Sports Commentary 12/3/12

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Seems like the NFL plays no matter what happens off the field…

THE GAME GOES ON

A member of a National Football League team’s family died tragically on Saturday, taking his own life at the team’s facility. In a statement released by the team the deceased was referred to as a “good friend and an outstanding employee”. In the wake of the tragedy the team played it’s game on Sunday. The Cleveland Browns went on to defeat the Oakland Raiders 20-17. The deceased was identified as a member of the Browns ground crew. That same morning a member of the Kansas City Chiefs family, linebacker Jevon Belcher, killed his girlfriend in front of his mother and the couple’s three month old baby, drove to the stadium parking lot where he thanked general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennell for affording him the opportunity to play in the NFL, then shot himself to death. The coaching staff and players of the Chiefs, in a closed meeting, decided they wanted to play Sunday’s game with the Carolina Panthers and the NFL instructed the Panthers to make the flight to Kansas City for the game. The players felt if the game went on it would give them a few hours to forget the tragedy and just play. They asked for permission to wear a decal on their helmets honoring Belcher, but that was where the team and the league drew the line. Belcher wasn’t the only victim of this tragedy. Another life was taken and to honor Belcher would be to deny the value of that life and deny the devestating impact the incident would have on the victims who survived. Nor, it should be pointed out, was the loss of Belcher’s life more tragic than that of a team employee of the Cleveland Browns, who took his own life on the same day. It’s telling that Belcher should choose to drive to the team’s facility for his final act, rather than a secluded place where no others would suffer the impact of the moment. Did he feel he owed that much to Pioli and Crennel for giving him a chance to play in the NFL as an undrafted free agent? If so, why add them to his list of victims? There was no sane reason for any of the acts committed by Jevon Belcher on his final day, leading to a litany of questions, the most crying question, “Why?” Had Belcher become a victim of the game that has claimed so many lives over long periods of time, victims of the brutality that prevails every Sunday afternoon? Were there signs of a troubled human being that had gone unheeded? In an era where concussions are now recognized and treated on a weekly basis had one victim fallen through the cracks? Who asked these questions when the decision was made to play the game on Sunday afternoon rather than declare a day away from the violence of football for a day of reflection on why something so senseless happened? The game could have been rescheduled if anyone actually felt the need to even make up a game that will have no impact on anyone’s playoff positioning, between two teams who have no post season hopes themselves. No one questioned whether the Browns game should have been played. They did, if only mometarily, question playing the Chiefs game. Do we put different values on different lives? If the game had been cancelled for a day of reflection we might have reflected on whether we have reached the point where sports have become more important than life itself. Maybe we just don’t want to know the answer. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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