Many, many years ago, back when I was so young a sports writer I still had constant pimples, I was privy to be in the room when the late Bear Bryant gave a brief but meaningful talk to his players about the art of “showing class.” For example, he told them that when they scored a touchdown that they should “act like you’ve done it before.”
He told them to instead hurry to the closest official and hand the ball to him – not just throw it -- and woe be it to the pitiful wretch who taunted an opponent, or got caught “talking foolish” on the way back to the huddle. “You knock ‘em down, pat ‘em on the back, and get back to where you are supposed to be. You will act differently because you are different. Here we will be known for our class,” the storied Alabama coach demanded.
Coach Bryant would absolutely roll over in his grave if he knew that some Georgia football fanatics ruined the house where two of the university’s best players live late Saturday night or that on Sunday in the NFL, Kansas City fans actually cheered when their own quarterback was injured. These are increasing signs our nation has gone beserk, that all we care about is a microwave sense of success or be damned.
When quarterback Aaron Murray and linebacker Christian Robinson arrived home in the wee hours of Sunday morning, this following a thorough 35-7 whipping at South Carolina, the house was splattered with eggs, toilet paper draped the trees, and garbage was strewn in the yard.
It was an utter lack of class. Robinson posted this on his Tweeter account: “Came to a house that was egged and rolled. Seems that people turn on you when you’re not perfect. Thought we were in this together.” His next Tweet, depending how you look at it, was even worse. “Still get to be a hero this morning to little kids at Athens church. There are more important things than wins and losses.”
Yeah, like showing class. Word of the tasteless act swept across the college football landscape Sunday and, by yesterday, the University of Georgia fans were being skewered on sports shows all across America. Are you kidding me? Georgia is now 5-1, ranked 14th in the country and will be a heavy favorite in every remaining game on the schedule, save for Florida later this month.
Sadly, we live in a cruel and insensitive world. LSU, losing quite a slugfest to Florida on Saturday, is now left out of national championship discussions. My goodness, they are also 5-1! Tennessee was idle last week so – get this -- state sports writers dredged up the notion that Derek Dooley – whose Vols are now 3-2 – would soon be treated like Pat Summit. (Never mind that the next day it came out that, indeed, Pat was treated quite graciously after her early onset Alzheimer’s was announced.)
Georgia coach Mark Richt, easily one of the classiest coaches in America, was told of the egging incident during a Sunday afternoon teleconference with the media. “Sometimes that comes with the territory," he sighed. "You're a public figure and people get upset about things. It's sad something like that would happen but it's not shocking people get criticism or something like that happened to them when they're in the type position those guys are in, especially the quarterback position."
Richt also said his response would be, “I think you just hold your head high … You act in a first-class manner. You don't do anything that would retaliate or anything like that. Just be man enough to turn the other cheek and go about your business. That's what I would say. The main thing is to get back to work, continue to believe in each other and come back with a strong performance. That's really the best medicine we have right now."
Now that I’ve had my say about how disappointed I am by what Georgia fans did to their own, let’s go to the Kansas City locker room where, late Sunday afternoon, offensive lineman Matt Winston was waiting on the media. In a marked lack-of-class, some Chiefs fans actually cheered when their own quarterback, Matt Cassel, was carried from the field with an apparent head injury. That’s right, the barbarians cheered in the fourth quarter when their own guy went down after having an off day in a 9-6 slugfest.
Listen to his teammate, the fiery Winston, unload:
“If this isn’t posted in the paper or run on your (website), this is the last time you’re going to talk to me,” he started. “We are athletes. We are not gladiators. This isn’t the Roman Coliseum. People pay their hard-earned money to come in here. I believe they can boo, they can cheer, they can do whatever they want … we’re lucky to play this game. It’s hard economic times, and they still pay the money to go to these.
“There are long-lasting ramifications to the game we play … I’ve come to the understanding I won’t live as long because I play this game. That’s OK. But when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and just so happened to be Matt Cassel, it’s 100 percent sickening. I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams, I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life to play football than at that moment right there,” the former Miami Hurricane said.
“I get emotional about it because these guys work their butts off. Matt Cassel hasn’t done anything to you people … hasn’t done anything to the media writers who kill him, hasn’t done anything wrong to the people who come out here and cheer him. If he’s not the best quarterback, he’s not the best quarterback, and that’s OK.
“But he’s a person. And he got knocked out in a game, and we got 70,000 people cheering. Boo him all you want. Boo me all you want. Throw me under the bus. Tell me I’m doing a bad job, say I’ve got to protect him more … but if you’re one of those people who were out there cheering, or even smiled, when he got knocked out, I just want everyone to know it’s sickening and disgusting.
“Don’t blame a guy and don’t cheer for a guy (when injured) who has done everything in his power to play as good as he can for the fans. It’s sickening. I want every fan to know it. We have a lot of problems as a society if people think that’s okay.”
Thank you, Matt. We do have a lot of problems as a society and they aren’t just in Athens and Kansas City. We’ve forgotten all about showing class, all the way to the point where now some wonder what kind of people we have turned out to be. It is up to us to change that.