If you are in Kansas City, or a dad watching ESPN, by now you heard the rants by Eric Winston and sports analysts over the nation, regarding Kansas City Chiefs fans allegedly cheering when their starting QB Matt Cassel was injured. As a Chiefs fan, I saw it happen live on television. While some fans clearly cheered when Cassel was replaced, it is not clear whether they were cheering the big play by Charles, Cassel’s injury or Quinn entering the game. Whatever their reason, it led Chiefs Tackle Eric Winston to go on a public outburst against all 70,000 Chiefs fans which has garnered national media.
After hearing fans and analysts (local and national) weigh in, something dawned on me: this is a perfect lesson for dads everywhere to teach their kids about sportsmanship, professionalism and loyalty.
Most of us dads, as kids, had sportsmanship hammered into our heads from a very young age. Now, times are different. Today far too many dads are completely missing from the picture. The even more common reality for families is that we live in an age where dads aren’t home by 4 and have to work Friday nights and Saturdays mornings to make ends meet. These days aren’t easy and it’s taking dads away from those valuable after school and weekend moments with their kids. This dynamic does impact how kids behave and play. However, it doesn’t mean every opportunity is missed.
Enter the Cassel-Winston-Fan Drama.
As you are sitting there with your kids watching ESPN, and after the clip and debate finishes, take a few minutes to go over these things.
#1 Sportsmanship – Whether the fans actually cheered his injury will sadly be debated for weeks to come. What is clear is that feelings were hurt and it came off as if they did cheer the injury. Here is what I see is the bigger problem nobody is talking about. Where was the loud cheer and applause when he got up and was escorted off the field? There used to be a time in sports when that happened and it mattered to players and kids. Why? Because it teaches them sportsmanship! The important life lesson, that no matter what you do in life, you never kick a person when they are down. Equally as important is the lesson that you always offer a helping hand to those struggling to get up. Whether that means you pick them up or when they are walking off the field you cheer loud so they emotionally get a boost, you still ought to help.
#2 Loyalty - While I disagree with the way Eric Winton handled his press situation, as a dad, something else mattered more to me. We teach our kids from a very young age on the field about teamwork and teamwork builds loyalty. When I saw the picture of Winston next to Cassel while he was knocked out, covering him with his hand until help arrived, I thought “that is loyalty”. This picture was a perfect moment to teach our kids that whether a teammate goes down or a friend gets hurt, you never leave them behind. Our kids are growing up in “Generation Now”, where everything is instant. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google+ friendships are easily built and easily tore down. Loyalty matters. That means you don’t leave your friend or teammate behind. It also means you don’t post humiliating pictures or videos online that could embarrass a friend and you don’t share a friends private personal information online for the world to see.
#3 Professionalism - Yes, I just said it was good that Winston displayed loyalty for his teammate. That said, what was not professional was the press statement. Sure, he spoke from the heart and out of loyalty to his guy. But no analysts can tell me, as a dad and Chiefs fan, there wasn’t a more professional way to say what he said. For example, his response could have been, “I heard a few fans cheer, and if it was for him being injured, shame on them. But we have great fans in Kansas City and I’d like to think the cheering was for other reasons.” Instead, he trashed all 70,000 fans and since then has back peddled a bit, while not apologizing. Professionalism is something we have to teach our children from a young age. As a father of a very controlling (and strong) 4 year-old son, and a very onry (and fast), 2 year-old daughter, I know firsthand that’s often easier said than done. While we should encourage our kids to speak up when they feel things aren’t right, we should encourage them to do it in a calm, professional way. Winston displayed the non-professional way to handle a naturally upsetting situation. His error is our gain as dads.
In the end, this will not be the last professional athlete or celebrity saga we experience. What is important is that we as dads take every moment we can, even if it is watching ESPN, to teach our kids an important lesson on life. They may try to ignore you by pretending that ESPN (and the person they are texting) is more important. In the end, they will listen.
Image Credit: Colin E. Braley, AP