"It's sickening and disgusting. ... We got a lot of problems as a society if people think that that's OK."
So ended the rant of Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Winston on Sunday afternoon, shortly after fans at Arrowhead Stadium celebrated when Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel suffered a head injury. Kansas City dropped to 1-4 with the 9-6 loss to the Ravens, but a foul contingent of the Chiefs' fan base fell to a much lower low than losing 80 percent of their games.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Cassel got pancaked by Ravens defenders Haloti Ngata and Pernell McPhee and some -- not all -- of the home crowd cheered as its much-maligned quarterback required assistance from team trainers before being helped off the field.
Cassel had thrown two picks and had a passer rating of 38.1 when he was forced out of the game with a concussion. Anyone who believes that stat matters when it comes to human decency and kindness is a meathead, plain and simple. His mediocrity was no excuse for cruelty.
Winston said as much in a postgame diatribe that has since been dissected on countless radio stations and websites. Here are a few of his thoughts:
- "We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This isn't the Roman Colosseum. People pay their hard-earned money to come in here. I believe they can boo, they can cheer, they can do whatever they want.
There are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play.
I've already kind of come to the understanding I probably won't live as long because I play this game. That's OK. That's the choice I've made, that's the choice all of us have made.
"But 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 so embarrassed in my life to play football, than at that moment right there.
"I get emotional about it because these guys work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn't done anything to you people. Hey, 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 -- 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'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 wanna let you know -- and I want everyone to know -- that I think it's sickening and disgusting. We got a lot of problems as a society if people think that that's OK."
On Monday, Winston clarified his statement, admitting not all 70,000 fans were cheering for Cassel's injury, but even the 7,000 or 700 who were was too many.
A lot of players, writers and fans agreed with Winston and supported his take. Others felt he was out of line for painting all of Kansas City's supporters with such a broad brush, or he was weak for letting the fans get under his skin. Some even took to Twitter to echo the barbarity in the stands:
@ericwinston out of touch, freakin baby, some people have to work & get paid squat. U play a game big$$ I WILL cheer when u get hurt." -- @jayhawkerz1
@c_penn_816 @ericwinston tell his crybaby a** to man up, his punk a** QB ain't even get hit hard." -- @Romie_Rome
Sunday's game wasn't the first time sports fans have lost touch with reality, and it certainly won't be the last, but we can't just throw our hands in the air and say, "It is what it is." Winston was brave -- and right -- to take a stand against the mob of idiots and tell them they were wrong.
The fact NFL players make a lot of money doesn't give fans an excuse to be inhumane and sadistic. Cheering for a potentially life-threatening head injury isn't any less disgusting when the injured party has a nicer car than yours.
The state of the economy doesn't dictate the price of basic decency. I don't care if you scraped together loose change for your $150 ticket, $50 for parking and $50 beer -- that doesn't buy you the right to be a spiteful, barbaric boor.
No matter how much your team means to you, or how much you feel you suffer when they lose, it's still just a game. It's not a good reason to wish harm upon another person, and while I'm breaking down some common sense rules, I'll tell you it's certainly not worth fighting or killing opposing fans over, either.
Be a die-hard fan. Boo and cheer and make signs and tell both teams what you think of 'em. But when your passion for your team overrides your compassion for another human being, you've lost touch with what matters.