Kansas City Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston has defended his comments ripping fans of the team for cheering the injury of struggling quarterback Matt Cassel, although he regrets pointing the finger at all of Sunday’s spectators.
“We are athletes, OK? We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This is not the Roman Coliseum,” Winston said after Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium.
“It’s 100 percent sickening,” Winston added. “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’ve got 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out.”
Former Chiefs quarterback Ron Jaworski, now an ESPN analyst, asked “Where’s the civility?” ”Good Morning America” and “Inside Edition” hosts chimed in, Donny Deutsch on the “Today” show bemoaned a “thug culture” in society and Star Jones opined, “We cheer bad behavior now.”
Not exactly what people have come to expect of the heartland.
Right or wrong, Kansas City’s reputation for fans who are devoted to their downtrodden franchises has been replaced with one of callousness — in some quarters, at least — no better than those Cleveland Browns fans who cheered when QB Tim Couch got hurt in 2002, or those Oakland Raiders fans who got into fistfights in the stands during a game against San Diego in 1999, or those Philadelphia Eagles fans who booed Santa Claus way back in 1968.
The Kansas City debacle of Sunday followed upon the Atlanta debris of Friday, which followed upon Major League Baseball’s sudden introduction of an “outfield fly rule.” The paying fans, clearly preferring that the outfield fly rule debut at a rules meeting in some hotel conference room rather than the eighth inning of a tense playoff game, littered the field.
They joined the Cleveland Browns fans of 2001 in extending America’s long history of occasional debris.
Unlike Kansas City, that misbehavior did contain a sliver of hope, for it reminded us all that a large contingent of Braves fans really do care.
People around the sports world will say that the most notorious and spiteful fans in America hail from either Philadelphia, New York City and even Cleveland.
If last weekend showed us anything, it’s that fan stupidity is not an isolated incident. It’s an epidemic.
Friday’s debut of the one-game wildcard playoff in baseball probably should have had at least one iconic play or moment, maybe a close game that might make it a fixture that people would appreciate.
Instead, a very controversial infield fly rule call in the Braves-Cardinals National League Wild Card game stole the headlines. The call made on a play a good 30-40 feet beyond the infield late in the game cost the Braves, who ironically enough missed the playoffs last season on the last day, a win on their home field.
One of the binding characteristics of this city has been a special connection between its football team and its fans. I’ve lived here for six years, and during that time I’ve been struck by the special rhythm that existed between them. Encoded there, despite too few wins, had been mutual respect, love, need and joy.
Those things are gone.
Under this owner, under this general manager, under this head coach and, yes, under this now-injured quarterback, those things have been wiped away. In their place have sprung resentment, anger, insecurity, and what looks a lot like hatred.
Cassel didn’t move for several minutes after being hit hard in the fourth quarter by Haloti Ngata, a defensive end for the visiting Baltimore Ravens. As Cassel lay on the turf, many in the crowd at Arrowhead Stadium applauded enthusiastically. The quarterback, who sustained a concussion, left the game and didn’t return.
After the game (which the Chiefs lost 9-6, dropping their season record to 1-4), offensive lineman Eric Winston unloaded — most eloquently — on the hometown fans, calling their behavior an embarrassment. (A video of his comments to reporters is below.)
“If you were 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,” Winston said.
“The Kansas City fan base has always been great, I just ask them to pick it back up and support the Chiefs,” said Anders. “Every team in the NFL goes through some trying times, and unfortunately we’re in that situation now.”
Chiefs Tackle Eric Winston was furious with fans after Sunday’s 9-6 loss against the Ravens. Winston said he was embarrassed by what happened saying, “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% sickening.”
On Monday, Winston refused to back down from his comments, but did say that he didn’t mean to suggest that all 70,000 fans in attendance on Sunday were cheering Cassel’s injury, adding that he wasn’t sure if it was actually just a few hundred fans out of the tens of thousands in the stands.