Gonzo: Philadelphia was a cheap target in hit on Colts receiver

Colts wide receiver Austin Collie slumps to the field after a hit by the Eagles' Quintin Mikell (right) and Kurt Coleman (far left).
Colts wide receiver Austin Collie slumps to the field after a hit by the Eagles' Quintin Mikell (right) and Kurt Coleman (far left).
Posted: November 10, 2010

We should have known. We should have seen it coming. When the rest of the nation needs a convenient villain, Philadelphia invariably is chosen.

The hit Sunday on Colts wide receiver Austin Collie was brutal and unfortunate - a grim reminder that football is a violent game, and careers aren't promised. After Kurt Coleman and Quintin Mikell collided with Collie, the wideout lay motionless on Lincoln Financial Field. Stadium workers, officials, and medical personnel from both teams - almost 20 people total - immediately attended to Collie. People here and all across the country prayed for his health.

While Collie was down on the turf, something else happened: A replay of the hit - which initially looked like helmet-to-helmet contact and drew a flag from the referees - went up on the giant screens at the Linc. That's when the boos - directed at the officials for a bad call - started. And that's when you knew Philly would take another national beating.

It was a mistake to replay the hit in the stadium while Collie still wasn't moving. It shouldn't have happened. But it did, and naturally the fans watched. Then they reacted the way fans do when they see a mistake by the referees. The timing was regrettable, but booing the officials had nothing to do with Collie's situation. It all happened almost simultaneously, and at first it seemed as though some people didn't realize Collie still hadn't gotten up. There was a lot happening all at once.

Eventually, the crowd hushed, stopped focusing on the scoreboard, and turned its attention to Collie. As he was taken off the field on a stretcher, the fans showed appropriate respect and concern and clapped for Collie.

Evidently, that didn't matter. Not to Colts radio play-by-play announcer Bob Lamey or a host of other pundits.

"People who boo that call," Lamey said during the game, "are out to see people get hurt."

It was an absurd thing to say. Only the completely cruel and callous would want to see someone seriously injured. But despite how ridiculous Lamey sounded, he wasn't alone in unfairly impugning the entire stadium. One of the most aggressive attacks against Eagles fans was leveled by a pro football blogger from Yahoo Sports named Chris Chase:

"The issue," Chase wrote, "is that some Eagles fans, given time to calm down from the initial displeasure with the call, continued to boo even as Collie lay still on the ground. He was out cold. He wasn't moving. And many idiots continued their complaints about the call, as if an automatic first down for Peyton Manning was infinitely more important than the immediate health of a man on the field."

"Many idiots"? In a stadium that holds more than 60,000 people, what qualifies as "many"? I was there. It seemed that after the "initial displeasure" Chase cited, the stadium's focus shifted. Again, the immediate booing was awkward and uncomfortable, but it dissipated fairly quickly once people realized the severity of the situation.

Instead of attacking the fans for an ill-timed misunderstanding, Lamey, Chase, and other critics could have taken umbrage at the behavior of Asante Samuel and some of the other Eagles players. With Collie just a few feet away, Samuel hopped up and down like a wild man and complained to the officials as they tried to clear space for the injured Colts receiver.

Collie's teammate Reggie Wayne was asked about the behavior of Samuel and other Eagles after the game. According to the Indianapolis Star, his biggest beef was with the players, though he refused to openly discuss the matter for fear of saying something that might make the situation worse.

"I don't even want to get into that part of it," Wayne told the Star. "That'll start something I don't even want to start."

Samuel was much closer to Collie than any of the fans. He should have realized what was happening long before the crowd and waited to complain about the call until after Collie had been taken off the field. The thing is, Samuel isn't nearly as easy or useful a target as Philadelphia. Blaming the fans is the obvious move for out-of-town media members, if only because no one outside the city ever questions the lack of logic behind it.

I suspect that if you asked Lamey or Chase or any of the other disingenuous detractors, they'd probably admit that only the heartless and morally bankrupt enjoy seeing a player motionless on the field after such a gruesome hit. They'd probably admit that no one - save the deeply depraved - would boo an injured player. They'd probably admit that they were overreacting and that they didn't take time to think things through before implying that Philadelphia is overrun by savages.

Of course, taking time to think doesn't make for a very good story, and it doesn't inspire ESPN to dust off the Santa/snowball package.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gonzophilly.

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