Kansas City Chiefs: Why Eric Winston's Rant Hurts and Helps

Brett GeringCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2012

Oct 7, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (7) is looked at by tackles Branden Albert (76) and Eric Winston (74) after an injury against the Baltimore Ravens in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Baltimore won the game 9-6. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

The Kansas City Chiefs lost their fourth game of 2012 to the Baltimore Ravens, but the contest spawned a more newsworthy story that has taken center stage in the national spotlight.

If you're reading this, you're likely aware of the scenario that occurred inside of Arrowhead Stadium last Sunday; one that remains buzzing with controversy and culminated in Eric Winston ripping a select group of fans in attendance. 

Matt Cassel's local popularity bottomed out after the much-maligned quarterback fumbled a snap on Baltimore's 1-yard line. The Chiefs defense was suffocating, the running game was hitting on all cylinders, but the quarterback's three turnovers marred his team's productivity on the scoreboard.

It's an all-too-familiar trend this season: Cassel's five passing touchdowns are dwarfed by four fumbles and his league-leading nine interceptions (Pro-Football-Reference.com). The extent of his role in the 13 turnovers varies depending on whom you're talking with, but he undoubtedly shoulders the lion's share of blame. 

When No. 7 dropped to the ground on Sunday, Jamaal Charles was juking his way across the field for 16 yards, and Brady Quinn was hurriedly prepping for action on the sideline. The crowd's reaction fluctuated between cheers and curious gossip. 

At that point, players weren't huddled around a quarterback but a friend. 

Following the loss, Winston's candid remarks (Randy Covitz, The Kansas City Star) initially implied that the cheering of Cassel's injury was blatantly obvious, telling reporters, "If [Cassel's] not the best quarterback, he's not the best quarterback, and that's OK." The right tackle continued, "But he's a person. And he got knocked out in a game, and we got 70,000 people cheering."

Winston (@EricWinston) later retracted the estimate via Twitter:

Obviously i know not all 70k were cheering. And please don't act like the cheering started when Quinn came in.

— Eric Winston (@ericwinston) October 7, 2012

This morning, KCTV5 posted a video which may prove that Winston's assertions were a tad sensationalized. Field-level footage, which continues to roll throughout the injury timeout, sheds a brighter light on the incident.  

During it, the crowd roars with approval as Jamaal Charles' 16-yard scamper moves the chains in the fourth quarter. The clap-happy cheers regress to speculative chatter when the play ends, and fans realize that Cassel is still lying on his back. Stadium small talk ensues until Cassel is eventually helped to his feet, and the fans show their support through a round of applause. 

Los Angeles Times columnist and Around the Horn staple, Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke), watched the aforementioned tape and reached the same conclusion:

Checked tape from kctv.com and agree with followers..fans clearly cheering Cassel getting up, not going down..Winston wrong

— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) October 8, 2012

Look, there were—without a doubt—pockets of fans that repulsively rejoiced while Cassel was tended to. When the injury occurred, he led the NFL in interceptions, just recently fumbled the ball inches away from the opponent's end zone and had already been booed multiple times throughout the afternoon. 

Remember, this was on the same day that a plead for Cassel's benching tailed a plane (CBSSports.com) soaring over the Arrowhead crowd.

In KCTV5's video, a random, belligerent voice can be heard yelling, "Get off the field!" while Cassel was still being evaluated.

This is the kind of guy that likely sparked Winston's articulate rant.

Every stadium packs its share of crude fans, whose breath is normally so potent with overpriced beer that you can pinpoint which brand they defend and whose beer goggles repeatedly blur the line between fantasy (football) and reality.

They have invisible name tags with "that guy" chicken-scratched across them. They impulsively blurt out disapproval like sectioned dictators. They've probably body-checked a kid at Kauffman Stadium for an incoming foul ball. 

Winston's underlying sentiment paints a bull's-eye on that small minority of Chiefs fans—had it been framed in that context, his criticism would be spot-on and actually would have resonated with the level-headed majority of Arrowhead tailgaters. 

But it wasn't.

Winston's words were generalized, blanketing a petty sliver of Kansas City's fanbase with the whole. Despite video showing that the overwhelming majority of ticket holders maintained perspective and greeted Cassel's recovery with cheers, Chiefs fans have been lambasted by the national media since the crack of dawn Monday morning.

Eric Winston is a good guy. He stood up for his teammate in light of nauseating comments that undoubtedly traveled to the field. His criticism was justified and needed, but it was also misguided.

Many Kansas City fans share the same level of disgust and contempt for Sunday's hecklers as Winston. However, they're now being seen through the same lens of ignorance as their loudmouth counterparts. 

A village shouldn't be judged by its idiots.