“…I get emotional about it because these guys, they work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn't done anything to you people.” – Eric Winston, KC Chiefs
Emotion can drive a humbled man to the edge of insanity. Emotion is what drives 200 to 360 pound men to run into one another and bash each other’s brains out; well emotions and potentially millions of dollars in salary, but I digress. Emotion can justify ignoring what’s right, and reverting to do wrong. Finally, emotion can take the small incident, and blow it completely out of proportion. Today, I bring you a tale of a city that has been craving a championship NFL franchise since 1969, the administration, players, and mentality that has done everything in their power to make sure that does not happen. This is Kansas City.
In a season that many thought that the Kansas City Chiefs would contend for the AFC West division title, the team has looked like everything but a winner. Aside from a come from behind 27-20 victory against the New Orleans Saints, the Chiefs have been throttled only to submit to the will of their opposition. During this five game period of losses in all but one game, starting Matt Cassel has thrown eight interceptions. In this past Sunday’s game against the Ravens, Cassel had three interceptions, preventing the Chiefs from conjuring up any offense against a Ravens team that could only produce nine points themselves.
As badly as Cassel had played, a sudden spark of offense could possibly ignite the Chiefs to snatch victory from the hands of defeat. With the help of a Haloti Ngata pass rush, Chiefs fans may have found the change that they had longed for. A bruise from Ngata left Cassel initially motionless, but seconds later struggling to gather himself as he was obviously in pain. According to Winston, in his first year with the Chiefs after signing a 4 year, $22 million contract, this is when cheers reigned down from “70,000” in the crowd. Quite frankly, 70,000 fans would have been impressive to hear considering Sunday’s attendance was 68,803 according to ESPN’s box score totals.
Yet it is hard to imagine a full house would all cheer their starting QB laid out during the game. As badly as fans in Kansas City have wanted the benching of Cassel, as well as the firing of Scott Pioli; the Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager of the Kansas City Chiefs, is an on-the-field injury the reason for fans to rejoice.
Personally, I believe an injury to an opposing team member or the home team should never be cheered. While Pro Football is the most popular sporting event in America, the long-term effects that many of its alumni suffer is quite depressing. Dementia, memory loss, joint damage, severe arthritis, and other ailments rob many from enjoying life after retiring from the game. With the speed of the game today, a single hit can escalate the arrival of retirement for players. So for the many who pursue this career, quite frankly, I admire their courage. I, in no way, am ignorant to the fact that they one of the benefits for such valiancy is immediate wealth; in many instances generational wealth. So, as a professional these players subject themselves to abuse from their opposition, as well as from upset fans and media. But somewhere in this connection between athletes and fans, don’t we have to separate are expectations of winning at all cost from the humanity of our fellow man? I believe so, but I can’t fault those who do not.
In the case of Chiefs Fans, I have been a witness for the last 15 years to the growing frustration of supporting an organization that has profitability before championships. While Pioli has not been here for that full period of time (former GM Carl Peterson prided himself on earning previous team owner Lamar Hunt a whole lot of money, even if it only produced one AFC Championship appearance under his regime), many of his decisions have been questioned with the intensity of an Internal Affairs interrogation. None more scrutinized more than the signing of Matt Cassel in 2008 to a six year, $63 million contract ($28 million guaranteed). What was the reason for such a lofty contract? In his first season starting at QB since high school (yes, HIGH SCHOOL), Cassel lead that New England Patriots to a 10-6 season. That’s it. A franchise put its hopes on the potential of a QB who hand a period of eight six years between starts.
While the Cassel experience started off nicely (10-6, AFC West Champs), the team’s progress has deteriorated each season since. Coaches have lost their jobs during this period and Cassel has continued to underwhelm, but he “gave the Chiefs the best chance to win”; the mantra being spewed from Pioli all the way down to the equipment manager. The fact of the matter is fans have grown tired of waiting for the potential that Cassel supposedly has to come to fruition. So Sunday’s cheers, whatever few there may have been, may not have been because of Cassel’s injury, as much as the Chiefs organization being put into the position that the fan’s wishes HAD TO BE MET!!! So I don’t think Winston heard a stadium full of disgruntled fans cheering an injury (he would later be quoted as saying he did not mean all in attendance cheered) but the what he was hearing was the consumer getting what they wanted at the chagrin of a franchise that has wanted to give them only so much.