UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Why are we putting blame ahead of the game?

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgDon't know about you, but I am still trying to figure out baseball's infield fly rule, and why some fans might cheer when one of their favorite team's own players is injured.

It sure has been an interesting week in the world of fun and games.

Every now and then, fan behavior becomes the focus of attention, and that certainly has been the case in the last seven days.

During the baseball playoffs last Friday, the Atlanta Braves had runners at first and second with one out. The hitter, Andrelton Simmons, lifted a fly ball to shallow left field. Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma ran out to try and make the play, while outfielder Matt Holliday drifted in to do the same. The ball dropped, but umpire Sam Holbrook declared the infield fly rule, meaning the batter is out, and the runners can advance at their own risk.

Fans were irate and littered the field with bottles, cans and other assorted debris. After nearly 20 minutes, the game resumed. The Cardinals won, while Braves fans left the stadium angry -- and because of the actions of some -- looking foolish.

Then last Sunday, while the struggling Kansas City Chiefs were in the process of losing a low-scoring game to Baltimore, much-maligned quarterback Matt Cassel was injured. While opinions vary, it appeared at least some fans at Arrowhead Stadium were cheering at the sight of Cassel not getting up.

How many fans were cheering is very much open to question, but there were enough to send offensive tackle Eric Winston into a postgame rant.

"When you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don't care who it is. And it just so happened to be Matt Cassel. It's sickening. It's 100 percent sickening," said Winston. "I've been in some rough times on some rough teams -- I've never been more embarrassed in my life to play football."

Strong stuff.

While Winston has stood by his comments, the following day he did point out that he was not referring to everyone in the stadium. "It might have been 7,000. It might have been 700. It's still too many," Winston told reporters.

No doubt fans in both Atlanta and Kansas City are stinging at the national reaction to the actions of some.

Clearly, and yes, sadly, what happened in those stadiums can happen in any number of cities. While the above examples are from professional sporting events, it seems cases of anger in the stands is becoming more and more evident, even during college games.

Maybe not to the extent of what we have witnessed in the last week, but for some, going to a game is less about enjoyment and more about venting why so-and-so stinks.

It would be irresponsible to claim that fans are the only ones at fault. The media, of which I am a member, has become less about information and more about stirring the pot -- the louder the better.

A common postgame question in the sports talk/message board/Twitter world/blogosphere crowd is "Who's to blame?"   

If we disagree on something, no matter how minor, it is an OUTRAGE!  

All too often, we specialize in overreaction. By "we" I mean media, as well as fans.

No doubt part of this is because of the high salaries of today's pro athletes, and the big bucks pulled in by college coaches. Mega-million-dollar salaries and higher ticket prices can equal increased expectations. But I tend to believe the bigger reason is simple. We have so many avenues to vent, from talk radio, to reader comments in the online editions of newspapers, and of course, through social media.

Everyone has a voice, and it is open season, 24/7/365.

I would like to believe most fans still love the game more than they love to be angry. While not unprecedented, what happened in Atlanta is still the exception to the rule. Kansas City is known as a terrific sports town, especially when it comes to the Chiefs.

So who's to blame? Maybe a lot us, myself included, can start by looking in the mirror.
ON WISCONSIN