(Caveat: For those who don't know me, I LOVE football. Played it in high school and college. Watch and talk about it a lot! These are not the thoughts of an anti-football crusader. But the genuine critique of a friend of the game.)
Today the Kansas City Chiefs did something remarkable for their 2012 football season, they won a game. But there never should have been a game to win. Yesterday afternoon Jovan Belcher, a starting linebacker for the Chiefs, killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins (the mother of his 3 month old child). He then drove to the teams facilities. There he talked with teammates, coaches and staff before turning the gun on himself in front of his coach and GM.
Today, just over 24 hours after Jovan's death in the team parking lot at Arrowhead Stadium, 60,000 plus fans came to watch the team play. A moment of silence was observed, the owner talked about how hurt everyone was. But this is a game that should never have been played.
The fact that it was played further demonstrates just how far we have come in our obsession with games and money. How little concern we have as a society for each other, especially for woman and children. Even worse, how little concern we who are fans have, and frankly the NFL has, for the players and their families in this money making monstrosity called professional football.
I can formulate all the practical arguments for why it should have been played. The 60,000+ folks who were coming had made their plans, paid for their tickets. The other team had already flown into town. Rescheduling would be next to impossible. It would screw up all the standings for the Chiefs and Panthers to have one less game than everyone else, even though neither of them have any shot for the playoffs.
Then there are the positive arguments for playing on. To play on shows the spirit of the city in the midst of tragedy. We must persevere even in tragedy. Show our true grit in the midst of loss and grief. For that is what men, especially football men, do.
But this wasn't a "tragedy" this was a murder-suicide of a member of the team that was now to take the field. Yet apparently we cannot let that reality, as one tailgater said, "take too much out of our day." It is irrelevant to us that in this situation a member of the organization in which we have chosen to invest a huge amount of money (average cost for a family of four to attend an NFL game is approximately $450, although I think that is low and certainly does not include many $8 beers) has committed a monstrous crime. We will go to the game anyway. The coaches, even the head coach who witnessed his player die, will soldier on because this is what we do. We will say a prayer, have a moment of silence, but there is too much on the line to let this take much out of our day.
The Chiefs should have stayed home today. Oh, there are those who will say that the win they got was a boost for everyone emotionally. That it will help the healing process. But this isn't a team building up a community like A&M's win over Texas in 1999 after the bonfire collapsed and killed students. I was at that game and there a community stood up and honored those killed in an accident. The game, especially the Aggies win, provided some comfort and normality in the midst of this loss. But this was no accident.
In a couple weeks I doubt many of us will think much about the grandmother who is taking care of an orphaned 3 month old. Her friends may try hard, but Kasandra's name will quickly be forgotten. Maybe in a week, or a month, but we won't remember. But the games will go on.
We learned again today a valuable lesson. People are disposable, interchangeable, but games are not. The incredible money show must go on. But for Zoey, Romeo, Gary, Dianne and Scott everything radically changed yesterday. Don't know who the people are behind those names? Well, that is the problem isn't it. Maybe if the Chiefs had stayed home, we would.