The Chiefs Shouldn’t Have Played.

I was not in favor of the Kansas City Chiefs playing their game yesterday in the aftermath of the horrifying circumstances surrounding Jovan Belcher.

I didn’t think that less than thirty hours later, athletes who draw so much of their violent aggression (see a Ray Lewis or Drew Brees pregame huddle) needed for their craft from raw and archaic old-fashion human rage, could summon the emotions needed to excel at their jobs. Or even protect themselves when necessary.

Hell, I thought the Chiefs, especially Romeo Crennel who witnessed Belcher’s suicide, would be so emotionally drained and dazed that a lack of focus could very well lead to devastating injuries on their side of the ball. Imagine yourself a Chiefs player, and in the throes of a play the thought of anything surrounding Belcher implants itself in to your mind. His empty locker. Not seeing him on the field. The face of the child he made an orphan. The sound of a gunshot. Playing a game just hundreds of yards from a chalky white line of his demise. In that fraction of a second your professional focus has escaped you. While attempting to execute something you’ve done hundreds and hundreds of times for the better part of your life, the fundamentals become Aramaic to you, and you’re now completely vulnerable. Missing a block gets your quarterback concussed or worse. Being unaware of your surroundings for the blink of an eye causes you to be oblivious to a block you’d have needed to defend yourself from.

A distracted mind on the football field is a recipe for a tragedy on top of a tragedy.

To corroborate my feelings, know that 89% of the bettors yesterday took the Panthers plus the points. I don’t call those people callous individuals for capitalizing on a grieving football team. It’s what I would’ve done too.

I don’t think the Chiefs should’ve played that game. I don’t think I was wrong. I did, hwoever, underestimate the resolve of everyone in the Kansas City Chiefs organization.

I don’t think Romeo Crennel is a very good NFL Head Coach. I don’t think Brady Quinn is an NFL starting quarterback. Some days it’s better to be a better human being than it is to be good at what you do. Yesterday was that day for Crennel, Quinn and many others associated with the Chiefs.

This morning the Chiefs define resiliency and resolve. Their handling of the situation reminded me of this article from The Atlantic. It’s a psychologically based political article I read after the election. It speaks to how every four years people threaten to leave the country because their candidate didn’t win the White House. They rarely ever make good on their ‘threat.’

I only compare the article to the unfathomable Chiefs situation because of my takeaway. It’s a note I made for myself on my iPhone. It’s part scratch paper, part journal.

I may be reading too much on an article that’s focus is politics, but my takeaway was that people have more resolve than they give themselves credit for.

The second foible that explains why defeat only stings briefly is our tendency to overestimate how long psychological pain will last. Just as you might treat a deep gash with antibiotic ointment and bandages, we’re equipped with a sophisticated psychological immune system that targets serious psychological injury.

Basically, we’re tougher than we think. There was no one more resolute than most associated with the Chiefs, beginning in the early morning hours of Saturday.  

Also, it’s hard to share thoughts about the Chiefs and not acknowledge the powerful sentiments Brady Quinn shared after the game. He may be a substandard NFL player, but he’s the pinnacle of what it is to be a remarkable human being with his words yesterday.

“It was tough,” Brady said. “I think it was an eerie feeling after a win because you don’t think that you can win in this situation. The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people. I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently.

“When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth?

“We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us.

“Hopefully people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”

I can profusely support what Quinn said. For someone who’s been bludgeoned by the depressive side of bipolar disorder – probably since I was a teenager – I can assure you ‘how are you doing’ has frequently been something I dread having to reply to. For you that’s a simple, throw away greeting. But for me, that phrase has often been an agonizing reminder that things suck.

I’m not saying anyone who struggles to respond when you ask them how they are, or what’s up, is psychologically or emotionally damaged, just know that many people like, I have, hear those words, then in an instant evaluate everything, and realize that those who’ve offered that greeting, statement, or question aren’t prepared for emotionally charged fastball under the chin that could come at them.

A closing thought on Belcher. We can guess about any concussions that potentially rewired him into a killer, but if anything positive can come of this, it’s that ALL athletes susceptible to violent head truama should have thorough mental evaluations before and after every season.


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