National Football League
Why Cutler burns us up
National Football League

Why Cutler burns us up

Published Jan. 24, 2011 12:00 a.m. ET

Maybe now the LeBron James sycophants will quit playing the race card.

Maybe now they’ll accept the visceral, instantaneous and emotional rejection of their King in the aftermath of The Decision was primarily a confluence of factors that had little to do with race.

Social media, our cultural, unhealthy obsession with sports and the thin line between our love and hate for spoiled, clueless millionaire athletes led to the widespread loathing of LeBron.

The same thing happened to Jay Cutler on Sunday.


In the biggest game of his career, shortly after playing 30 minutes of awful football, Cutler laid down on the Bears and the city of Chicago. Hiding behind a knee injury, he tapped out in much the same way LeBron James tapped out with an elbow injury against the Celtics during last year’s playoffs.

I’m sorry. I don’t need an MRI to confirm King Cutler quit.

FOX cameras provided all the evidence I need.

Cutler suffered a knee injury, not a head injury. The only reason Cutler spent the second half of the NFC Championship bundled up on the Chicago sideline looking like an aloof, uninvolved punter was because he mentally checked out.

You do remember King James staring off into space as Mike Brown tried to coach the Cavs late in the Celtics series?

To their credit -- and perhaps their cowardice -- Cavaliers fans didn’t turn on their King until he hosted a rub-their-noses-in-it TV special celebrating his betrayal of his home-state team.

Imagine the reaction in Chicago if Cutler makes the slightest public-relations slip between now and when Bears’ doctors reveal Cutler may never walk again. You think LeBron is despised? Let the wrong syllable come out of Cutler’s mouth and President Obama won’t be able to rehabilitate Cutler’s reputation.

Despite all their strong words defending Cutler, I bet you couldn’t pay Brian Urlacher and Lovie Smith to start Cutler’s car for the next month. Cutler is the new Steve Bartman, the interfering Cubs fan.

For the record, Cutler is white and so are the overwhelming majority of Bears fans.

In this era of 24-hour news, Internet anonymity and blogging, public sentiment can turn vicious rather quickly regardless of your race.

Within minutes of the conclusion of Green Bay’s 21-14 victory, a picture of Chicago fans burning a Cutler jersey showed up on my Twitter feed. Fans started pointing out that Tom Brady played all season needing surgery on his foot, Willis Reed limped through Game 7 of the NBA Finals with a torn muscle in his thigh, Ronnie Lott cut off a piece of his finger to play, etc.

Fans were irate.

Worse was the reaction of Cutler’s NFL peers. Current and former players trashed Cutler on Twitter and on TV.

The backlash against Cutler overshadowed the Packers’ victory and drove discussion all Monday.

Football is the ultimate gladiator sport. It’s a PED sport. Right or wrong, the culture dictates that you inject yourself with whatever is necessary to play. You gut it out on a bad knee, hope that you do no further damage and deal with the consequences the next day and for the rest of your life.

My right knee hurts as I’m writing this. I played my last season at Ball State with a torn ACL. My 160-pound roommate played most of the season with a serious neck injury. Yeah, we were naive, stupid and probably exploited.

I’d do it again. And knowing what I know now, I’d probably come back and play my fifth year. If they gave me a $50 million contract and Todd Collins was my backup, you’d have to fight me to get me off the field in the NFC Championship.

Deion Sanders roasted Cutler on the NFL Network. Michael Irvin sang in Deion’s choir.

Cutler’s defenders miss the point. No one is really questioning Cutler’s toughness. We know he took a beating this season behind a leaky offensive line.

We’re questioning Cutler’s love of the game. A quarterback, a leader, has to love the game.

On Sunday, Cutler carried himself like someone who plays football primarily because he was born with the gift and the job pays well. It turned us off. It upset us.

No matter your football resume -- high school hero, college scrub, retired Super Bowl champion -- if you love the game, you would’ve given anything to be in Cutler’s shoes on Sunday. And you believe you would’ve handled the situation differently.

It’s that exact same belief -- not race -- that drove you to loathe LeBron.


Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more