As someone who has survived the Bay Area earthquake, a clogged artery, two head-on highway collisions and a crazed baseball manager who set off a nationwide storm by calling me “a (bleeping) fag,” I can say those experiences were minor compared to the disturbed creature known as The Angry Fan.
Truly, hell hath no fury like a sports fan scorned. He will locate you on Twitter and threaten your life. He will hunt you down in a stadium and scream obscenities at you. He will leave you a voice mail on your office phone and say, “I will blow your skull to bits, I’LL DO IT DAMN IT!!!” And those are just some things that a sports columnist deals with in a place like Chicago.
Matt Schaub has been having a horrendous season for the Houston Texans, a team whose Super Bowl aspirations have melted to goo. As the quarterback who was supposed to engineer championship glory, Schaub instead became a turnover machine who somehow made NFL history of a dubious sort: In four straight games, he threw interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. He should have been demoted after his first pass on “Sunday Night Football” was Pick-6’d in San Francisco, but Texans coach Gary Kubiak, not wanting to break Schaub’s fading confidence, chose to start him Sunday at home against St. Louis.
What Kubiak underestimated was the level of anti-Schaub hostility in Houston. He should have known better after an incident at Schaub’s home last week, with an NFL security official confirming that an individual pulled into the driveway and shouted obscenities. Schaub’s teammates responded in kind, with tight end Owen Daniels calling it “childish, pathetic” and linebacker Brian Cushing saying, “I don’t think that guy would be around much longer” if he’d showed up in Cushing’s driveway. Meanwhile, a Houston restaurant added a new item — a Pick Six Burger — to its menu, offering the sandwich with a choice of six toppings. And, oh, there were the tailgating fans outside Reliant Stadium burning Schaub’s jersey a couple of weeks back.
Incredibly, it was only the beginning of a disgusting story.
With the Texans trailing 31-6 late in the third quarter of their latest nightmare, Schaub was sacked by Chris Long and suffered a right ankle injury. Though he hadn’t played poorly or thrown an interception — his teammates were committing the turnovers on this day — the sight of Schaub down on the turf was enough for some Texans fans to turn despicable and start cheering. When backup T.J. Yates entered, the cheering grew louder, though Yates would extend the Pick-6 streak to five games and trigger thundering boos when his interception was returned 98 yards for a score by Rams rookie Alec Ogletree. The final score was 38-13, the fourth straight loss for a team many of us had projected as an AFC champion.
The chances of a turnaround aren’t good, not when the players are firing back at the fans, per ESPN.com.
“Disgusting,” left tackle Duane Brown said.
“Barbaric,” Cushing said.
“For all the guy’s done for the city and team … that’s straight up disrespectful,” Yates said.
Said star receiver Andre Johnson: “It’s bad when members of the other team are saying that’s messed up that they would do something like that. It just shows no class. It wasn’t all the fans. But those are the same people that you’re out somewhere with your family and you tell them they can’t have an autograph right now, those are the same people that tell you you’re rude. … You don’t cheer about nobody being injured — I don’t care who it is. Guys lay their bodies on the line out there on that field. Some guys get injuries and it affects them their whole lives. To cheer about something like that, it just shows they have no class.”
No lives, actually.
It’s debatable whether Schaub, who has problems with his entire lower leg, has a long-term future with the Texans. His turnover crisis isn’t new — he has been killing them with critical mistakes much of his career — and the team can escape the $69.7 million extension signed last year without much salary-cap damage and no future guaranteed money. All the Texans have to do is cut him after June 1, and by then, don’t be shocked if they’re grooming a new starter — Yates or local college favorite Case Keenum. Also don’t be surprised if they try to mend fences with fans by drafting Johnny Manziel, who does his on- and off-field damage up the road at Texas A&M.
For now, you just feel sorry for Schaub — and wonder what would possess an idiot to cheer when he’s hurt and in pain. “We appreciate you loyal fans and the fans that stick by us; I want to put that out there first,” Brown said. “But for the fans that cheered when he got hurt, that’s disgusting. You can feel how you want about him as a player, but this is his livelihood. This is how he provides for his family. When a man goes down and he’s not able to get up and you’re cheering, that’s bad. It’s all bad. You don’t know what’s wrong with him at that point. That could be the last play of his career. You don’t know that. And for you to cheer and applaud that, I have no words for that.”
And seek professional help.