In This League, Players PlayConfronted with sudden and unimaginable horror, the Kansas City Chiefs decided to go ahead and play their game against the Carolina Panthers this afternoon.
Mercenary as the National Football League may be, which is plenty, this had to be the Chiefs' decision. People cannot play professional football unwillingly, or, even worse, in confusion and mental turmoil. That'd make the significant risk of serious injury a sure thing.
So the Chiefs will take the field despite having lost a teammate to suicide one day earlier and learning said teammate had also murdered the mother of his infant child. Head coach Romeo Crennel SAW Jevon Belcher kill himself. He'll be there at Arrowhead Stadium -- site of that catastrophe of a life gone as wrong as wrong can be.
I'm not surprised at the Chiefs' decision. It strikes me as a purely human reaction to major psychological shock. Faced with trauma outside our capacity to understand, we tend to revert to what we know. The Kansas City franchise knows it has a game today. It knows it can function in the context of said game. So it will, because it can't think of anything else to do.
That's not said as criticism. How it could be, since in a far less horrific but still stressful situation I did the same thing. About 30 years ago, a loved one had a sudden and dire medical emergency. After a sleepless night at the hospital, the situation stabilized for the better, and I was told to go home. I went to work and wrote a story instead. Didn't know what else to do, but I knew I could do that.
What people know how to do is a safety zone. Doing something as complex, emotionally involving and, not least, dangerous as pro football will allow every Chiefs player to have Jevon Belcher out of their minds for a few hours, or at least, hidden as deeply as their individual consciousnesses will allow.
Small mercy, that. Better than none, though.