They played a football game in Kansas City the other day.
Even as the headlines fade, the question remains.
Was it the right thing to do given the tragedy that happened 24 hours earlier?
There’s no playbook for this sort of grieving. A Chiefs player killed his girlfriend _ the mother of their infant child _ then turned the gun on himself in front of the head coach and the general manager. The second half of the murder-suicide took place at the team’s training complex, right next door to Arrowhead Stadium.
The next day, the Chiefs reported for work in that very stadium for a game against Carolina. Won it, too, for just their second victory of the season. Afterward, everyone talked about the cathartic effect of taking the field _ as a team, as a family _ in the face of such a heinous act.
But, really, was it proper to play on?
I was downright adamant on the day of the game. No way they should’ve kicked off. Even got into a spirited debate on social media with some friends.
Now, with a couple of days to reflect, time spent talking to several experts on grieving, I can see the value of playing what was a meaningless game in the standings between two teams going nowhere.
With one big caveat: Please recognize that lasting peace can’t be found between the lines.
All those who felt it was necessary to play, from GM Scott Pioli to coach Romeo Crennel to the 53rd man on the roster, need to man up in a different way in the days, weeks and months to come. For the rest of their lives, really, because this is something that will remain with all of them to some degree until their time is up.
Be sure to address what are surely feelings of sadness and anger, maybe even a little guilt. Take time to deal with the questions running through your own mind about why Jovan Belcher did what he did, even if deep down you know the odds of uncovering a logical answer to a senseless crime are slim at best.
“It takes time,” said Jay Wade, a psychology professor at Fordham University in New York, “to deal with whatever feelings are associated with this major thing that happened. You can’t just say, `Suck it up, go ahead and play the next game.’ On the one hand, I think it’s understandable they played the next day. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“But,” he added, “later on down the line, if you don’t take time to deal with that tragedy, that trauma you’ve experienced, it probably will affect you for a long time. No doubt.”
All athletes are taught to be strong, football players in particular. On every play, they are attempting to prove the guy across the line is weaker than they are.
But when it comes to dealing with Belcher’s crime, a little vulnerability will go a long way for these large men.