I caught one of CBS's two replays of Kevin Ware's horrific injury last night right after the play occurred. My brother-in-law watched it live and then called me over to the TV. He didn't mean anything malicious by it. He just saw it and his first impulse was to grab someone nearby and be like, "Holy shit, look at what just happened." After I saw the replay and let out the appropriate wince, I watched the replay of it a few more times here at Deadspin. And whenever someone sent me a picture of the injury, I opened it, even though most of the photos were clearly fake. Now, if you believe the Internet, this makes me a sick fuck. And if you engaged in likewise behavior, it makes YOU a sick fuck.
Take a look at all of the shaming that went on yesterday in the wake of Ware's injury. Here's Bill Simmons, who needed only a few months on TV to completely morph into Michael Wilbon:
Here's my friend Spencer Hall, who linked to a photo chastising you for wanting to see a photo of Ware getting hurt.
Former Deadspin night editor Erik Malinowski bitched out the Big Lead for posting a GIF of the injury. The folks at SBNation proudly tweeted that they would not do likewise. The implication of all these tweets is the same: that merely looking at Ware's injury automatically means you're reveling in it, that posting a GIF of the injury essentially makes you a proprietor of violence porn.
This is all complete shit. I understand why CBS stopped showing replays of the injury—viewers can't opt out, short of changing the channel—and I guess I see why people object to a GIF being posted of the injury since you can't choose to stop a GIF, even though, judging by my computer, every GIF in history takes 85 years to load and has the resolution of a security-cam feed seen through a cheesecloth. But let's not go apeshit trying to seize the moral high ground here. You're not a terrible person for watching—or furnishing—a replay of that injury. And you're not a fucking hero for being Mr. Internet Babysitter and covering the eyes of all the innocent fawns surfing the web.
I wanted to watch the replay of the injury for the same reason a lot of other people wanted to see it: because it was important. Because something dramatic and terrifying had happened in a major televised sporting event. And I'm not supposed to watch it? Get over yourself. It's not like I watched the replay of Ware's leg exploding and was like HAVE A NICE TRIP, BRO! SEE YOU NEXT FALL AHAHAHAHAHA! That would make me a prick. I didn't laugh. I didn't find myself entertained. I just felt like this was something I needed to see. And of course it was gruesome. And terrible. And I wish it had never happened. But it's not like the world would've been a brighter place had it not been for my click-throughs.
Besides, there's nothing virtuous in attempting to hide the violent consequences of playing a sport, or in deluding yourself that you're somehow less complicit because you didn't press "play." To be a sports fan is to make a series of moral compromises—about the sociopathic players you root for, the crooked owner whose tickets you buy, the parasitic stadium you sit in; about the very effects of all these exciting games on the people who play them. Bones get broken. Faces get rearranged. Brains get mushed. Nasty shit happens all the time to the athletes who contort their bodies for our entertainment.
I'm an adult. I don't need to be protected from the ugliness of sports, and I don't need to be tut-tutted by other people for wanting to see it up close, for wondering what it was that had made Ware's teammates react in such horror, what had made Rick Pitino dab tears from his eyes, what had made my brother-in-law yelp. It's perfectly normal to see those emotions and want to go to their source. That's a human instinct, much more so than jumping up on a pedestal and shouting at the world to look away. No one's gonna hand you a fucking trophy, you moral showboats, for displaying such remarkable willpower. I watched Ware break his leg. I watched Tyson bite off Holyfield's ear. I watched RG3's leg crumble like a pretzel stick. You want to be an ethical sports fan? Don't watch sports.