November 07, 2010
Philadelphia Eagles fans are always complaining that their reputation as the most boorish fans in football is unjust and that a few unfortunate incidents over the past few decades have been blown out of proportion by the media. We're passionate, they claim, not impertinent.
But then a small faction of these same fans go out and cascade boos upon a field as a knocked-out opponent lies motionless on it, unintentionally reinforcing the stereotype they claim to be false.
During Sunday's game, Eagles fans booed loudly as Indianapolis Colts receiver Austin Collie(notes) was being attended to by medical personnel, clearly knocked out cold by a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit by Kurt Coleman(notes). At first, the booing was for the penalty call (which we'll get to), but some continued long after:
The fans get a pass for the initial boos that showered the field immediately after the play and immediately after the referee made the penalty call. Those were heat of the moment boos and fans should be expected to voice displeasure in the aftermath of such a controversial call.
(For what it's worth, the helmet-to-helmet contact seemed like an accident. I'm not sure what Coleman was supposed to do on the play. He wasn't head-hunting, he just happened to hit Collie's helmet after the receiver was pushed into him by Eagles safety Quintin Mikell(notes). Regardless, the NFL has made it clear over the past three weeks that any dangerous contact will draw a flag, whether it was intentional or not. Ironically, it was a similarly clean, unintentional hit on Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson(notes) that contributed to the NFL's overzealous enforcement of hits in the first place.)
That's not the issue though. The issue is that some Eagles fans, given time to calm down from the initial displeasure with the call, continued to boo even as Collie lay still on the ground. He was out cold. He wasn't moving. And many idiots continued their complaints about the call, as if an automatic first down for Peyton Manning(notes) was infinitely more important than the immediate health of a man on the field.
Being a fan is sometimes irrational. I get that. We say we "hate" opposing players and curse officials and may care about the result of a game just as much as the men playing it. It doesn't make sense sometimes -- the money spent, the hours put in -- but we do it. However, there's a time to be a rabid fan and a time to step back and realize that, at the end of the day, it's just a game. When a man is on the field and possibly paralyzed, that's one of those times. The game doesn't matter at that point. It will start up again soon and you can be angry with the call and go on cheering the guys in green and hating the guys in blue and that's the way it's supposed to be.
For most fans in Philadelphia on Sunday, it was like that. They were upset about the call, worried about the man on the field, clapped when he was carted off, pleased to hear that he was later alert and only slightly concussed and even more pleased that the Eagles ended up winning the game. It's too bad those fans -- the good ones -- will have their reputation sullied by those who acted like fools.
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