Monday, December 3, 2012

On Jovan Belcher and this Terrible, Complex Tragedy

There is no easy way to react to the full measure of the murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins. On Saturday, Belcher killed Perkins with multiple gun shots, drove to the Kansas City Chiefs facility, thanked several members of the organization and then killed himself with a shot to the head.

Those are simple facts. What's not so simple is what happened next. Two families are grieving as they should. A Chiefs team grieved as they debated and decided to play on Sunday. A 3-month child named Zoe is now an orphan. The NFL followed their tradition and allowed the Chiefs to play on Sunday instead of stepping in to postpone this game.

In most minds, it makes sense to grieve for Perkins, an innocent victim, while calling Belcher a monster. This is true but to say that chastises the Chiefs for grieving a teammate. It's trying to say that head coach Romeo Crennel, general manager Scott Pioli and others shouldn't be shaken by seeing a man kill himself in front of their eyes. A man they've known for four years.

No matter what conflicts the two of them had, there is no excuse to go to fists or guns. Perkins shouldn't be dead. Yet I feel sorry for the Chiefs organization because while Belcher is a murderer and perhaps had other problems that will be revealed in time, he was still one of their own. This isn't elevating him to sainthood, this is feeling sorry for that locker room because they have to deal with their own wide range of emotions.

(Both families have released statements:

I didn't want to rush to judgment because we just passed the 5-year anniversary of Sean Taylor's murder. A situation that the media blundered by blaming Taylor for his death. I didn't say anything Saturday or Sunday because I needed facts and time to process and let things play out. It felt wrong to speculate while two bodies are laying cold or immediately label Belcher a monster.

Don't get me wrong. This is not saying I was sympathetic to Belcher. I just believe in restraint with violence/death cause it's not always absolute. I just want to know all the facts while I feel bad that a 3-month girl has lost two parents to violence.

That said, I wish the NFL stepped in and postponed the game. But what should I expect from a league that played the weekend after President Kennedy was killed. I do remember they moved a Chargers game to Arizona after the 2003 and 2007 firestorms so it takes natural disasters to force a move. But the show always goes on for football.

More than 24 hours after witnessing Belcher's suicide, Romeo Crennel and his team played a football game. In his words, it's what they do as football players and coaches. That's why I say the NFL should've said you are humans first.
The players wanted to play. The coaches wanted to coach. That's understandable. Folks want to continue their business in tragedy because it helps them cope. When my uncle died on the day my newspaper went to press, I left the paper for two hours to cope and came back to somehow work. I didn't want to be there.

That's why the NFL needed to step in to save the players from themselves and their conditioning. They needed to say go home. Process the full nature of this tragedy. Remind the fans that football is secondary to tragedy and there would be time to play but right now, it's time to stop and come back later. How can folks expect Romeo Crennel to fully coach his team when he watched a man die?

While some may hail the Chiefs for playing under pressure, it also absolves the NFL of their shame of letting this happen so soon. I criticize Jason Whitlock plenty but the Kansas City scribe captured it perfectly in his column.

Meanwhile, what happens next? Belcher will be grieved the same way Joe Paterno was. A man that people knew with a complex reminder of who they fully are. His victim should be grieved even more. Their daughter will have to grow up knowing this harsh truth and as more details are revealed, it will no doubt be heartbreaking.

I can understand the wide variety of reactions and for me, all I can say is that I feel terrible for both families, the Chiefs and those who knew Belcher/Perkins well.


  1. You said it all so well. My heart hurts for them.

  2. It's terrible no matter how you slice it. Two families grieving. A team battling grief and disbelief. And I have a feeling as more details come out, it's going to be sadder.