Winston Was Right
Posted Oct. 09 at 02:18 PM
I'd estimate that, 999 times out of 1,000, athlete post-game interviews are worthless. They recite tired phrases designed not to stir up any controversy or reveal much of anything. If they win, it was a "team effort" and they "worked together." If they lost, they "didn't get it done" and "give all the credit in the world" to the other team. It's very rare they say anything worth hearing.
But it happened Sunday.
Following a 9-6 defeat to the Ravens, Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston ripped into the hometown fans for cheering when Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel went down with an injury and was replaced by Brady Quinn. Part of his comments:
There are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play ... I've come to the understanding I won't live as long because I play this game. That's OK. But when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don't care who it is, and just so happened to be Matt Cassel, it's 100 percent sickening.
If he's not the best quarterback, he's not the best quarterback, and that's OK. But he's a person. And he got knocked out in a game, and we got 70,000 people cheering. Boo him all you want. Boo me all you want. Throw me under the bus. Tell me I'm doing a bad job, say I've got to protect him more ... but if you're one of those people who were out there cheering, or even smiled, when he got knocked out, I just want everyone to know it's sickening and disgusting.
To be fair, you could argue that not everybody was cheering, and maybe they were just cheering the backup quarterback getting a chance to play in a disappointing season. But a player -- for the hometown team -- got hurt, and fans in the stands were cheering the result.
Winston's comments were spoken in earnest, they were clear and they were impactful. And as fantasy owners, we've all been guilty of it at some point. An opponent's running back is single-handedly destroying your team and you say "Somebody break his legs!" Their quarterback is slow to get up and you say "Oh, maybe he's hurt" with wide eyes, like a child who got an early Christmas present. You drafted a valuable handcuff, so you hope the starter is "out a while."
Now, in reality, we don't purposely think of these human beings and wish them harm. We're not actually rooting for pain to be inflicted on another person and reveling in their personal and professional misery. But Winston reminded us that we're doing exactly that. We're just rooting for our team so it seems like no big deal, but the consequences are sometimes things we'd never really wish upon someone else.
Many NFL players suffer debilitating injuries when their careers are over. For most, their playing time is over after a few years, and the money they make doesn't always look so impressive compared to the sacrifices they make for decades (little league football through retirement). They can get hurt -- seriously hurt -- and their physical and mental challenges can linger with them long after they put away their jerseys. We all know that, and they know it, too. And they take that risk in an effort to do what they like and be compensated handsomely for it. But when you read about NFL owners dying in their 80s while so many NFL players die in their 60s, you know that injuries can play a role in that disparity. To cheer or be happy when an injury occurs seems like a perversion of what it means to be a "fan." How can we do something like that?
I say "we" because I've been guilty of it myself. We don't always think of the players as people; just stat machines that are working for or against us. Maybe they're hurting our fantasy team, or our favorite NFL team. In Cassel's case, he's taking a lot of heat for the team's poor start, and lack of success since he arrived as a free agent. We think of the impact a player is having on the field, and we root for stopping it. We're not thinking of them as people, or football as a dangerous sport.
Winston's comments are a good reminder that they are people and their game is dangerous. I wouldn't really wish any NFL player harm. I don't want any of them to be hurt. If I met them, I'd shake their hand and congratulate their success, even if it hurt my pretend football team. We all would. When fans see an injured player get up after an injury, they applaud -- whether it's a home team player or an opponent. Fans are good people who sometimes get caught up in the game. And by acknowledging that he's likely sacrificing years off his life by playing professional football, Winston brought us back to reality for a moment.
Just something to keep in mind as we work through the fantasy season. Good luck this week.
Youtube Clip of the Week: Watch Winston's comments here.
Do you sometimes catch yourself rooting for injuries? Do you think Winston's comments were over the top and much ado about nothing? Share your thoughts below.
Posted by James COSTELLO | Oct. 09 at 04:27 PM
Yikes...I'm guilty of rooting for the injury. My starting RBs are Trent Richardson (supreme) and Donald Brown (weak). My bench is Blount,Bolden,Bilal Powell,Turbin,and Ben Tate.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Oct. 09 at 05:32 PM
Fans are passionate and want their team to win football games. Matt Cassel's poor play has prevented their team from winning football games. That being said, to react that way is flat out wrong. The fans are directing their wrath at the wrong person. Cassel doesn't sign his own checks. The person they should be directing their wrath at is Scott Pioli. He's the clown who brought the mediocre talent that is Matt Cassel to Kansas City and paid him a boatload of money.
Posted by PAUL BLANCK | Oct. 09 at 08:56 PM
You had to be there before you can criticize anybody for the noise coming from the Kansas City crowd. If people cheered Cassel's injury then yes they should be ashamed, but frankly a lot was going on and I think most of the crowd noise was misinterpretted. It was 2nd and 10 and Cassel completed a short pass to Charles who weaved his way through a waive of defenders diagonally across the field for a huge gain. I doubt that most of us even knew that Cassel was down, but people were cheering for the play. The cheering and celebrating for the results of the play presumably lingered long after Winston saw his QB on the ground. There was a lot of confusion as to who was even hurt. He was laying on his back surrounded by people and his number was not readily visible. It is hard to say people were cheering for an injury to a player when a lot of people could not even determine who was hurt. When they show replays on the score board of a QB getting clobbered it is customary to make a lot of noise to insinuate that the refs should have thrown a flag for roughing the passer. It is done to try and get a make-up call later in the game. Additionally as they show the replay on the scoreboard you are going to hear a chorus of oohs and ahhs at the time the hit is shown on the jumbotron. There were chants for Brady Quinn throughout the game, I can not say whether it happened during the injury, but it was not a result of the injury. The crowd was at least 10% Ravens fans. I don't assume they were cheering for anything at that particular moment, but I was not watching their sidelines and don't know if they had something to cheer about. The crowd grew quiet when the severity of the injury became evident. He recieved a standing ovation as he left the field. That is pretty much it. But there was too much going on at that time for anybody to hear boos, chants, cheers and noise from the crowd and assume that it was all directed towards an injury. For what it is worth my son came home and talked to his brother about it. He said he has no idea what Winston was upset about and that he did not see/hear anybody cheering for the injury. But he does remember everybody standing and clapping for Cassel as he was helped off the field. Hopefully all the young people came away with that same memory.
Posted by PETER DEBIASE | Oct. 10 at 06:02 AM
Thanks for the first person account. I should have said in my post that if Winston's account was true, the reaction was wrong. I'll take your word for it as I have always found fans in the Midwest to be passionate but also well behaved. Sorry if my comment offended you in any way.
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