Saturday evening. We don’t know who was Schefter’s source, but the decision to feed him that scoop rather than allow Luck to make the announcement contributed to what occurred during the game.

As well, Luck’s presence on the sideline was out of line, and the decision to have him there as opposed to sitting in a team box or sequestered in someone’s office was a blunder that belonged to any team official aware of what was to come.

“What else are fans to do in that situation but to gain a little hope from him being out there?” Craig said.

There were so many opportunities to handle all this better.

And by that, I mean there have been years’ worth of opportunities.

MORE: Ripple effects of Luck's retirement

In September 2015, Luck was known to have injured his shoulder and missed early October games as a result. A month later, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported Luck also had broken ribs at that point, contributing to his suddenly inaccurate passing. The NFL eventually acknowledged it would examine whether the Colts were properly reporting injuries. In late December, there was a report from Stephen Holder, then of the Indianapolis Star, that Luck actually had torn cartilage in his ribs in the September game.

Luck played throughout 2016, as it turned out, with shoulder problems that eventually required surgery. Those issues may or may not have been exacerbated by a snowboarding accident – something he did not acknowledge until more than two years later.

Luck played reasonably well that season – 31 touchdowns, 13 interceptions – but those who covered the team regularly were commenting he wasn’t quite the same. Then owner Jim Irsay announced in January 2017 that Luck had undergone surgery to repair the shoulder.

“The Colts misled us for the entire 2016 season about Luck’s shoulder,” Star columnist Gregg Doyel wrote then. “Irsay just admitted it.”

Irsay also said of Luck: “Will be ready for season!” Full disclosure: He did not say which season.

Luck was a mysterious figure through much of 2017 training camp. Although team representatives c

onsistently said they expected him to return to start the regular season, uncertainty about his status lingered throughout training camp. Luck didn’t help clear things up, either. At one point, he acknowledged to reporters he was throwing a tennis ball as part of his therapy but declined to answer whether he’d thrown a football.

The saga of whether he would return lingered all the way to November, when he was placed on injured reserve.

So perhaps fans should not have been surprised to see this year’s injury, from a training session, develop into something so consequential. It alternately was reported as a calf injury, a high-ankle sprain or related to a “small bone," in Irsay’s words.

It never was expected to linger past mini-camp into training camp and then 66.5 percent of the exhibition season — to the point where Luck was 100 percent done with playing football.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that, according to The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, some fans were calling the team’s offices Monday, requesting refunds for their season tickets.

There is a tremendous value to the truth. In a public enterprise, it can be difficult to share it completely, without exception. There usually is a price to pay for avoiding it, though, and that regrettably unforgettable scene that scarred a beautiful evening in the heartland will be tough to shake.