“You Hate to See That”: On Not Rooting for Injuries

So back in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving—the Cavaliers’ other good player—went down with a knee injury at the very end of the game. As it happened, he was unable to return for the rest of the series, but after the game it wasn’t clear how serious it was, and everyone expressed hope that he might be able to return. Steve Kerr, the coach of the Warriors, anticipated some skepticism regarding this sentiment: “You probably don’t believe me, but I mean that.” To which Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky responded, “I definitely don’t believe him, because the LeBron and Mozgov Show [i.e., the only effective players on the team other than Irving] probably isn’t enough to hang with the Warriors.” In other words, this was a godsend for Golden State, so it was a bit rich to think that Kerr didn’t appreciate that.

For what it’s worth, I did and do believe Kerr was telling the truth. Kerr’s a former player himself, so I think he can appreciate the physical and emotional anguish of that injury better than we can as fans. More than that, since the Warriors were favored in the series anyway, it’s not hard to imagine that the idea of beating a full-strength opponent for the championship was more satisfying than the idea of steamrolling an injured squad.

At the same time, Petchesky’s cynical response is understandable, because the “I hope he’s okay” quote from a player or coach from the other side is kind of a cliche at this point. And not just the people on the field: the announcers and fans will generally come out with a “You hate to see that” whenever an opposing player is hurt. I can only speak from my own experience, but if that experience is at all representative, the “You hate to see that” response is almost rote.

So why do we put so much emphasis on not wanting opposing players to be injured? Continue reading