Were you disgusted by news coverage immediately following the death of Jovan Belcher?
Belcher was a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs who shot his girlfriend – and mother of his three-month-old daughter – dead after an argument. Belcher then drove to the Arrowhead Stadium practice facility to profusely thank general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel for their roles in his career. He reportedly said, “I love you, bro” before shooting himself.
Fans and sportswriters tried to make sense of the Belcher violence, and with the suicide of San Diego Charger Junior Seau earlier this year in mind, they grasped at common straws that might tie the two acts together. But what separates Belcher from Seau – and other depressed athletes who’ve struggled with the fallout from a career of hard hits and head injuries – is that Junior’s plight didn’t end in the barbaric murder of his girlfriend and the orphaning of a three-month-old baby.
Jovan Belcher’s suicide might have forced the question as to whether or not football has become too violent and punishing for its player, but killing his girlfriend elevates the action to something that cannot be justified by appeals to celebrity culture and pop psychology.
Or even readily explained by scientific research suggesting traumatic injury causes permanent brain damage and behavioral problems. Killing your girlfriend is not a “behavioral problem”, it is a horrific, evil, cowardly act that is morally wrong to try to either explain or excuse through the science of battered brains.
Yet everyone seemed to want to blame Belcher’s actions on something else. At CNN, former Democratic congressional candidate and Real World participant Kevin Powell talked about the problems of super-macho culture and the ready availability of guns. Bob Costas lost his nut when he turned the Jovan Belcher tragedy into an anti-gun rant. Costas has fallen further off the rails than Powell if he thinks a gun-free Belcher home would have also shown an absence of violence or murder.
Instead of immediately reaching for our nearest ideological hobby horse, let’s stipulate an ugly truth: Sometimes people are bad.
Brain injury did not pull the trigger that blew away both of Zoey Belcher’s parents one horrible Saturday morning. Jovan Belcher did, and for that he will rightly be remembered not as a big man, but as a bad man.
Produced by Tracy Oppenheimer. Written by Kennedy (who also hosts) and Nick Gillespie.