In his viral comments following the Montana-Montana State football game, Bobcat quarterback Tommy Mellott used a loaded word.

“Quit trying to dehumanize those guys over there,” the Butte High graduate said, in part, in a live television interview.

Most people seemed to see what Mellott was saying. While it was probably not possible to do it at the time, he was trying to save the Grizzly players in the moment.

He knows what it is like to lose a big game, and he did not want his fans to pile on the Grizzlies. (Click here for a podcast version of this column.)

Since the comments seemed to strike a chord with so many, there could be some hope that his words will help down the line.

The word “dehumanize” is what really jumped out. It seemed to have a lot of people scratching their heads because it is not something they thought they would hear following a sporting event.

Looking back at it nearly two months later, it is easy to see that Mellott used the perfect word. Dehumanizing is what sports fans — and so many of those in charge of running the games — do way too often.

We clearly saw that when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin nearly lost his life on live television last Monday night.

Before Hamlin even made it to the hospital, Skip Bayless, of the television show “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed,” tweeted that the game was too big to postpone.

After it became apparent that the tweet clinched Bayless’ spot as the biggest jerk in sports, he tweeted that he was sorry if his tweet was misunderstood.

He never said he was sorry for being so insensitive or crude. He offered the “if you were offended” apology, which is not an apology at all.

It also made his tweet appear even worse since he is, after all, someone who makes his living with the written and spoken word. So, in addition to confirming his jerk status, he showed us that he is not that smart with words, either.

Others went to social media saying the game must be finished because of its fantasy football implications.

None of those idiots, however, can compare to the National Football League when it comes to dehumanizing its players.

After the ambulance left the field, players were supposedly told they have 5 minutes to warm up to resume the game.

The league denied this the next day, but it was clearly conveyed to the players. Why else would Joe Burrow start warming up by throwing the football?

Why else would announcer Joe Buck repeatedly tell his audience that the players were getting 5 minutes before the game started again?

As much as he has annoyed me over the last 25 years, Buck is a trusted voice. He would not make something like that up.

Can you imagine if you are at your office, and your co-worker drops on the floor with cardiac arrest. The co-worker is taken to the hospital after CPR was administered, and you are left wondering if he or she is going to make it as the ambulance drives away.

Then, your boss comes in and says, “OK, everybody take 5 minutes to regroup and then get back to work.”

Pretty much every boss in pretty much every company has way too much compassion to even think about this. The NFL, though, said “back to work.”

It was clear that the coaches put a halt to such silliness. 

While the league tried to deny its insensitivity, we can easily see right through that. We have seen the league and teams dehumanize players so many times over the years that we know better.

We saw that when Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa wobbled like a punch-drunk boxer after taking a hit in a game earlier this year. The Dolphins “doctor” cleared the quarterback to go play, and the team told us that it was a back injury.

Unless the hit somehow turned the quarterback’s spine into Jell-O, it was clear to everyone in the free world that Tagovailoa suffered a concussion.

The Dolphins had him start a game four days later, and he could have easily been killed when he suffered another concussion when he was violently thrown to the turf by a Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman.

That the NFL makes players play games on Sunday and then again on Thursday shows that they give very little about the health of its players in the first place.

You see the NFL dehumanize players all the time. You see it when a roster-bubble player is cut, with an injury settlement, the second he goes down in camp.

You see it when a coach yells “next man up,” when a player is hurt.

It happens in other sports, too.

I once asked Butte native Rob Johnson how he played most of a season for the Seattle Mariners with torn labrums in both hips. I also asked him why. The pain must have been excruciating each time he crouched down to catch.

The reason he played, Rob said, was that he knew they would send him to the minors or maybe even cut him if he said he was hurt. Since he was not an established star, Johnson knew he was disposable.

That’s a word you hear a lot in sports, too. They refer to human beings as “expendable” and “disposable.”

Those are words we should save for cheap razors, not people.

Thankfully, Damar Hamlin is doing better. He is not out of the woods yet, but he has shown signs of improvement.

If there is a silver lining to the Hamlin scare is that it also showed off the very best in people.

We saw that with the first responders who literally brought Hamlin back to life on the football field.

We saw that with the announcers and ESPN studio analysts. A script does not exist on how to handle such a situation, and, for the most part, they handled it elegantly.

We also saw the good from the fans donating millions of dollars to Hamlin’ s toy drive. His original goal for the drive was to raise $2,500. As of this weekend, it was over $8 million.

You see it when you go out in the community and hear people talking about Hamlin. So many people are concerned for the young man whose name they probably never heard before.

A divided country is united in its concern for a stranger.

When the 24-year-old player fell to the field, most people saw him as something more than a football player. They saw him as someone who could have been their son, their brother or their friend.

They saw him as human.

When it comes to cheering on professional — or even college — teams, most of us do not know a single player on the roster. Jerry Seinfeld once joked about that.

“You’re actually rooting for the clothes, when you get right down to it,” he said. “You are standing and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city.”

There is so much truth to that.

Hopefully, this terrifying situation with Damar Hamlin will help us all start to see the human beings inside of those clothes.

— Bill Foley, who is borderline human, can be reached at Follow him at to the ButteCast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.