Gripes with Sports Fans: Wishing for Injuries

     *Gripes with Sports Fans is a new weekly series where I discuss some of my biggest problems and pet peeves with sports fans, and attempt to explain why these issues are unreasonable or unacceptable.
     In game 4 of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals on May 25, Warriors point guard and newly-chosen MVP Stephen Curry landed hard and awkwardly on his neck after attempting to block a shot from Trevor Ariza and flipping when Ariza pump faked when Curry wasn’t expecting him to.  Curry lay head down on the court for several minutes after the freak accident, and later described the whole event as the scariest moment he’d ever experienced on the basketball court.  In a situation that could have resulted in severe injuries to Curry’s neck, head, shoulder, elbow, or arm, the Baby-faced Assassin was lucky to escape with only a head contusion, and miraculously returned to the game after missing only a quarter of action, despite initial reports that he could have been out for the remainder of the series or longer.
     Curry’s situation could easily have been much worse, and millions were relieved to see the sharpshooter returning to his old self almost immediately.  However, not all people who watched the game enjoyed seeing the return of Curry.
     In an appalling display which showed a severe lack of sportsmanship, many took to social media sites like Twitter to share their hopes that Curry’s injury would prove too serious for him to continue playing, some even hoping for him to be out for the rest of the playoffs or longer.
     While Curry was down, the fans in the Toyota Center were very respectful of Curry and the situation, as were the majority of basketball fans.  Unfortunately, not everyone felt this way, and that is something that really bothers me.
     I would like to give some people the benefit of the doubt, that maybe their comments were premature and that they actually had not seen the play when they posted, or that somehow it was a joke in poor taste.  However, this cannot be true for everyone, as this kind of incident has happened many times before.
     One famous occurrence was on October 13, 2013, when Houston Texans fans cheered after the injury of their own starting quarterback Matt Schaub, then cheering even louder at the arrival of backup T.J. Yates.  This came during a notorious run of pick-sixes thrown by Schaub in the preceding weeks.  Sure, it was a rough patch for the veteran starter, but the fans seemed to forget that Schaub performed consistently well during his years starting for the team, even making two Pro-Bowls, including one the year prior.  But they were so pleased when Schaub had to be pulled and replaced by Yates, a third-year man who was less than stellar in his five career starts, all of which came two years before.  Yates proceeded to throw a pick-six, adding to Houston’s misery.  But that is not the point.
     Recently, there have been many players whose injuries have been cheered on.  They include but are not limited to the Calais Campbell, Matt Cassel, Johnny Manziel, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Joakim Noah, and Sidney Crosby, all of which have heard cheers after their injury in the past couple years.  Philadelphia Eagles fans even cheered when Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending injury back in 1999.
     Sometimes fans are not the only ones happy when a player goes down.  In the New Orleans Saints’ infamous Bountygate scandal, bounties were placed on several players on opposing teams (most notably Brett Favre), and bonuses were offered for any Saint who could successfully knock that player out of the game.  The situation ended with numerous penalties, including year-long suspensions of both head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
     Being happy when players are injured is a huge issue, and one that many people, including some of my friends, just do not seem to understand.  The reason why it is so difficult is simple.  If one’s team is playing, and the star player on the opposing team is hurt, the person’s team now has a much higher chance of winning the game, which is a great thing.  However, for this to happen, another human being has to be seriously hurt, which causes a moral dilemma.  Do we as fans view our athletes as the actual people they are, or as people living inside our televisions whose objective is to bring us pleasure?  The answer should be the first option, although the line is blurred for many.
     I remember clearly the game that took place between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants on October 25, 2010.  The Giants went into Jerry World and won the game 41-35 on Monday Night Football.  However, during the game, the Giants’ Michael Boley hit Tony Romo and suffered a broken clavicle, ending his season.  I was ecstatic.  This win gave the Giants a 5-2 record, a lead in the NFC East, and essentially took the Cowboys out of the division race.  It meant the Giants would have an easier time making the playoffs, and the Cowboys were sure to crumble.  Plus, I hated Tony Romo.  He was a Cowboy, and that was the only reason I needed to celebrate when I knew he was done.  As an 11 year-old, I couldn’t see the bigger picture.  I was not old enough to understand that injuries transcend sports.
     When a little kid falls off his bike, or someone gets a pie to the face, we laugh.  It’s called schadenfreude.  It’s funny to see the misfortune of others, but only when it’s something minor.  When someone actually is seriously hurt, it’s another story.
     Most people just don’t understand how hard it is to be an athlete.  Sure, it isn’t on the level of physical labor like some blue-collar jobs, or involved as much thinking and analyzing and decision-making as many white-collar jobs, but it’s very difficult nonetheless.  In a world where everyone is a commodity, athlete’s “goods” take the form of their bodies.  That’s what they have to provide.  If an athlete gets injured, they can no longer perform their job.  And athletes work for their jobs.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in the positions they are in.  All the time practicing, conditioning, working out, analyzing game film or sports-analytics, and eating right is essential to being able to give 100% peak performance every time they play.  If they slack off, they don’t make it.  Injuries have destroyed many-a promising career.  For some athletes, that’s all they really have.  For all athletes, that’s their dream.  Millions and millions of kids grow up wanting to play sports professionally, and be just like their idols on TV.  Only a select few with a combination of natural ability and effort make it, and even then sometimes freak accidents can take it all away.  To be pleased when an athletes gets injured is not simply wrong, it’s plain inhuman, and extremely selfish.
     What if the person that was injured was on your team?  You feel horrible.  Yet still it’s probably for the wrong reasons.  “What a blow to the team”, you think.  What we all should be thinking is “what a blow to the person”.  It’s perfectly okay to be upset because someone’s injury negatively impacts your team.  Just remember that there’s an actual person in pain.
     I have heard that we should not feel bad for athletes because getting injured is an occupational hazard.  This is one of the poorest arguments I’ve ever heard.  Every job has some sort of risk involved.  If a police officer gets shot and killed, or a firefighter dies in a burning building, what will you say then?  “Should’ve been smarter and not become an officer/firefighter?”  Anyone who thinks that has serious problems.  These people risk their lives day in and day out trying to help people.  While an athlete typically doesn’t face death, although it has happened, the scenario isn’t totally different.  They are doing their jobs just like everyone else, and are trying to live their dreams and bring enjoyment to those watching at home.
     I have heard that we should not feel bad for athletes getting injured because of how much money they make.  First off, it’s a myth that every athlete makes tons of money.  Only the very best in the world, in just a few select leagues make millions.  But even assuming we’re talking about leagues such as the NFL and NBA, the money doesn’t matter.  It isn’t like a player gets injured but they don’t feel any pain because the pain is blocked by the sugar-coating of all the money they’re making.  The world doesn’t work like that.  Anytime anyone gets seriously hurt, doing anything, we should feel bad, just because that’s the human thing to do.
     If you aren’t convinced yet, I’ll give one more go at persuading you.  What if you tear an ACL in a freak accident, and faced surgery an at least nine months of rehab and recovery?  What if all your friends don’t seem to care at all, and just tell you, “well, I guess you shouldn’t get hurt next time”?  Wouldn’t you be pretty angry?  Remember the Golden Rule.  Treat others how you would want to be treated.  Have some respect for those who are hurt, because that could easily be you.
     If you still aren’t convinced, I have nothing more to say to you.  And if your team can only win if the opposing team is without their best players, maybe you don’t deserve to win the game.


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