It’s interesting how much attention the cheering of Matt Cassel’s injury by Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium is receiving.
I was there. I was amongst the fans. I watched it happen. I heard the cheers.
And it wasn’t what Chiefs’ right tackle Eric Winston described.
It’s understandable that Winston is upset. After all a teammate who relies on his health to provide for his family was knocked out cold on the turf at Arrowhead.
It’s also equally understandable that Winston can’t really appreciate the emotions of a Chiefs fan at that very moment. Being the professional that he is, Winston cannot walk in the shoes of a fan and he can’t connect to that thought process.
Let’s reset the scene…
This was my first trip to Arrowhead. The fans there were as advertised – friendly, hospitable and even playful about their team’s struggles thus far in the 2012 campaign.
All that they’ve heard for well over a week is how bad the team’s offense is; how they can’t protect the football and how they’ve placed a very competitive Chiefs defense at an unfair disadvantage by constantly forcing them to defend a very short field.
And the proof is there.
Heading into the game the Chiefs were a staggering -13 in turnover differential. Now they are -15, 8 turnovers higher than the next closest charitable team. And despite being the league’s 10th ranked defense they’ve given up the 5th most points and that’s after limiting the Ravens to just 3 Justin Tucker field goals on Sunday.
So with all of the local and national media discussion about the Chiefs rendition of a Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song “Give it Away”, there was bound to be some fan angst just waiting to unleash.
Fans carried “For Sale” signs for Cassel. One fan hired a company to fly a banner over Arrowhead for an hour before the game that read, “We deserve better. Fire Pioli, Bench Cassel.”
The bile was boiling beneath the surface and it only needed a little more pressure before it erupted. With each interception and that disastrous fumble at the goal line you could sense the place was about to blow. And it did when Cassel went down.
When it became apparent that Cassel wasn’t answering the alarm clock anytime soon, cheers began to filter through the stadium. Some stood up and clappd to express their appreciation.
Shortly thereafter, Brady Quinn, the most popular guy in town, took the field.
The applause grew measurably.
Do fans have the right to express their emotions?
Of course they do. And while cheering a man’s injury is gutless and despicable it is a choice, albeit a very poor one.
Even cheering Quinn’s entrance into the game is classless given the circumstances. If Romeo Crennel gave Cassel the hook (which he should have long before the injury), cheering is acceptable then. It comes with the job description of a NFL quarterback.
But not then. Not when a man is unconscious on the turf.
So while Winston is right to criticize, his recollection of the events is off the mark. There was a small minority of fans cheering the injury and the only reason the story has gotten so much play and why I’m even writing about it, is due to Winston’s embellished grandstanding to the media. He twisted the facts to make a point.
I know, I was there.
I was also at M&T Bank Stadium during the 2005 season opener on Sunday Night when Kyle Boller went down with an injury against the Colts. THAT was on a national stage and the cheering for THAT injury was much more noticeable than that for Cassel’s.
Only then the Ravens didn’t have an Eric Winston on a soapbox.
QUESTION: Do fans have a right to cheer an injury?