I am a football fan, and it gets harder and harder. One reason it’s hard is I grew up in Kansas City and the Chiefs are a lousy team.

Other than than, though, the violence of the game and the bloodthirst we’ve created as fans has finally reached a point for me where I am not as excited about a football game as I once was.

For the Chiefs, the fans have been fed up with the lack of progress of the team, particularly their quarterback, Matt Cassel. The Chiefs gambled on giving Cassel a huge contract when the guy has hardly any experience. He filled in for Tom Brady one year when Brady went down with an injury (ironically while playing the Chiefs). The Patriots went 11-5 or something like that. But let’s be honest, I could have played quarterback for the Patriots and gone 11-5 that year.

But yesterday, Cassel went down with an injury late in the game and something inevitable happened. The fans at Arrowhead Stadium, the home crowd, cheered. That was ugly. But it is what we’ve produced as a country and culture. It was ugly, but what else could honestly be expected?

Chiefs’ play Eric Winston went on the record after the game ripping the crowd for booing, and rightfully so. Yet, even in his analysis, he got it wrong.

“We are athletes. We are not gladiators,” Winston said. “This isn’t the Roman Colisseum.” (That’s the KC Star spelling, by the way.)

He’s wrong because this is what football HAS come to professionally. It IS bloodsport and it is only a matter of time before we haul a body off the field that goes down because of contact. A high school player this weekend collapsed on the field and later died because of a heart condition.

This is the condition of the game. Right now Winston is upset about fans cheering that a player is injured. Right now pundits will get on the fans for that kind of behavior. But this is the state of the game. This is what fans want. They want hard hits that wear players out in a few years and toss them on the trash heap by the age of 30. They want players they don’t like taken out, even if it’s by injury.

Sorry, Mr. Winston, but you are gladiators.

Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Winston (74) checked on quarterback Matt Cassel after Cassel took a hard hit from the Baltimore Ravens defense in Sunday

4 thoughts on “Gladiators

  1. I think the game used to be a lot rougher and meaner. They’ve changed many rules since then so that players can’t get head slapped, chop blocked (supposedly), driven into the ground, taunted, etc. etc. Players on opposing teams help each other up and pat each other on the back, which people from older generation would never do (ask people like Deacon Jones, Dick Butkus sp? etc.). I do think it’s the fans who have become less humane.

    I remember a Bears defensive lineman picking up a Packers QB and body slamming him. He got penalized and maybe fined, but you wouldn’t even see that today.

    Not that it isn’t a very violent sport and that something still desperately needs to be done about head injuries. Players hate to see it and so do most fans. The minority of the crowd that cheered ruined it for everybody.

    I also don’t think a heart condition is a factor. That could happen with any sport, like it has with basketball.

    1. I wouldn’t say the heart condition was a football injury. It’s more than that, if the player, his parents, or his coaches, knew of its existence.

      I know attitudes may be different, but the speed of this game and the size of players are remarkably different than in the days of Jones and Butkus. Those guys look small up against guys like Michael Oher. And the attitude of the fans as well. It’s a bloodsport and it’s an industry willing (and really has always been willing) to churn through players without regard to their futures. Granted, the players themselves don’t care for the money they make, as Eric Winston reiterated in the video.

      It’s becoming more distasteful to watch and listen to and there will be a point when there is a body hauled off the field due to the game itself.

      1. FWIW, I read a lot of comments like this:
        “I was at the game and can’t believe what Winston is saying. Of course there were a few drunk fans cheering his injury, but the majority of the cheers were coming from the lower level of the north end zone where 50-100 ravens fans were sitting. If 5% of the fans cheered his injury then 80% cheered when he got up.”

        Read more here:

  2. Those are valid points but I think the intent is also a big factor with players and fans. Then again, some players are looking to “take out” other players, as we saw with the Saints scandal. I’m not trying to be argumentative. I can understand where you’re coming from and I know of others who are thinking about not watching anymore.

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