When I was 5 years old, my parents got free tickets to the local minor league hockey team, the Phoenix Roadrunners. The Roadrunners were the second longest tenured Phoenix team at the time, with only the Suns being around longer. Despite the fact that it was a minor league team, the fans were passionate and they showed up in large numbers at the time. At some point in the game, a questionable call was made, a call so questionable that some fans began to throw various items onto the ice.

I, being a young child, had no idea what was going on. I just heard booing and saw things flying. I thought it looked fun, so I picked up my kids size soda cup and threw it out off of our upper level seats at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. As the cup left my hands, the look of horror on my mother’s face was frozen into my memory as long as I will remember: “Do NOT throw anything like that EVER again, DO YOU understand me?” To this day, I still haven’t thrown anything onto a field of play, no matter how much I disagreed with the call.

That’s but one example of what athletes today have to deal with. It seems that fans today, with ticket prices sky-high and fan passion also at an all-time high, feel that due to their rental of a seat for three hours, they have free reign to do literally whatever they want. The most recent example of this was in Kansas City, when quarterback Matt Cassel’s concussion was greeted by cheers from some KC fans. The Chiefs quarterback was knocked out by Baltimore Ravens lineman Haloti Ngata on a play in the third quarter. Frustrated Chiefs fans apparently were happy that this meant backup QB Brady Quinn would come in and began to cheer for their starting QB’s injury, drawing the ire of some other Chiefs players. After the game came one of the most eloquent, well thought out, passionate speeches I’ve ever heard. Lineman Eric Winston stated:

“We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This isn’t the Roman Coliseum. People pay their hard-earned money to come in here. I believe they can boo, they can cheer, they can do whatever they want … we’re lucky to play this game. It’s hard economic times, and they still pay the money to go to these. There are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play … I’ve come to the understanding I won’t live as long because I play this game. That’s OK. But when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and just so happened to be Matt Cassel, 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 … hasn’t done anything to the media writers who kill him hasn’t done anything wrong to the people who come out here and cheer him. 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. 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 want everyone to know it’s sickening and disgusting. Don’t blame a guy and don’t cheer for a guy (when injured) who has done everything in his power to play as good as he can for the fans. It’s sickening. I want every fan to know it. We have a lot of problems as a society if people think that’s okay.”

I’ve never heard an athlete make a point so well to the media. He pointed out where we need to draw the line as fans. Athletes are people — people who work extremely hard and are paid extremely well for their services. They aren’t robots who can perform with the same excellence every game, nor are they emotionless. When fans feel that they have the right to judge another as a person and not a professional merely because they paid money for a ticket, we have problems as a society.

In my opinion, fans do have the right to boo, to cheer, to scream obscenities at players, and even insult them. I say this because while you’re in that arena watching that event, you are only insulting the player’s performance on the field. There’s a distinct separation between Matt Cassel the person and Matt Cassel the football player. When you boo him for throwing an interception, when you cheer for him getting benched because he played poorly, that’s your right as a fan; you’re directing your emotion towards a professional. But when fans start cheering for an injury because of what it means to a game, that’s when you’re now attacking the person, and it’s not acceptable.

I really hope that people get more intelligent and thoughtful of their actions as we advance in society. Fan is supposed to be short for fanatic, and it’s totally acceptable when it’s for your team. I just wonder if this behavior will put us in the direction towards the Roman Coliseum like Winston mentioned. I like to think more positively than that, and that society as a whole is more advanced than that.

2 thoughts on “Fan-demonium

  1. As a Kansas Citian and life long Chiefs fan, I have never been more disgusted with my fellow fan-base. I really thought we were a much classier sect. When i saw Cassell’s eyes rolling in his head when he tried to get up, I heard the cheering from the stadium (via television). I never felt so sickened.
    My only gripe about this whole thing was Winston saying that the full house of 70K was cheering… That’s not true. It may have seemed that way but no… I had several friends in attendance that say that wasn’t the case. We are a great fan base. We (I think) are the 13th ranked stadium in attendance and thats without having a winning product. So the crowd is big. I just hate that the media/Winston is putting that coat on our entire fan-base.

    1. Mr. Winters,

      Thank you for your comment, for the record I agree with you. From all accounts I’ve heard, it was only a few people in the crowd that were cheering the injury/Brady Quinn’s entrance. I don’t mind people cheering for the new QB, but the timing should have been at least when Cassel was off the field. I appreciated the passion that Eric Winston spoke with, which, in conjunction with the recent Atlanta Braves fan’s actions, led me to write this article. Thank you for your comment and be proud to support your team. I appreciate good fans that are die hard, but still can separate life from sport.

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