As seems to happen almost every week, an NFL player got his bell rung on Sunday. Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Matt Cassel was laid out by Baltimore Raven Haloti Ngata in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ 9-6 win at Arrowhead Stadium. As Cassel laid on the turf being attended to, upset Chiefs fans, who aren’t all that pleased with the way Cassel plays quarterback, decided to cheer the fact he was injured (or, perhaps just the fact he was coming out of the game) regardless, they cheered while the guy was hurt on the field, and that drew the ire of Cassel’s teammates after the game.
Kansas City tackle Eric Winston called the actions of the fans “100 percent sickening,” saying he was embarrassed to play the game, and finished by telling the fans that Cassel had “not done anything to them.” Winston’s rant probably got more attention than the fact Cassel got his bell rung (after all, that happens in just about every game) and rightfully so. Cassel is, as Winston also pointed out, a person, and how can anyone feel justified in cheering a person who is injured? Would it be any different if a group of people cheered a guy who’d been injured in a car accident? The people cheering would certainly not feel the anonymity given to a fan in a stadium packed with tens of thousands of people, but in essence the action would be the same. Those people would be celebrating the fact that another human being had been hurt and, honestly, that is reprehensible.
There’s a lot of talk about NFL players being gladiators. Stadiums are likened to the old Roman Coliseum and, whether you want to
admit it or not, people turn out in droves (or tune in by the millions) to watch these men beat each other up. A huge hit gets as much of a reaction from a crowd as a dazzling run or even a touchdown. People like the violent part of football, and that’s a fact. I am not going to argue that it’s a good thing, but, like I said, it is a part of the game. And I guess that’s okay. It is not, however, okay to cheer a football player (or any other athlete for that matter) when they suffer an injury. If you think it is, then you need to ask yourself, how would you feel if thousands of people stood up an applauded the next time you bump your head, or stub your toe, or trip over a crack in the sidewalk? You see what I mean? I’m guessing you wouldn’t like it at all.
It was a particularly bad week for injuries. The league’s most exciting rookie, Washington’s Robert Griffin III suffered what is sure to be the first of many concussions (if he continues to run the ball with the same fearless abandon he did while in college). The league’s best defense, the one belonging to the Houston Texans, lost their best linebacker when Brian Cushing tore his ACL. The good news for Redskins fans is Griffin seems to be okay, and will probably be under center this weekend. The bad news for Texans fans is that Cushing’s injury is the kind that ends seasons, and his is done. Football is a cruel game that way, one minute you’re on top of the world, the next your season is over. And maybe that’s what made Winston so mad. These guys step onto the field every Sunday, knowing something bad just might happen to them, but they do it because they love the game, and to entertain the millions of people watching them. Thus, there is no reason to cheer when they are hurt. They are, after all, doing the best they can, whether you like the results they are putting up or not.