I can now feel the pressures of a TV star.
Yesterday morning, I got a call from folks at ESPN looking to add me to the roundtable on ESPN's Outside The Lines with Bob Ley to talk about what Eric Winstons said about KC Chiefs fans ("Fans behaving badly"). Of course I accepted and within a few hours, off I went to record OTL.
I didn't get to talk as much as I thought I would -- I had two answers, basically. One of them was what I saw on the play in question and the other one was about this being unusual in a city like Kansas City. I wish I had more time to talk, add more context behind the situation and emphasize even more than I did that we are talking about such a small number of Chiefs fans and that it's not fair to lump in all Chiefs fans with this. Sam Mellinger, also on the show, did a good job noting that we're talking about a small number of fans.
Reader Patrick was upset with me following the show:
This was a time to circle the wagons in support of the fans, your local readership, and not allow us further embarrassment in the national eye. I read you on SB Nation regularly and I believe it was not your intention to allow this fire to continue to burn, I only hope that in the future when you have the opportunity to defend us, you do so vehemently.
I'll hit on that. Patrick sent in some critiques that I tried to address throughout this piece below.
This topic is very layered and no matter what the medium is -- blog, podcast or TV -- I don't feel like I can properly explain what I mean (perhaps because I still don't know what I mean).
My final word on the incident:
1. Yes, some fans cheered at Cassel getting hurt.
I saw it. Others saw it. The players heard it. I heard from people who said they cheered. I'm not just guessing here. It happened.
If you disagree with this point then we'll have to agree to disagree on the rest of this.
2. But not everyone did.
Not even close to a majority. There were wayyyyy more fans who cheered when Cassel stood up, indicating that he was OK. There were more fans cheering when Brady Quinn grabbed his helmet.
But, as they say, one bad apple ruins the bunch.
Winston's words were aimed at that small percentage of people who cheered that Cassel was down. Not at those who cheered Quinn and not at those who booed Cassel throughout the game. He was talking to the small percentage of people who cheered Cassel getting hurt.
3. Of course, if you mess with one of us, you mess with us all
It was inevitable that this would take on a life of its own, from the "small percentage" of fans who cheered to some of the other stories I've seen this week, which make it seem as if the stadium was raining down cheers on a limp Cassel.
That's not how it went. And that's why Chiefs fans should be pissed at the characterization of what went down, or the interpretation of that characterization (wait, what). I refrained from putting a specific percentage on those cheering because I'd just be guessing, but it wasn't half the stadium or even a third of the stadium. A small percentage.
Chiefs fans have long been known as some of the best in the NFL. This was one of the few times something negative was associated with us. When that happened, many of us became defensive. The default position for many of us is to defend Chiefs fans. I get that and agree with that. I also get how Winston's words could've been interpreted as a critique on all Chiefs fans. I don't think he meant it like that but I see why some people thought that because...
4. Eric Winston made one big mistake
This line: "And he got knocked out in a game and we have 70,000 people cheering that he got knocked out?"
That casts blame on all Chiefs fans.
He didn't mean to do that. Listening to the context of what he said, that's obvious. But it still came off like that. He later clarified these comments (twice), saying it wasn't everyone in the stadium. There were likely 50-something thousand people at the game to start with and some of them left by the time this thing started.
If there's a reason why some Chiefs fans are angry, that's it. Again, that wasn't his intent, and he clarified it, but that is indeed what he said.
5. Let's not confuse the arguments
If your response to this story is:
"Winston should be embarrassed about his play on the field";
"You know what's sickening? Winston's play";
"Winston has been here for 10 minutes and he's already talking shit."
Then you probably A.) misinterpreted what he said or B.) Winston did a bad job of communicating his message. Your points may stil be valid -- especially about the Chiefs playing crappy on the field -- but they're not addressing the crux of Winston's message.
The Chiefs sucking and what Winston said are two separate discussions. Maybe they're connected on the big, big picture but in this particular situation they're different.
6. This would never have been a thing unless Winston said something
I had the fans cheering Cassel marked as one of my postgame blog posts -- something short, maybe a poll. So it was a thing in that it happened and people recognized it.
But it didn't become a big thing until Winston said something. In fact, I wondered before if part of this was done to deflect the attention from the media on the Chiefs 1-4 start. I suppose that doesn't make a ton of sense because the Chiefs played probably their best game of the season against the Ravens, rolling up a ton of rushing yards on them. That's something they should be proud of (Winston was), even if it was a loss.
But people don't remember this, ESPN doesn't cover this and national non-sports radio shows don't spend their time talking about this unless Winston has his rant. Does that make him right or wrong? Another interesting question that will be debated forever.
7. This situation has way too much nuance to have a productive conversation about it.
Can you be happy that Cassel is out of the game yet not be happy that he was hurt? Can you cheer for a QB switch even if that switch came as a result of injury? Can you wish Cassel never plays for the Chiefs again yet still support him as a member of the community?
These questions are all loaded. None of them are easy to answer. Even as I talked about this situation on the Chop Talk podcast after the game, I had trouble getting the words out for what I meant. No, I don't want Cassel hurt. But I did want a change. How can I reconcile those feelings?
I still don't really have a good answer for this. I was hoping some profound quote would come to be prior to the ESPN appearance but alas it did not and I just looked really, really serious instead.
8. We all want to see the Chiefs win
Let's not forget this. This is a very, very important part of all this, probably the most important point here.
We're all fans. We're all Chiefs fans. There's a reason people say Arrowhead Stadium is one of the best spots to watch a game -- because there are kickass fans there who know how to smoke ribs better than anyone, can drink more than a few beers in the morning yet still understand you only yell on the opposing team's third down and all of us can combine to be louder than an airplane.
We love the Chiefs. That's why we pay the money for the tickets. That's why we read about them even when they're getting their butts whipped. That's why, despite what I say in moments of a lot of emotion, I'm never going to stop being a fan.
We all want the same thing here. It's been a painful run for all of us. Some of us go about expressing ourselves in different ways, showing frustration in different ways. We'll work through this together.
We just need a team on the field to let us shine in a meaningful game and some people believe the final remaining chance to do that this year would come with this guy under center: