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And the Game Goes On

December 3, 2012

 This past Saturday, December 1, 2012, Jovan Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs football team, shot his girlfriend to death. The two have a 2-month-old daughter who most likely heard or saw everything. Belcher then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and spoke to his head coach, the linebackers coach, and the team general manager in the parking lot, thanking them for what they had done for him. Then Belcher shot himself in front of them.

I don’t know how the news of this tragedy hit you, but it sure bothered me, for obvious reasons. How can someone be so upset that they would kill the mother of their newborn then turn the gun on themselves? Did he even consider his daughter and the impact this would have on her? Jovan Belcher may have killed three people on Saturday—his girlfriend, himself, and his baby.
I was pretty upset over the whole thing already, but then I learned later that the Kansas City Chiefs would go forward with their game against the Carolina Panthers. THEY PLAYED! Did you read what I just wrote? Despite the fact that Belcher “offed” himself in front of two coaches and the general manager at the team’s training facility, the team chose to PLAY THE GAME one day later. Am I the only who finds that a little bizarre?
Does life mean anything in our sports-crazy culture? Let the record show that I am a football fan, but my love for the game has been dying for years now, and this past weekend’s events may have been the last straw. It’s bad enough that studies show football players’ brains are basically “mush” after they retire, and the league does nothing to help them. And let’s not even get into the off-the-field drama the league deals with, everything from drug arrests to shootings to fights at clubs. The NFL has an image problem.
Coach Romeo Crennel said that the team played because the game allowed them to get their mind off the tragedy, among other things. One player said this is what Jovan would have wanted, as if he was channeling Belcher’s wishes from the grave. One sports commentator said the Chiefs have to put it behind them and “move on.” Ahh, there it is. I knew it wouldn’t be long before we heard that overused phrase. (I hate it!)
In America it seems like all we do is “move on.” Hurricane Sandy upsets us for a moment, but then we move on—even though the people in New York and New Jersey can’t. Does anyone even talk about Haiti anymore? Remember the earthquake that reduced large swathes of the country to rubble? Nope. We moved on.
Some things are really worth stopping to consider. When a guy kills his girlfriend and then himself and leaves a 2-month-old parentless, it should stop us. No game is more important than mourning the loss of those lives and figuring out how we might prevent similar tragedies in our society. I have a sad suspicion that the Chiefs and the NFL chose to move forward with that game for financial reasons more than anything else. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.
I think it’s time to rethink my love affair with sports.

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