Watching bone-crunching tackles, horrible injuries, gravity-defying athleticism and the toughest athletes in the world battle week in and week out is why we love football. But just as war desensitizes, watching football begins to make us think that these athletes are indestructible or gladiators. As a fan, I have to remind myself that these athletes are still human and the ramifications of this game are very real. This past weekend of football produced two acts of camaraderie that are sobering and reminded me that beyond the violence, football players are still humans and it is just a game. The two events were a Chiefs offensive lineman ripping the fans who cheered an injury and the Indianapolis Colts win over the Packers only days after their head coach was diagnosed with leukemia.
We will begin with the Chiefs incident. During the Chiefs game against the Ravens, quarterback Matt Cassel took a big hit and was sprawled out on the field for several minutes before being helped off the field. The fans then began to cheer him leaving the field because of his poor play this season (five TDs, nine interceptions and four fumbles). After the game, one of his offensive linemen, Eric Winston, ripped into the fans that cheered his injury, saying that he was “embarrassed” and “disgusted” to see that. He also mentioned that he probably won’t live as long because he chose to play this game and he’s alright with that, but to see fans cheering an injury disgusts him.
I was really happy to see Winston stand up for his teammate and rip the fans for cheering Cassel’s injury. Usually a player ripping on the fans ends in a bad way for that player, but I feel the majority of football fans and the surrounding players will side with him. I am a believer in the fans’ right to boo and cheer because they are paying the player’s salaries, but to cheer a player for getting knocked out of the game is outrageous and unacceptable. Winston backed up his teammate and reminded us all that the players are still humans and do not deserve to be cheered for getting knocked out, especially in the wake of all these players’ concussions and NFL safety problems. Athletes are getting bigger, faster and stronger, and fans really need to realize that the health problems are actually real and imminent for many of today’s players. The concussion that Cassel suffered could take five years off his life, and to cheer that absolutely disgusts me.
The next incident was the Colts win over the Packers with their head coach in the hospital. After Peyton Manning left, the Colts entered a complete rebuilding mode. Chuck Pagano was hired in January to be the head coach and supervise this team’s turnaround. However, last week, Pagano was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia and will undergo treatment for approximately six months. In Sunday’s game, the players, coaches and executives all showed their support for their coach with shirts saying “CHUCKSTRONG” or wearing special equipment with his initials on it. Then, the Colts beat the Packers with a late fourth-quarter touchdown drive and the scene in the locker room was emotional and awe-inspiring. The Colts’ owner, Jim Irsay, said that he has never been more proud of a group of guys who came together so well. My favorite part of the story came next when Irsay took the game ball from the stadium and personally delivered it to Pagano at the hospital. It is acts like these that remind me why I got into sports in the first place. The camaraderie that is shared among teammates is something that has no parallel. In this day and age of big business sports, these two events have reminded me that above all, sports are still just games and that we cannot forget that as fans.
Hopefully, we will never again see incidents where fans cheer a player for getting knocked out of the game and see more things like teams coming together for their sick head coach.
Updated Power Rankings
With a few shakeups in the league, these are the updated power rankings:
The Houston Texans remain undefeated and on top of the power rankings after week five. They beat the Jets on Monday Night Football 23-17 behind a big game from their superstar running back Arian Foster, who had 29 carries for 152 yards and one touchdown. One might be skeptical that they only beat the Jets by six points, but that score was biased a little by the Jets’ Joe McKnight, who returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The game was not all good, however. The Texans lost All-Pro linebacker Brian Cushing for the year after he tore his ACL.
The Falcons matched the Texans by staying undefeated at 5-0 with their 24-17 win over the Redskins. Atlanta trailed 10-7 heading into the fourth quarter, but managed to give Robert Griffin III a mild concussion and knock him out of the game. After that, Redskin backup quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan led the team on three scoring drives to win the game.
The 49ers jumped up a spot on the rankings due to the Arizona Cardinals’ loss to the Rams. In Sunday’s 45-3 win against the Bills, the Niners had Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree over 100 yards receiving, Frank Gore over 100 yards rushing, and Alex Smith passed for over 300 yards. In their last two games, the Niners have outscored their opponents 79-3 and now rank first in the league in rushing yards per game with 195.8.
The Baltimore Ravens rank at number four with their slight 9-6 win over the Chiefs. This win makes me hopeful about their defense, which has looked a little slow, but raises a lot of questions about their offense. In what looked like Joe Flacco’s breakout season, he did not play very well, only completing 13 of 27 passes for 187 yards and one interception. Looking ahead to next week, they get the Cowboys at home, which should be a good bounce-back game for them. Tony Romo is struggling and has turned the ball over a lot, which bodes well for the Ravens.
The Patriots climbed their way into the rankings this week with a 31-21 win over the Broncos, improving their record to 3-2. The reason the Patriots are ranked ahead of the Bears, Vikings and Cardinals is simple: the Patriots have Tom Brady and the others do not. When the playoffs come around, I simply do not think Jay Cutler, Phillip Rivers or whoever the Cardinals QB is can win a football game. Plus, Tom Brady will usually beat his opponent. Another reason why the Patriots are in the power rankings is because they are finally running the ball. Stevan Ridley carried the ball 28 times for 151 yards and a touchdown, and Wes Welker also got back into the mix. Welker had seen a decrease in his playing time, but against the Broncos he led the team in receiving with 13 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.