During the game, the commentators made occasional reference to this being a difficult day for the team and the city, while the post-game press conference focused on the decision to play more than the game itself.
In obvious pain, coach Romeo Crenell explained that this is what they do as professionals – play football on Sunday – and so they were not going to neglect their responsibilities.
And during Sunday night’s football game, the entire halftime show focused on the events in Kansas City, culminating with Bob Costas’ unfortunate commentary which put the emphasis on the need for gun control.
I also understand the need for life to go on as usual after a tragedy, bringing some level of healing and stability to a city rocked by the shocking news. And the Chiefs actually won their game after being mired in a long losing streak.
On the other hand, it was only 24 hours earlier that Belcher, one of the starting players on the Chiefs, took his own life in the presence of Coach Crenell and general manager Scott Pioli. Can you imagine coaching a football game one day after watching someone on your team kill himself after murdering his girlfriend?
And tens of thousands of fans made their way into the very stadium where Belcher took his own life the previous day. Is there not something macabre about the whole scene? Is there not something that speaks of our national obsession with sports?
There is also the question about Belcher’s state of mind on the day of the murder-suicide.
It is well known that a number of NFL players have taken their own lives in recent years, most notably Junior Seau, an icon of the city of San Diego, in May of this year. Many attribute these self-destructive acts to the frequent concussions suffered by the players, apparently leading to different types of brain degeneration, such as the early onset of Alzheimer’s.
This is reminiscent of the grisly events of June 24th, 2007, when professional wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son and then killed himself. Subsequent investigation suggested the possibility of brain damage due to frequent concussions, and this, coupled with steroid abuse, may have contributed to the horrific end of Benoit and his family.
Had Belcher also suffered recent brain damage, which was then exacerbated by his reported heavy drinking? And did his very profession, at times aggressively violent, contribute to his behavior?
In light of these questions, and given the proximity in time and place of the murder and suicide, would it not have been better to postpone the game, even in a symbolic way, say, by starting at 4:00 PM rather than 1:00, or perhaps by adding it as an early game on Monday night?
I’m not questioning the character and motivation of the coaches and players who had to make a very difficult decision last week. I’m just wondering out loud if there’s not something amiss with “the game must go on” mentality.