Credits: Reuters/DAVE KAUP
What is anybody supposed to feel about the worst tragedy by far to hit the NFL in its annus horribilus of off-field happenings?
Shock? Anger? Disgust? Sympathy? Empathy? Or just sadness?
Maybe all of it.
It has always eluded me how anyone can make immediate sense of his emotions when they’re in the tumbler like this after news hits of the following kind:
According to police and news reports, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher on Saturday morning shot his girlfriend five times and killed her, in the presence of her mother. He then drove five miles to his team’s complex and met three team mentors in the parking lot – his GM, head coach and position coach.
There, Belcher pointed a gun at his own head, thanked the trio for what they’d done for him, ignored their pleas, turned, began walking away – then shot himself in the head, dead. Right in front of them.
Belcher was 25. His girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins, was 22.
They are survived by their three-month-old girl.
And that’s the heart-wrench of it.
Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt released this statement Saturday afternoon:
“The entire Chiefs family is deeply saddened by today’s events, and our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy, thoughts and prayers for the families and friends affected by this unthinkable tragedy. We sincerely appreciate the expressions of sympathy and support we have received from so many in the Kansas City and NFL communities, and ask for continued prayers for the loved ones of those impacted.
“We will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities and work to ensure that the appropriate counselling resources are available to all members of the organization.”
But, hey, there’s a game to play. Can’t imagine the counsellors are endorsing that.
Yes, the game will go on, by God. You have money on the outcome if you felt any sense of relief upon learning that news.
Imagine being Romeo Crennel. A little more than 24 hours after powerlessly watching Belcher off himself in so violent a manner, the head coach must lead 46 Chiefs players onto the field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday at noon, Central time, to play a football game.
A football game.
Same thing for one of Crennel’s defensive coaches, Gary Gibbs – the position coach for Belcher. Chiefs GM Scott Pioli also witnessed the horror and, presumably, will watch the game from a team suite.
Kansas City’s opponent – not that it matters in the context of this story, or any other – is the Carolina Panthers. Standings-wise, it’s as meaningless an NFL game as there is on the remaining docket. The host Chiefs are 1-10; the Panthers 3-8.
Late Saturday afternoon, Kansas City released this statement to explain the go-ahead: “After discussions between the league office, (Crennel) and Chiefs team captains, the Chiefs advised the NFL that it will play tomorrow’s game vs. the Carolina Panthers at its originally scheduled time.”
By dusk Saturday, a poll posted at the Kansas City Star’s website showed that 52% of respondents preferred the game not be played. In fairness, the team has been so inept this season that that number might have been higher until the tragedy.
So what does the club do before kickoff? Hold a moment of silence? For a double-murderer who made an infant an orphan? Let’s damn well hope not. If there is a moment of silence, it had better be for the dead woman and that poor baby of hers, and for the grieving loved ones of the dead.
And there’s the anger of it.
As for the shock? I guess I was wrong about that. There shouldn’t be any.
Politically, I’m no leftie on most issues. But I won’t ever understand the gun thing in America. Citizens of a country whose newspapers advertise 36-gun storage safes – because, ya know, for some right-to-bear-armers a 35-gun safe isn’t ample enough – cannot ever really be shocked by two more deaths by handgun, however tragic.
I get it. The gun didn’t commit the murder-suicide; Belcher did. But he did it with a gun that he, or someone, either obtained legally with ease, or illegally with ease.
Rant aside, people already are anxious to know why Belcher on his last day on earth unloaded his gun as he did.
He wasn’t exactly a household name, even in Kansas City. He was among the vast majority of the NFL’s 1,700 players who make good money but can walk the malls mostly anonymously.
Belcher was an unlikely NFLer. The native of Long Island, N.Y., wasn’t drafted in 2009 after playing college ball at the University of Maine. He latched on with the Chiefs as a free-agent inside linebacker, and eventually became a starter.
He played in all 11 of Kansas City’s games this season, most recently against Denver last Sunday, a game in which he did not start nor register a defensive statistic.
About all we know now is that, unsurprisingly, Belcher’s mother told police the couple had been arguing lately.
As happened after former star linebacker Junior Seau’s suicide in the spring, a good reporter somewhere will spends weeks or months on the case and get as close as anyone ever will to the ‘why’ of it.
Not that that matters to that poor orphaned baby, whose eyes in the days and weeks ahead will be searching, desperately, for a mother gone forever.