JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Eric Winston, Matt Cassel and Classlessness in Kansas City

I’ve been to Kansas City many times. It’s a pretty boring place. Nice houses, good schools, but very little to do. I’ve gotta think, with rare exception, the child raised in Kansas City is the teen itching to leave Kansas City.

As Colin Cowherd rightly noted on his radio show this morning, cities with little excitement are usually home to the most boorish fans. I know this sounds politically incorrect, but it’s pretty much true (Philadelphia being the rare exception). In New York, we’ve got 854,654 other things to focus on than the Jets and Giants. In Kansas City, however, the Chiefs are it. If you love football (as most seem to do) you live and die with the football team. Chiefs win—fan happy. Chiefs lose—fan devastated.

Chiefs player struggles—you hate him.

In case you missed this, in the course of yesterday’s home loss to the Ravens, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was knocked out of the game with what appeared to be a head injury. As he rested, sprawled out on the turf, he was greeted not by silence or sympathetic moans, but by a loud, raucous ovation. Cassel, after all, isn’t a particularly good NFL quarterback. So, naturally, Kansas City’s fans, ahem … eh …. mmm … applauded his suffering.

Here’s the clip:

I wish I could say this shocked me. It didn’t. In this modern age of all-football, all-the-friggin’-time, we rarely view players as people; as individuals; as guys with families and pets and grocery lists and house payments. There are figurines; pieces of a board game, to be moved and placed as we please. For fantasy players, they are utterly disposable. If you “own” Brady Quinn, Cassel’s injury doesn’t equal hope for a quick recovery. No, it’s a chance for Quinn to score you points. If you’re a Chiefs fanatic, Cassel’s injury isn’t an opportunity to have your kids write him a “Get Well” card. No, it’s a renewed opportunity to win. Win! Win! Win!

Pathetic.

Thankfully, after yesterday’s game Eric Winston, Cassel’s teammate and a Chiefs offensive lineman spoke out in as forceful and courageous manner as I’ve seen. He called the fans out; questioned their humanity; made clear that players are lucky to be in the NFL, but unworthy of such classlessness. If you haven’t seen his full statement, I urge you to watch.

Winston is no longer merely another lug lineman.

He’s my new favorite player.