Why would someone who typically blogs about biblical counseling and Christian living spend an entire blog post writing about Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears? Because God has hard-wired into my DNA two attributes: empathy and a sense of fairness/justice. Those are two traits that make me who I am as a biblical counselor. I feel bad for how Jay Cutler is being maligned. I think it is unfair. So let’s talk about it.
Full Disclosure: I’m a huge Bears fan. I admit to having been frustrated by Cutler’s inconsistencies and by his apparent demeanor on and off the field when things are going poorly for him. Still, I think what has been said about him is patently unfair.
If you’re not a sports fan, then perhaps you have not heard about the fall-out from the Bears/Packers playoff football game. Jay Cutler, the Bears’ starting QB, could not play most of the second half. He injured his knee, since diagnosed as a Grade II MCL tear which typically takes three-to-four weeks to heal.
Many of his fellow NFL players instantly took to Twitter and to sports talk programs to castigate Cutler as a quitter, a wimp, a loser, a horrible teammate. Chicago sports “fans” burned his # 6 jersey. Journalists questioned whether he’s a leader and expressed dismay that he did not appear to be supporting his teammates after his injury.
The Rest of the Story
How can outsiders, even football players who are not teammates, make a judgment on Cutler from a distance? Two of Cutler’s toughest teammates, Brian Urlacher and Olin Kreutz immediately came to Cutler’s defense saying he is tough as nails and that he was legitimately hurt.
His coach, Lovie Smith, and his General Manager, Jerry Angelo, both subsequently came to his defense. Smith said:
“Jay didn’t take himself out of the game so if you want to attack somebody, you should be attacking me as the head football coach, and our medical staff. We’re the ones. He wanted to go back in. He was injured and went back in in the second half so I see it the complete opposite of how it’s being portrayed right now.”
Angelo was even more forceful.
“'If you think Jay Cutler isn’t tough, something’s wrong with your vision of what toughness is,”' Angelo said. “'I can’t even believe I’m sitting here talking about Cutler’s toughness. If you asked me about Jay Cutler, I’ll talk about his toughness first and then his arm strength.”
Some critics claimed that Cutler was disinterested in the game and unhelpful to his back-up, Caleb Hanie, after his injury. Yet, here’s what Hanie had to say.
“To hear that criticism of him, that he doesn’t care about the game when he’s out of the game is very aggravating when you know … I can tell you first-hand that he was very encouraging to me and helped me out tremendously during the game.”
That’s just one quote. Hanie went on and on in support of Cutler’s encouragement and help.
Everyone associated with the team is denying that he is a quitter, a wimp, a loser, or a bad teammate. I’m going to believe them.
One reporter, Jim Trotter, claimed that when he informed Cutler of how other players where criticizing him, that Cutler had to fight back tears. Others who were there denied that. Either way, some have used it as further ammunition: “See, he is a crybaby.” As if tears and toughness could not co-exist. I’ve ministered to a number of professional sports players. They’re human like the rest of us. They’re tough; and they cry.
So…let’s not question a man’s manhood or take shots at his livelihood.
The Larger Story: It Goes Way Beyond Football
If this were just about football, that would be bad enough. But it’s not just in the macho world of football that we judge and condemn one another. We see it everywhere. We see it in middle school where a pack of teenage boys or girls gang up on a peer and spread rumors and malicious insults fueled by the selfish need to build their own standing in the pack.
Even worse, we see it in the church. What leader has not been savaged by church critics who think they understand every motive of the leader’s heart and deem themselves the leader’s judge, jury, and executioner?
It’s not only in the local church, but also in the larger church. Critics who have nothing more to do with their time than to quote a person out of context, try to bludgeon a good person’s reputation with false accusations or guilt-by-false-association.
It really is time that we quit living like a bunch of seventh-graders. It really is time that we got our facts straight and our attitudes straight. That we lived the way Jesus commanded us to live: loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Doing unto others as we would want others to do unto us.
And, it’s time that, like Kreutz, Urlacher, Hanie, Smith, and Angelo did for Cutler, we have each other's backs. When someone is being verbally assaulted and judged, let's not just stand there. Let’s stand up for them. Cutler, whom people claim is not tough, spent more time on his back due to sacks than any other quarterback in the NFL. Yet he picked himself up time after time. Let's not be like a porous offensive line and let one another get sacked. Let’s guard each other's blindside from malicious attack.
Jay Cutler, I feel for you, man. Win or lose, you don’t deserve this. Hang in there. Don’t’ define yourself by how others define you. Only God knows your heart.