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

 

9 Comments

  1. Pingback: Disappointed Ravens expect pain to linger – Annapolis Capital | headlinenewsreport.org

  2. Matthew Edward

    January 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    You can plead with fans to let it go, and in the majority of cases, it probably will be. The problem is, the sports world can never let that play go, just like the blunders by Buckner, Norwood, and Bartman. These are unforgivable gaffes that have defined the other men on the list. If Cundiff remains on the Ravens roster, the only way he may ever redeem himself is with a game-winning kick in a Championship game or Super Bowl. Chances are he’ll never get that chance again, and the world will remember nothing of him aside from a 30-second clip; a locum of his failure that ignores every other moment of his life. His past and future successes may be great, but this failure is unforgettable. At this point, you’re right in asserting that the man does not deserve our ill will and does not deserve to be threatened with harm. Empathy? Yes. But forgiveness? No… Not yet.

  3. MGW

    January 24, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Signed Cundiff to a relatively big deal fresh off one good season was a mistake. 5 years at almost $15 million was and is ridiculous. Even if a to of that money never gets paid, it will have salary cap impacts. It was a dumb move.

  4. Ol' Bruz

    January 24, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    WGM — How can you say that? BC worked his way through, what, seven different teams and spent some time, as I recall, out of the League, before catching lightning in a bottle in 2010. Why would it be foolish to think he “suddenly figured things out” after all he’d been through?

  5. spy

    January 25, 2012 at 10:01 am

    Ozzie does it again , this is just one example of why the Ravens are cap saddled this year and beyond,,,,,,,,the dynamic duo of Harbaugh and Newsome have kept this team from super bowls , Harbaugh gets criticized all the time but Ozzie does not , can anyone tell me why ?

    • PKG

      February 3, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      “Harbaugh gets criticized all the time but Ozzie does not , can anyone tell me why ?”

      Uhh…Ray Lewis, Jon Ogden, C-Mac, Ed Reed, Jamal Lewis, Suggs, Ngata, Webb, etc… Sure there have been some duds too (Boller, Travis Taylor, Sergio, basically any wide receiver he ever drafted, etc…), but Ozzie is one of the most consistently good GMs in the league. Would you prefer the trainwreck that is the Washington Redskins front office of the last decade plus?

  6. Rick in Falls Church, VA

    January 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I really don’t have ill will toward Cundiff, as much as ill feelings toward Harballs and Camoron who should have controlled the clock, thrown a red flag earlier on ball spots, and called better plays those last 30 seconds. They’re allegedly in charge, but certainly weren’t large on the most important game of their careers. That being said, I didn’t know that Dave Gilmore is a degreed social psychologist. Speaking of Buckner, I suppose several generations of the millions comprising Boston Red Sox fandom are all mentally dysfunctional. Who would have thunk. I just hope that, since I now have been diagnosed by someone I’ve never met, I hope I’ll never meet because, you know, us dysfunctionals may take a beer bottle and smash it on his skull or something like that. Gilmore, you have exposed yourself as a frickin’ twit.

  7. Edgar Walker

    February 2, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Great read. Provocative and insightful.

    Classic Gilmore.

    -E

  8. world clock

    February 7, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    The Billy Cundiff Rorschach Test | Baltimore Sports Report – just great!