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.
Football is a sport in which brute strength and being able to control one’s fate through physicality and quick reactions are praised. It’s also a sport in which one has to be able to perform amid the kind of pain that a car crash survivor might experience.
It also requires that the pain be controlled by prescription drugs. And if painkillers don’t do the trick, aching players often add alcohol to the mix.
It’s such a problem that last year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players’ union leader DeMaurice Smith met to discuss what to do about drinking and driving in the league; in 2010, there were 16 DUI arrests among players and around 19 in 2012.
Police investigators say that alcohol may have played a role in the argument between Belcher and Perkins that escalated into murder. Also, one of Belcher’s friends e-mailed Deadspin.com, a sports news website, and said that he “drank A LOT. On a nightly basis,” and that he was using medication heavily.
Belcher apparently went over that edge last Saturday morning, when, according to the Star, his mother said she heard him tell Perkins something to the effect of, “You can’t talk to me like that!”
Then she heard gunfire.
Belcher and Perkins had sought counseling through the Chief’s organization, but apparently it wasn’t enough. But I imagine that counseling football players can be tough when the very nature of the sport that consumes much of their life requires them to be tough and impulsive, and to cover their pain with machismo.
So here’s the love story that’ll end at a grave instead of an altar. Here’s the baby girl who was orphaned because her father killed her mother and himself.
All because he couldn’t get past his pain long enough to be there for her future.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist who is based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her at tonyaajw@twitter. Or visit her webpage and blog, “Tonyaa’s Take,” at www.tonyaajweathersbee.com.
Celebs Who Break-Up to Make-Up
1. Teddy and Tina CampbellSource:Tina Campbell Instagram 1 of 17
2. Gabrielle Union-Wade and Dwayne WadeSource:Gabrielle Union Wade Instagram 2 of 17
3. Keyshia Cole and Daniel GibsonSource:YouTube screenshot 3 of 17
4. Kourtney Kardashian and Scott DisickSource:Kourtney Instagram 4 of 17
5. Chris Brown and KarruecheSource:Chris Brown Instagram 5 of 17
6. Robert De Niro and Grace HightowerSource:(PR) 6 of 17
7. Diddy and Kim Porter7 of 17
8. Omar Epps and Keisha SpiveySource:(PR) 8 of 17
9. Snoop Dogg and ShanteSource:(PR) 9 of 17
10. Rihanna and Chris BrownSource:(PR) 10 of 17
11. Fantasia Barrino and Antwaun CookSource:(Twitter) 11 of 17
12. Laura GovanSource:(PR) 12 of 17
13. Kobe and Vanessa Bryant13 of 17
14. Rapper Fabolous and girlfriend Emily B14 of 17
15. Joseline and Stevie J15 of 17
16. Jessica Biel and Justin TimberlakeSource:(PR) 16 of 17
17. Pink and Carey HartSource:(PR) 17 of 17