Over the last 48 hours since Jay Cutler disappointed the world, I’ve been completely fascinated by the reaction, overreaction, and reaction to the overreaction brought on by the most talked-about sprained MCL in NFL history. I have half a mind to tap out midway through this blog post due to a lingering hangnail to see if I get blasted on Twitter.
My gut reaction on Sunday was to let the situation play out, that the venom for Cutler expressed by current and former players was misplaced. On Monday, I found myself agreeing with Solomon Wilcots, who reminded us of Cutler’s battle with Type 1 diabetes and suggested there is no track record of the quarterback lacking toughness.
This Cutler saga will eventually fade away, but I can’t get past two aspects of the story. I’m still taken aback by the number of current and former players who openly questioned Cutler’s toughness, character and manhood in a situation where no one knew — no one had time to know — the entire truth based on what they were seeing live on the game broadcast. I don’t know that we’ve ever seen that before. Perhaps even more fascinating is the immediacy of how those messages were delivered over social media.
In a sense it was a perfect storm.
Cutler clearly struck a nerve within the fraternity of NFL players. Why? Is there an undercurrent of dislike for Cutler around the league that had built up over time, waiting for such a moment to boil over and spew criticism in his direction? There’s something to be said for the way professional athletes are wired to do anything and everything to get on the field, and stay on the field. But had the same situation played out for another quarterback — say Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger — would the same reaction have taken place? Why was the snap judgment to give Cutler no benefit of the doubt?
I think those are valid questions. I’m not sure I have a handle on all of the answers.
When it was revealed Monday that Cutler had suffered a sprained MCL, several of the Bears were still steaming over the initial backlash. And Bears coach Lovie Smith said something I found very interesting.
“Surprised. I haven’t seen it before,” Smith said about the reaction from NFL players. “It seems like if you’re in that fraternity you would be stepping up for your fellow man, especially when you don’t know.”
“For guys to take a shot that weren’t there, to try to look at his body language and figure out whether he was hurt because he was on the sideline or what [they] would do in that situation, you don’t know what you would do in that situation,” Smith added.
The cruel reality of Twitter also became apparent as Cutler was bashed by his contemporaries. Because, with increasing frequency, we’re getting unbiased, unfiltered reaction from players in situations and on topics we never would have heard from them before. No longer do players need to be asked the question to get immediate reaction on anything.
They just hit send. In increments of 140 characters, Cutler was under attack, like we’ve never seen before. In real-time, it unfolded right before our computer screens. It’s a new world people.
Interesting. Amazing. And scary. An injury story about Cutler turned dramatic before the game had even ended.
The argument that his body language was devoid of any urgency or heart to get back into the game falls far short of credible. Really? Maybe Cutler’s demeanor does carry certain perceptions. But how does anyone know with any certainty? Everyone who is a body language expert raise your hand. Thought so.
Unfortunately for Cutler, it seems like this will follow him. The fact is most of the opinions on whether he should have played or not are just that — opinions. And that’s fine. Thanks to tools like Twitter, snap judgments like these are reaching us faster than ever before, before anyone has had time to seek any truth in the matter, and they’re making more of an impact. Cutler was convicted in the court of public opinion. Case closed, no benefit of doubt. There’s no time for that.
Maybe we all just need to step back and catch our breath. But, before you do, make sure all your Tweeps and Facebook friends know what you’re up to.
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