I must admit that when it happened, my initial thought was not the one that I currently hold. During Chicago's recent loss to the Texans, Jay Cutler had one of his passes intercepted by former Bear Daniel Manning. As he was walking off the field, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was seen shaking his hand, congratulating him on a nice play.
Could this be happening? This is war, isn't it? This is a sport where we expect our favorite players to forget they are actually human beings as well as athletes. Isn't it?
What's really great about this whole situation was Urlacher's reaction to it all. He said:
"That was a nice play. I could give a crap about what people think on the street. Get mad at me all you want, I could give ... I could give a crap about what people say. Danieal Manning is a friend of mine, he was a teammate for five or six years, and that's the way it is. He made a catch and was running toward the sideline to say something to Coach, so I walked out there."
He then went on to say:
"When the play is over, it's over. It's not like I have to go out there and be a jerk to him because it's during the game and I'm a tough guy. That's not the way it is. They're my friends. Between the whistles I'm going to try and get them, and when the play is over we'll go back to doing whatever."
You see, Brian Urlacher is a man who is confident about who he is as a football player. He transcends the game, and doesn't forget that he has feelings, and can appreciate a good play, whether that be by a team mate, or an opponent.
You sometimes see it in other sports as well, although it is a dying art. Tennis players still occasionally pat their own racket in a clapping manner if an opponent plays an exquisite shot against them. Over here in the UK, where snooker is still pretty popular, players will tap their cue on the table in appreciation of outstanding play from their opponent.
None of this means they don't want to win. Urlacher's actions do not mean he wants the other team to win. It's not as if he went jumping over to their sideline and started high fiving the Texans and their coaching staff. It was a sign of respect, from one football player to another. And I for one, think there should be more of it.
I mentioned before how some people think that football is the be all and end all, and that the world should stop every Sunday as we watch our beloved team take to the field and go to war. But that, frankly, is ridiculous.
Brian Urlacher, throughout his career has played the game about as hard as anyone can. He wants to win, and when an opposing running back is coming towards him, he'll do everything he can to stop them in in their tracks. But in between plays, he'll remember that he has a heart, and that there's nothing wrong with giving credit where it's due.
Urlacher also spoke about helping opponents up after they've been tackled, saying:
'Why did you help that guy up after you tackled him?' Because I wanted to. What's the big deal? 'Butkus would have never done that.' Well, I'm not Dick Butkus. I'm Brian Urlacher, and sometimes I help people up. Sorry if that (ticks) you off."
I applaud Urlacher for demonstrating that kind of attitude. Even though it's a tough, physical game, let's not forget our manners, and let's remember that this is just a sport. It is not a matter of life and death, and anyone who thinks that needs their head examining.