I have, since a young age, supported the idea that fans who attend professional sporting events can say or do pretty much whatever they want as long as they don't break any laws. You want to boo and tell an athlete that he sucks? Go right ahead. You spent your money on your ticket, and you have that right. There is but one invisible line that should never be crossed, though, one that separates people who watch sports for what they are from sociopaths who would undeniably benefit from the help of counseling and maybe some medication.
Far too many fans of the Houston Texans crossed that line on Sunday.
You never cheer an injury. Never. I don't care about the circumstance. It doesn't matter if the player in question once stabbed your favorite team in the back, or if he has been stinking up the joint for weeks/months/years. Feeling any amount of joy over another person laying on the ground in pain is not a reaction of a disgruntled fan. It's a sign of an emotionally disturbed individual.
I completely understand Houston fans being upset. Quarterback Matt Schaub has been absolutely awful this season, and the Texans, thought to be Super Bowl contenders less than two months ago, were getting blown out at home by an average St. Louis Rams team en route to going to 2-4. Many of them likely wanted a QB change even before Schaub rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Sunday's affair.
None of that excuses what happened at Reliant Stadium when Schaub was forced out of the game. Apologists may suggest that Houston fans who applauded and cheered were merely welcoming T.J. Yates into the game. That I don't believe that was the case is irrelevant. The protocol for what to do when play is stopped for any injury is hardly a secret.
Here's a refresher for anybody who may have somehow forgotten what to do in these situations: You sit there. You maybe talk with your friends, family members and/or those around you. Pulling out your smartphone and checking your fantasy football stats or your Twitter feeds is also acceptable. Then, when the injured player leaves the field, hopefully via his own power, you send him off with polite applause.
We often forget that pro athletes, NFL players in this scenario, are, in fact, real people. They are sons, and brothers, and fathers, and husbands. They have lives outside of what we see 16-20 Sundays a year.
Booing players into the tunnel at halftime or at the end of the game is one thing. Publicly voicing your happiness over a person getting hurt to the point where a game needs to be halted is very much so another. Every Houston fan who cheered the fact that Schaub's day was done because of an injury needs to reevaluate what watching pro sports means to him, and possibly consider taking up a new hobby until he grows up a little.
Sporting events bring with then emotional moments for viewers. I get that. I've been one of a crowd of thousands booing a player who wasn't meeting our expectations (New York Red Bulls designated player Rafa Marquez. But that's another story for another day). We, as people who don't get paid salaries to play games, need to do whatever we can to keep things in perspective, especially when it involves the health of a fellow person.
Sports aren't that important, everybody.