The Billy Cundiff Rorschach Test
It’s been an emotional 48 hours. Let’s call it a “cooling off period.” If you said anything bananas on Facebook or Twitter or to an entire room full of your friends, so be it. All is forgiven, tensions were running high, after all. It was an abnormally stressful situation in perhaps the biggest game in a decade for Baltimore Ravens fans.
Now that the cooling off period is over, and you’ve perhaps retracted or rethought some of the things you said or wrote, how do you feel towards Billy Cundiff? If you’re not experiencing something nearing “empathy” by now, that’s a problem.
I’m not saying you can’t be frustrated or wring your hands over the should-haves and what-ifs. That’s natural when you’re so invested in a cause that fails, especially one you have no direct control over. However at this point, the deconstruction of the Ravens 23-20 loss needs to be about the game and the playoff run in its entirety, not a single play (which happened to be the last play of the season).
Billy Cundiff did as we all should and will do in life: he tried and failed. There is literally no reason for Cundiff to have not given his best effort under the circumstances. Things could’ve gone down differently. A timeout could’ve been burned, a catch could have been made, a block could’ve been sealed just a bit longer – nobody is faultless on an NFL Sunday. Nobody. AFC Championship games included.
So ruling out the fact that Cundiff didn’t try and make the kick, what are we left with? The answer is that we are forced to confront our own doubts, fears, failures, and fallibility. If you’re screaming at Billy Cundiff still a day or two later, Google mapping Lee Evans’ home or a deranged Niners “fan” sending death threats to Kyle Williams via Twitter, you have a lot more going on than fandom.
The most basic SVU-watching armchair psychologists know lack of empathy is a problem. It can suggest several things in a person, be it a warning sign of antisocial personality disorder, or more commonly narcissistic personality disorder. In short, to still be “angry” at Billy Cundiff or anyone directly who tried and failed on Sunday, suggests a potential lack of ability to connect with the emotions of other humans. I have one acquaintance who I follow on Facebook. We don’t interact much these days, but it doesn’t take long to glean that this person clearly suffers from narcissistic personality disorder. His reaction to Cundiff’s failure was and continues to be predictable and frankly, a little chilling.
In addition to these cataloged emotional disorders, there is the other simple possibility of projection. It’s extremely cliche’, but too often true that if your neck is red and there’s a vein the size of an Esskay on your forehead, the Ravens missing out on the Super Bowl might not be the only traumatic thing going on in your life. I suppose if screaming at football men on the television is your way to manage those feelings, I can’t really stop you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a 1:1 correlation of lambasting Billy Cundiff and having a mental illness or traumatic stress. Maybe you’re just caught up in the fervor and detached from the reality of the situation (like telling an insensitive joke after tragedy). Maybe you seek attention or acceptance by making publicly over-the-top statements about what you would do in the situation. Maybe you’re just angry, and need hyperbole to fully realize your anger in words.
It’s very easy to say “it’s just a game.” You and I as somewhat mentally sound individuals understand this on some level. Perhaps it will take a few of our fellow Ravens fans longer to admit than than others. Ultimately, most fans are refreshingly empathetic to the Cundiffs of the world. After the cooling off period, most people I know have come to their senses and gotten on with their lives, lamenting this NFL season and looking forward to the next.
Look at Billy Cundiff. Look at Lee Evans. Look at Kyle Williams, Bill Buckner, Scott Norwood, Steve Bartman, or Chris Webber. What do you see? How does it make you feel? If you can, please let go. It’s better for everyone involved. If not, I ask with all sincerity, please seek professional help.
Dave Gilmore lives in Baltimore and writes “The Win Column” for Baltimore Sports Report. He is currently working on a novel about college football. Find him on Twitter @dave_gilmore or visit his web site at davegilmorejr.com