Cheers for Matt Cassel’s Concussion: Why Sports Fans Applaud Injury

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KC QB Matt Cassel
John Sleezer / MCT / ZUMA PRESS

Trainers check on Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who had to leave Sunday's football game against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium during the fourth quarter after a head injury

American sports fans have plenty of nasty habits. They get into drunken fights in the stands, chant profanities at officials and throw stuffon the field. In Kansas City this weekend, we saw one of the worst: the habit of cheering when players get hurt.

After Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was forced to leave the game with a head injury during the team’s 9-6 home loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the crowd, frustrated with Cassel’s underperformance, started applauding. Ugh — especially given how much we’ve recently learned about the dangers of concussions. In the locker room after the game, Chiefs offensive lineman Eric Winston scolded the Kansas City crowd:

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 … 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 O.K. 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% 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 O.K. 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 O.K.

“I have a lot of respect for that guy,” says Indiana University psychology professor Edward Hirt, an expert in fan behavior. “That is talking right to the point. Impressive.”

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Unfortunately, the Kansas City embarrassment is not an isolated incident. Most famously, Philadelphia Eagles fans cheered in 1999 when Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin lay on the turf, immobilized with a career-ending neck injury. Philly fans have earned a rep for boorish behavior; this spring, they cheered when Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah sprained an ankle in the Bulls-Sixers NBA playoff series. In a commentary for Yahoo Sports after the Kansas City incident, former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George recalled that Titans fans applauded an injury to quarterback Steve McNair early in the 2000 season. Baltimore Ravens fans once took joy in the misery of quarterback Kyle Boller.

What’s going on here? “We are not personalizing these athletes,” says Hirt. “Their goal — winning — becomes our goal, and when they don’t accomplish it, we dispose of them. It’s weird. It’s not compassionate and not respectful.” Christian End, a psychology professor at Xavier University who also studies sports fans, notes that the lines of acceptable behavior already get redrawn at sporting events. In, say, the workplace, people don’t go around chanting “Bulls—!” when their bosses give them an annoying task. But at the stadium, the group subsumes your identity; you’re anonymous among 80,000 fans, so when the refs blow a call, cursing out loud seems O.K.

In this charged environment, fans search for cues from the group. So if a stadium section starts cheering an injury, you’re more likely to conform. “An action like cheering is much more likely to get your attention than someone sitting silently in his seat,” says End.

Given these dynamics, maybe fans deserve a little credit for not cheering injuries more often. Most of the time, they hold back. Still, human decency says these incidents should cease forever. “The hope is that the backlash to this kind of behavior,” says End, “prevents it from happening in other places.”

Are you confident that we won’t see this kind of thing again? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

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24 comments
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MailOrderLesbian
MailOrderLesbian

If you want to call yourself a reporter, you should research what you're reporting. Watch the video from the play. The fans cheered the Jamal Charles first down. Then were quiet when the injury was announced. Then cheered again when Cassel got to his feet.

They never cheered the injury. Eric Winston was flat on his back and didn't see the play. He mistook the cheers intended for Charles for cheers for an injury. He made an honest mistake. Your mistake is not honest. Your blatant lies and slander are worse than anything you've wrongly accused KC fans of doing.

Denise
Denise

It happened but it wasn't 70k fans. Chiefs fans did the same thing to

Elvis Grbac when he was injured. However he had no Eric Winston in his

corner. If you didn't boo Cassel or cheer his injury then stop trying

to defend those who did. There were people who did and all of this ire

is directed at them. I won't own it. I think the treatment of Matt

Cassel in this town has been atrocious and embarrassing even before the

incident on Sunday.

Daniel
Daniel

This article, along with EVERY article calling KC fans classless, just shows how low and irresponsible the media has become.  Very few fans cheered the injury, very few.  Yet, now, the ENTIRE CITY is "classless" and the fans don't deserve a team like the Chiefs.  This is BS.  Because of ONE player who mistakenly claimed all the fans were cheering for the injury, the media has latched on to this and slammed a great fan base.

Let's not discuss how the fans cheered when Cassel got up.  Let's not discuss how the stadium was FULL despite having a team that hasn't won a playoff game in nearly 20 YEARS.

I'm calling you out Sean.  I'm personally calling you out to tell all 5 of your readers that you didn't actually listen to any audio or see any video of the fans while Cassel was down.  I did.  I saw it from two different vantage points.  The cheering isn't even audible.

You've just lost your journalistic integrity, along with most members of the sports media. 

KUrocks38
KUrocks38

It's Winston'f fault Cassel got knocked the hell out. Guy can't block to save his life. But yeah a few fans cheered. Big deal Eric Winston made it sound like it was a Nazi rally and Cassel was a Jew getting thrown to the dogs. Those few who cheered didn't do anything to Cassel, he is alive and well and will probably be back in two weeks destroying this team even more with his completely inept and awful play. 

vstillwell
vstillwell

A few deranged fans in Kansas City applauded when Cassel got injured. Again, a few applauded Cassel's injury. Most of the fans did not. Why do the national media idiots go around inferring that everyone in Kansas City screamed in glee that Cassel got injured? 

Most of the fans were applauding Brady Quinn and then politely applauded when Cassel was taken off the field, which is a tradition in American sports. The BS mega-phone is loud in media these days. 

Dex
Dex

This misunderstanding has become so overblown by the national media. Arrowhead Stadium has a tradition of chanting out "And that's a Kansas City Chiefs..First Down!" about twenty seconds after a first down conversion. Cassel's injury occurred during a first down conversion to Charles. Absolutely everyone I've talked to who went to the game said they were not even aware Cassel was down until he was being helped off the field. I am embarrassed that Eric Winston has antagonized his own fanbase over this egregious misunderstanding. That in itself is what's sickening. 

artdeco54
artdeco54

So let me see if I have this right, this article is discussing the incredible example of acts of bullying because of the anonymity of being in a crowd. In response to this article people using the anonymity of a screen name are bullying others. What is wrong with this picture?Is it any wonder that bullying is becoming ever more prevelant in our schools with the adults setting such a fine example.

Saintsnfl64
Saintsnfl64

I was in the crowd when matt cassel got hurt and i think it was BS!!! Im not pleased with his performance either but you dont cheer somebody's injury

Chris
Chris

In the UK fans of both teams applaud an injured player when he's carried off on a stretcher as a mark of respect and by way of expressing good wishes to the injured player. It baffles me that American fans would be doing this to express joy that the player's injured.

Daniel
Daniel

 Also, pretty much no one cheered.  There were a few, but NOTHING like what the media has said.  Now ALL KC fans look bad.

KUrocks38
KUrocks38

A freaking British soccer fan is baffled by fans who might cheer an injury. Isn't the UK fan where soccer hooliganism got its start? 

Scythian12
Scythian12

Why do they cheer? Because sports are a crude primitive activity. It likewise brings out

a backwards savagery in people. The patrons at the games are likewise crude and primitive people. They are not readers or thinkers. They'd rather be at a stadium than at a museum or library so consider what they are as people too. Barbarians will be barbarians.

Yarmsy42191
Yarmsy42191

how dare you generalize all modern sports as barbaric? just because a few people might be cocky and primitive, to generalize all sports (oh yea btw most athletes in professional sports are black) across the board as barbaric and primitive and also calling the people playing those sports those adjectives could not be more racist.  you are a perfect example on how racism is built into our society systemically. oh yea and by the way most athletes have bachelor degrees, and a lot of them have worked or have recieved their MASTER'S DEGREE.  oh and most athletes play a professional sport AND balance getting through 4 years of college at the same time.  oh yea and by the way most athletes are smarter than you.  your name fits you perfectly, scythian, because your the only barbaric person with primitive thinking on this thread

Scythian12
Scythian12

Oh I completely dare and if you can't handle it tough. The suggestion that any group is better off playing child games instead of learning or reading is actually racist or self-racist. By consenting to the idea that they have to play games for profit a people is consenting to institutional racism.

Smarter than Scythian12
Smarter than Scythian12

 The next time you have a thought and want to share it, don't.  In fact you should probably refrain from ever speaking or writing anything ever again...

Scythian12
Scythian12

Oh aye. People of the world: Look at this "freed0m-championing" American's idea of freedom of speech.

Dellaroccokc
Dellaroccokc

He just saying you're stupid, not trying to keep deny your speech.  

Randy2158
Randy2158

I have had season tickets since I was 7 ! I have a college degree ! You do not know what your talking about . Now go back to your room in your mothers basement and play Damp;D some more nerd !

Scythian12
Scythian12

We don't have anything called Damp;D in my part of the world. Also we know that intelligence is condemned in the states. That's why you have to borrow money from countries that value it. Congratulations I'm sure. The world is sick of your games anyway and won't always put up with it. Oh aye and thanks for the exchange rate. It's been a ball.

Ph34rFrag
Ph34rFrag

 We were discussing generalizations, were we not? Isn't that exactly what you did there? I have family that plays football, and I play Damp;D. I don't consider my family barbaric, and they don't consider me a nerd. Hobbies are hobbies. What IS barbaric, is anyone cheering an injury, especially if it is a member of their own team. I am a Kansas Citian (I think that's what we call ourselves, at least), but regardless how poorly he plays, or any other circumstance, I would never cheer his injury. An injury, especially in football, can mean a complete change in that persons' lifestyle. Who cares if Matt Cassel screws up?

I mean, it's just a game.

DT58HOF
DT58HOF

Whatever nerd.......