The NFL Was Right in Cincy, Right Up Until They Were Really Wrong
We've never seen anything like the Bills - Bengals game on Monday night - or have we?
Bills' Safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field early in the game after what seemed like a routine tackle. What happened next was definitely surreal, but it's not the first time we've seen tragedy in sports.
I want to be clear. This was definitely horrific and I completely believe the NFL had no choice but to postpone the game. I'm just a bit suspect regarding a few of the comments that have been made in the last 24 hours.
Hear me out.
We heard several times Monday night and Tuesday that we've never seen this scenario before and decisions going forward have nothing to do with football - that it's actually a "human" issue. In fact, the NFL says they never once even considered playing the game after Hamlin's injury and haven't even discussed how to handle the playoffs going forward. I don't believe any of it. I propose that this isn't a "human" issue, instead it's a "human reaction" issue and you know the NFL has looked at every option. At least, I hope they have.
Professional sports teams have played through terrible injuries and even death over the years. There are stories of players with grotesque broken limbs and paralyzing neck injuries. A hockey player's throat was slit by a skate, umpires have dropped dead, and in the 70s, a NFL player actually collapsed and died on the field. His name was Chuck Hughes and he had a heart attack and died on the field on October 24, 1971 as his Detroit Lions played, and ultimately lost to the Chicago Bears. He remains the only NFL player to ever die on the playing field.
Remember, the 1985 career ending horrific Joe Theisman injury or Bill's tight-end Kevin Everett, who nearly died and was ultimately paralyzed from an in-game injury. During a WWE Pay-Per-View in 2000, Owen Hart actually died in the ring and Vince McMahon disgustingly plowed forward with the telecast and even announced his death during the show. There are real stories of death and injury during sporting events from over the years and in almost every case, the game played on.
I do think this MNF game was different, but honestly, it wasn't more "human" than any of the other tragedies that have come before it; the difference was the "human reaction" and how it all played out live on television and on social media.
The human reaction by the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals players and staff was indeed a type of reaction we've never seen before. The human reaction of the stunned announcers, one after another who were left speechless, as well as the presence of social media that spread the collapse and aftermath almost instantly throughout the world. Every minute that went by seemed less and less likely that the game could be played.
I believe visible human reaction is what caused this game to be postponed, not kindness or decency by the NFL. There came a point as players were crying uncontrollably on the field of play, that it seemed impossible to just pick up and carry on with the game on that very same field. There was no way to rally the troops and plow forward like had been done so many times before when there was tragedy on the playing surface. After all, this tragedy lacked the token "cart off the field" with a traditional "thumbs up I'm okay" gesture. We are also living in a much different time than we were in the 70s, or even the 80s or 90s.
It completely annoys me that the NFL is acting as if it never considered money, or playoffs, or the commercials which played over and over again as they tried to figure out a path forward. In fact, I'm not sure I'd be all that happy if I'd spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a fun commercial for my brand - and it served as a buffer during a tragedy like this. I understand these were uncharted waters for sports broadcasting, which probably makes a case for ABC to have switched over to ABC News instead of sticking with Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and ESPN. The news department at least knows how to properly cover tragedy.
OF COURSE the NFL was looking at all of its options and YES they had to be looking carefully at the optics. I would think less of this worldwide, billion dollar operation if they DIDN'T. And I also don't think they waited too long to make the final decision because when you think about it, the whole process from injury to cancellation lasted less than an hour. A decision in that amount of time in this day and age is unheard of.
I also truly believe the NFL made the right decision on Monday night. I'm just completely disappointed that they didn't make the right decision on Tuesday morning when they decided to lie and treat all of us like we're stupid and willing to buy whatever they feed us.
Give it to us straight. We can handle it.
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