Four games of putrid play from Matt Cassel were enough to drive one fan group to fly a banner over the stadium that read, “WE DESERVE BETTER! FIRE PIOLI - BENCH CASSEL!” The fans in Kansas City got their wish when Cassel was injured in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game and walked to the bench. The situation reportedly drew cheers from the crowd.
Chiefs’ fans are being blasted from coast-to-coast for their behavior, but in reality the fans acted rationally and did nothing wrong by cheering. It’s something you can only understand if you put yourself into the shoes of the fans that were attending the game at Arrowhead on Sunday.
Right tackle Eric Winston took it upon himself after the game to blast the home fans for cheering when Cassel was hurt (via 610Sports.com). Winston was well-intentioned but ignorant to the reality of the sport he plays.
“We are not gladiators and this is not the Roman Coliseum,” Winston said. “This is a game.”
If Winston is right and this just a game, then he made a horrible mistake. Winston used the words “disgusting” and “sickening” to describe the people that would cheer when a player was injured. If that’s true, Winston takes millions of dollars out of the pockets of disgusting and sickening people to entertain them. If Winston is right, that’s his reality.
Fortunately for Winston, he’s wrong. The people that cheered when Cassel crumpled to the ground are flawed humans just like Winston and Cassel. They are no more sickening or disgusting than any other football fan. That’s assuming there was cheering at all, as the video replay isn’t clear.
You can view the raw video of the incident via KCTV 5 in Kansas City.
We might deny it, but deep down there is an animal desire of conflict and conquest inside of us. Maybe we wish it wasn’t there, but it is. People like violent sports because we can live vicariously through the players who flirt with serious injury to give us a thrill. We create trophies and structure games so the fans, who consider themselves part of the team, can feel a false sense of victory.
We like crashes in car racing, knockouts in boxing, fighting in hockey and big hits in football. They can all result in serious injury and yet we watch.
Winston is a Roman gladiator, just a more civilized version. Instead of slaves that were murdered for the entertainment of the masses, Winston is a celebrity and paid handsomely to take physical abuse for our entertainment. Winston is human, but he’s made a choice and no one is forcing him to play. It sounds like Winston wants fans to believe the NFL is closer to Candyland than it is to the Roman Coliseum, and it’s not.
Winston is not giving his life for the sport as some type of martyr or shortening his life for the love of the sport like many ex-players did. Winston is trading a shortened life and possibility of serious injury for fame and fortune, or at least its possibility.
Despite this arrangement, fans today don’t want to see players get seriously injured. People don’t want to see a guy get paralyzed or have a traumatic brain injury just so their team can win. People who would cheer in that case are sickening and disgusting, but that’s not what happened in Kansas City.
Unfortunately, concussions can happen at any time amid hundreds of other injuries. When Cassel went down, the fans in Kansas City didn’t assume it was head injury because the play in question was a garden-variety NFL hit, even when viewed in slow motion on a 60” high-definition television.
The fans in the stadium couldn’t possibly know Cassel had a head injury from hundreds of feet away. No cart or backboard came out and Cassel could have simply had the wind knocked out of him for all the fans in the stadium knew. The fans did know that Cassel would have to come off the field and the team would be forced to play Quinn. That’s what the fans wanted and that’s why they were cheering.
Is cheering for any injury wrong? If it was, there should be people upset at Saints fans, who cheered last night when Martez Wilson dipped around a clearly injured Jared Gaither and forced a Philip Rivers fumble to seal the victory. Was it not okay for Saints fans to cheer about a victory because Gaither had an injury of unknown severity? Clearly not, that’s absurd.
The Saints fans benefited from an injury, just like Chiefs fans benefited from an injury. The Saints and Chiefs fans were cheering for the situation, not the injury itself. Many people can't separate the two, but humans are capable of expressing concern and happiness simultaneously.
The situation was much different for Winston than it was the fans. Winston stood over Cassel and could more clearly see the severity of the injury. Insert every one of those fans that were cheering and put them in WInston's shoes and they aren't cheering.
The harsh reality is that fans and the team put football above the health of one individual, but not all injuries are created equal. An injury can rise above the team and the situation, when the injury is clearly severe. That's the tough thing with head injuries and why they can be so dangerous.
Had Cassel taken a big shot to the head, the fans may have reacted differently and with more sensitivity to the possibility that he could be seriously injured. We react differently to the big hits because we believe those are most likely to cause more damage, even if that’s not the case. The NFL would have you believe the big hits that are being penalized and fined are the sole cause of traumatic brain injury, but that’s a lie.
The fans wanted Quinn and were happy Cassel would have to go to the bench. That’s what the fans were cheering about. Most fans would have preferred that the Chiefs would have benched Cassel while he was still healthy, but it didn’t happen that way.
The fans definitely cheered Cassel as he got to his feet and walked to the bench, there were no boos.
Ideally, Cassel had the wind knocked out of him, Quinn would play well and that would be the end of it. Realistically, Cassel’s injury was more severe. Unfortunately, it was a head injury. What's silly is asserting that the fans were in some way sinister or were glad Cassel was hurt. In a game with injury reports that can span several pages, the fans don't always assume the worst unless they have reason to believe that way.
The fans were just fans and they disregarded player health until they had more details, cheering for the good (bad?) fortune of getting Quinn into the game.