October 11, 2012
In the Sunday night game against the Baltimore Ravens, Matt Cassel, the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs was knocked out of the game and concussed by Haloti Ngata, one of the defensive linemen of the Ravens. Prior to his injury, Cassel had thrown 2 interceptions with no touchdowns against Baltimore, and he had a total of 9 picks in 5 games on the season with only 5 TD’s. Once the fan base in Kansas City heard that Cassel was leaving the game and would not return, they began cheering. Eric Winston, an offensive tackle for the Chiefs said the following in reaction to the fans:
“We are athletes, OK? We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This is not the Roman Coliseum. People pay their hard-earned money when they come in here and I believe they can boo, they can cheer and they can do whatever they want, I believe that. We are lucky to play this game. People, it’s hard economic times, and they still pay the money to do this. “But when somebody gets hurt, there are long lasting ramifications to the game we play, long lasting ramifications to the game we play. I’ve already kinda come to the understanding that I won’t live as long because I play this game and that’s OK, that’s a choice I’ve made and a choice all of us have made.
“But when you cheer, when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel — it’s sickening. It’s 100 percent sickening. I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams, I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there.
“I get emotional about it because these guys, they work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn’t done anything to you people, hasn’t done anything to you people. Hasn’t done anything to the media writers that kill him, hasn’t done anything wrong to the people that come out here and cheer him. Hey, if he’s not the best quarterback then 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 have 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out?
“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 gotta protect him more. Do whatever you want. Say whatever you want. But if you are one of those people, one of those people that were out there cheering or even smiled when he got knocked out, I just want to let you know, and I want everybody to know that I think it’s sickening and disgusting. We are not gladiators and this is not the Roman Coliseum. This is a game.
“I’ll sit here and I’ll answer all your questions for the next 30 minutes if you want to ask them and I’ll take all the responsibility I can take because I deserve it but don’t blame a guy, and don’t cheer for a guy who has done everything in his power to play as good as he can for the fans.
“It’s sickening. And I was embarrassed. I want every single one of you people to put this on your station and in your newspapers because I want every fan to know that. This is a game that’s going to cost us a lot down the road. That’s OK. We picked it, we deserve it and I don’t want your pity. But we have a lot of problems as a society if people think that’s OK.
“I’ll get off my soap box and you guys can ask any football question you want.”
Winston made some profound points in his monologue about fan etiquette. Football players are not gladiators. They probably will have shorter lives because of their decision to play football with the immense stress that the sport puts on their bodies. However, football players are also well-paid entertainers. And, football fans are consumers. The product that Cassel put on the field this season and in the previous one was mediocre to God-awful at times; he threw the ball to the opposition more times this season than he threw it to his teammates for touchdowns. Cassel’s biggest contribution to the Chiefs this year was handing the ball to his running backs. He is being paid $62,000,000 for 6 years to play inept football and be invisible on offense when he is not completely screwing up. The fans were frustrated with his play and they overreacted when he left the game. Was it classless? Maybe. But, should the fans be reprimanded for being happy that their much maligned quarterback is being replaced? Absolutely not.
The working class is the biggest supporter of all the NFL franchises, and the middle and lower classes are the largest consumer group of ticket sales in the NFL. A person working a crappy job for minimum wage spends one-fourth of his or her paycheck to buy one ticket to the average NFL game. That is a huge sacrifice for anyone to make. People save money for weeks in order to take their families to the stadium. The game on Sunday is their only solace from a hard work week or a tough home life. They put their money where their passion is, in football. After all the budgeting finances and all the week-long anticipation of a great game, the Kansas City fan base had to watch Matt Cassel squander games with errant throws and poor decisions. He is more than a mediocre quarterback to them. He represents wasted money and talent. He is a waste of the franchise owner’s money, he is a waste of the taxpayer’s money (they are paying for the stadium), and he is a waste of the fan’s money and time. Plus, he is in the third year of a six year, $62M contract, so he can not be usurped by the backup quarterback regardless of his talent level or play on the field. Matt Cassel became a symbol of frustration and underachieving to the fans.
So, do not blame the fans that cheered when Cassel was injured. He did not die. He knew what he was getting into when he signed his huge NFL contract. And, he is an adult who will be paid well for playing the game that he loves. Matt Cassel is probably a good person who happened to be caught in a less than desirable situation with the fans. But, at the end of the day, Matt Cassel will go home with a few million dollars in his bank account and the only thing that the fans of the Kansas City Chiefs will have are the hopeless dreams of a having a winning franchise.