It was a lethal mix of too much, too fast.
Jovan Belcher was 25 and a promising linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs. His girlfriend, Kassandra “Kasi,” Perkins was 22, pretty and the mother of his three-month-old daughter, Zoe.
But last weekend, what should have ultimately been the couple’s wedding announcement became their obituary. Belcher fatally shot Perkins after an argument before driving to Arrowhead Stadium and turning the gun on himself in front of the team’s general manager and head coach.
According to The Kansas City Star, Belcher said: “I got to go,” and “I can’t be here,” before kneeling behind a vehicle, making the sign of the cross, and shooting himself in the head.
I believe that misogyny was part of that tragic mix – especially if Perkins’ staying out past 1 a.m. at a Trey Songz concert with her friends was indeed the catalyst that caused Belcher to kill her. The Star reported that after he shot Perkins, he apologized and kissed her on her forehead.
However, it also reported that the couple had been arguing about relationship and financial issues for months.
Yet based on what’s been revealed so far, it seems that life was happening for Belcher way too fast, that the physical pain of playing in the NFL and the difficulty of dealing with a turbulent relationship was too much, and because he didn’t have the coping skills to slow it down, he just decided to stop it altogether.
And football doesn’t exactly lend itself to helping young men – men who suddenly have to manage wealth, fame and pain before maturity kicks in – develop those kinds of skills.
Now I realize that no one forces anyone to play football. Yet while I watch the sport, I’ve become increasingly ambivalent toward it over the years.
I feel this way each time I hear about a player going bankrupt because he bought ten cars and has eight baby mamas. Or when I see a retired player struggle to walk, or see one addled by concussions, or hooked on painkillers.
And when I hear a young black man tell me he doesn’t need school because he plans to play pro football, I wonder whether it’s worth the price of a season ticket when so many black men wind up worse off for it.
From what I’ve read so far, Belcher seemed to be struggling to cope, but in a way that fit more with football and not with real life.
It’s easy to see how that can happen.