Rooting for injuries in rotting societies
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 21:10
Ever had a concussion? It’s a scary occurrence. The term “getting your bell rung” does not do it justice. As a recipient of two mild concussions, this columnist writes from experience. It is like someone flipping the lights on and off, and you wake up wondering why you are not in bed.
Imagine the feeling of waking up, disoriented and hurt, to 70,000 people cheering the fact you just got your clock cleaned. To me, that seems like an awful insult to add to an injury, but to many sports fans it is no biggie, just a natural part of a contest meant to entertain.
On Sunday, Matt Cassel of the Kansas City Chiefs lived this nightmare. As he lay on his back, obviously injured, fans cheered the fact that he was not getting back up.
In an interview after the game, an offensive tackle for the Chiefs named Eric Winston said this:
“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 (Cassel) 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.”
In his statement, the soft-spoken giant draws a line between the way fans at Arrowhead Stadium cheered for his teammate’s concussion to the way spectators would have cheered for bloodshed in gladiatorial games in the Roman Coliseum. This comparison can easily be ignored although despite being shockingly relevant, and his chastisement is not an unwarranted outcry.
The Coliseum was constructed by royal families to entertain the masses. When drama and competition no longer satisfied people who were worried by foreign wars and domestic woes, the shows all turned to bloodshed. We all know what happened to Rome, but who knows what became of Matt Cassel?
Theoretically, football is a game, but is it really? When statistics, scores and standings become more important than the well-being of its players in the minds of its fans, does the game continue?
A friend of mine, who roots for the Buffalo Bills even though he is from Long Island, ran across his living room emphatically pumping his fist when he watched Bernard Pollard drive his helmet into Tom Brady’s knee in 2008.
When a fan becomes angry over a bad pass, a missed tackle or a losing season, and they believe their anger is avenged in the form of a potentially permanent injury, the game is no longer. This principle is present in all sports, whether it is Yankees fanatics demanding that C.C. Sabbathia throw 100 pitches on three days’ rest or NASCAR viewers hoping for a wreck. There is a human toll in these sports that many of their viewers blissfully ignore, and as a result we not only ignore our own problems, but ignore their problems too.
The way to curb this bloodlust is to support these competitions for what they really are. They are contests of wit, skill and ability, not whose heads are the hardest or whose legs can withstand the most abuse. The ones who know this best are naturally the athletes. I derive my philosophy on sports from a conversation I had with Mike Mulvihill in 2008.
During a hard fought Jets-Patriots game, I wished aloud that Tom Brady would get brutally injured, to which Mulvihill replied that you never wish for an injury, not on your own team and not for the opponent. He said it is just bad mojo, but more than that, it means your team did not beat the other at its best.
Football players are not gladiators. However, if we choose to emulate the Romans in our thirst for watching violence, athletes will be forced to act as the Romans did.