What a powerful, articulate, and passionate speech. Not used to hearing this kind of press conference, are we?
I’ve never seen a football player as incisively challenge his own fans. Courageous. But this was a great speech. He called the extremes of the American football culture to account for its attitudes.
In the last few days we have seen shameful behavior by sports fans in more than one venue. Braves fans at Turner Field threw debris on the field after a call goes against them in the Wild Card game. It was a judgment call by the umpire – an unusual call, to be sure, but other umpires have said they thought it was correct, or at least permissible within the rules. But the game had to be stopped for 20 minutes because hooligans threw cans and bottles on the field to show their displeasure.
Eric Winston evoked the image of the Gladiators in his rant. Is that such a far-fetched comparison?
It would be easy to condemn Chiefs’ fans and Braves’ fans as if they are unique. But I don’t think this is a problem limited to those two cities. Sports has become an obsession, and often an idol. That is a confession, not a condemnation.
I remember watching the final outs of the World Series in 2004 (also known as the Year of Great Evil). The cameras were scanning the delirious Fenway Park crowd and I was filled with loathing against them. Suddenly, I had one of those Holy Spirit moments. “How dare you disdain human beings simply because they cheer for the Boston Red Sox?”
I love sports. Always will. But there is something wrong with my heart when I hate the fans of another teams – even a teams as evil as the Red Sox. It is evidence of a heart-problem when we cheer for injuries or throw things on the field, or shout unkind things at players, umps or coaches because of our passions.
Gladiators? May the erudite Mr. Winston’s analogy was more apt than we want to admit.