Kyle Williams learned the hard way how cruel sports can be. There’s a fine line between hero and goat, much like the line between love and hate. The heroes are admired and the goats are notorious villains in the eyes of fans.

Kyle Williams learned the hard way how cruel sports can be.

There’s a fine line between hero and goat, much like the line between love and hate. The heroes are admired and the goats are notorious villains in the eyes of fans.

In many cases, athletes can play both roles during a career, or even one game.

Williams, the 49ers’ second-year wide receiver, had a punt bounce off his knee and another punched out by Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams — the latter leading to Lawrence Tynes’ NFC Championship-winning field goal in overtime.

The word “fan” is short for fanatic, so the emotion spewing from those plays isn’t surprising. However, some fans have crossed the line.

Kyle Williams has received death threats, according to a report from The Associated Press, and hate messages on his Twitter feed.

One tweet at Kyle Williams from the user name @javpasquel said the following:

“@KyleWilliams_10 I hope you, youre wife, kids and family die, you deserve it.”

There is something wrong with people who think like that, even in jest. The user @javpasquel has a 49ers logo as his twitter avatar, so presumably it’s an angry fan upset over his team’s heartbreaking loss.

It’s fine for fans to be invested in a team’s success or failure and be upset or jubilant. There is a line, however, and some people crossed it with their treatment of Kyle Williams.

When the Bills’ Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kick return that helped the New England Patriots seal a victory two years ago, his lawn was vandalized. Luckily, that’s as far as it went, but it has to make athletes worry for their own safety when people invade their personal property.

Think back to the World Cup 1994, when Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar stretched to break up a pass against the United States and the ball went into his own net. The U.S. won the game 2-1 and a heavily favored Colombian team was eliminated from the tournament.

Then 10 days later, Escobar was murdered in his hometown of Medellin, and reports have said the alleged killers shouted “Thanks for the own goal” in Spanish before firing their guns.

Think about that for a second. ... A man died because of a mistake in a game.

Passion for sports is fine and rooting for teams is natural, but taking it to such an extreme is unhealthy to say the least.

Hopefully nobody even thinks about making good on these threats of violence on Kyle Williams, but even a joke or a momentary fit of emotion can be dangerous.

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Kyle Williams was not the only person who will be remembered for mistakes during NFL?Championship weekend. Much like Kyle Williams, it’s hard not to feel terrible for Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff and wide receiver Lee Evans. As many know from his time with the Bills, Evans is a super guy who seemed to genuinely love playing in Buffalo.

Evans had a forgettable season in Baltimore with only four catches in nine games, but suddenly found himself making an impact in the AFC?Championship game. Evans had three catches for 39 yards before his drop in the end zone that would have — barring a miracle — sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl.

Sure, the ball was knocked out of his grasp, but Evans still should have found a way to secure it before New England’s Sterling Moore punched it out.

As for Cundiff, he simply fell victim to the cruel world of NFL?kickers. Tynes walked away as a hero again, while Cundiff is being compared to Scott Norwood.

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No more doubting Tom.

Tom Coughlin has had a roller coaster career with the New York Giants. He has been fired by the media and fans at least three times, but here he is once again leading his team to the Super Bowl.

The late-season collapses are black marks on his resume, but these two runs to the Super Bowl are so improbable that it outweighs the bad at this point.

He and Eli?Manning are linked in many ways and his quarterback has not disappointed. Manning also came close to being run out of town before the magical run four years ago.

The same way football was cruel to Kyle Williams, Billy Cundiff, and Lee Evans on Sunday night, is the same way it’s been great to a guy like Manning who is suddenly in the discussion as the greatest Giants’ quarterback ever.

Funny how things can change.

Follow Paul Jannace on Twitter at @pjscribe.