Column: Chiefs got past game, but still must heal

    2012-12-05 02:48

(Eds: Sports Columnist Jim Litke is on vacation. This is a replacement column. With AP Photos.)
AP National Writer

They played a football game in Kansas City the other day.

Even as the headlines fade, the question remains.

Was it the right thing to do given the tragedy that happened 24 hours earlier?

There's no playbook for this sort of grieving. A Chiefs player killed his girlfriend - the mother of their infant child - then turned the gun on himself in front of the head coach and the general manager. The second half of the murder-suicide took place at the team's training complex, right next door to Arrowhead Stadium.

The next day, the Chiefs reported for work in that very stadium for a game against Carolina. Won it, too, for just their second victory of the season. Afterward, everyone talked about the cathartic effect of taking the field - as a team, as a family - in the face of such a heinous act.

But, really, was it proper to play on?

I was downright adamant on the day of the game. No way they should've kicked off. Even got into a spirited debate on social media with some friends.

Now, with a couple of days to reflect, time spent talking to several experts on grieving, I can see the value of playing what was a meaningless game in the standings between two teams going nowhere.

With one big caveat: Please recognize that lasting peace can't be found between the lines.

All those who felt it was necessary to play, from GM Scott Pioli to coach Romeo Crennel to the 53rd man on the roster, need to man up in a different way in the days, weeks and months to come. For the rest of their lives, really, because this is something that will remain with all of them to some degree until their time is up.

Be sure to address what are surely feelings of sadness and anger, maybe even a little guilt. Take time to deal with the questions running through your own mind about why Jovan Belcher did what he did, even if deep down you know the odds of uncovering a logical answer to a senseless crime are slim at best.

``It takes time,'' said Jay Wade, a psychology professor at Fordham University in New York, ``to deal with whatever feelings are associated with this major thing that happened. You can't just say, `Suck it up, go ahead and play the next game.' On the one hand, I think it's understandable they played the next day. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

``But,'' he added, ``later on down the line, if you don't take time to deal with that tragedy, that trauma you've experienced, it probably will affect you for a long time. No doubt.''

All athletes are taught to be strong, football players in particular. On every play, they are attempting to prove the guy across the line is weaker than they are.

But when it comes to dealing with Belcher's crime, a little vulnerability will go a long way for these large men.

``Our culture still creates the mentality that `big boys don't cry, big boys don't talk about sensitive things,''' said James Overholser, who teaches psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and has been doing research on suicides for 25 years. ``That's the real problem. That's what puts males at elevated risk of something like suicide.''

A couple of Atlanta Falcons players were asked Tuesday if they would've wanted to go ahead with the game under similar circumstances. There were no easy answers.

``That's a tough call,'' cornerback Dunta Robinson said. ``I can't even imagine that going on here and how I would respond as a player, but I think as players and as an organization, (the Chiefs) did what they thought was best for them. They went ahead and played the game. They won the football game, so hats off to them for the way they handled it.''

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan went through a double-tragedy during his previous job in Denver. Less than two months apart in 2007, cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting and Damien Nash collapsed and died during a charity basketball game.

``People say, `Hey, maybe you can occupy your mind for at least a few hours and kind of get away from that grieving process if you can,''' Shanahan said. ``But there's not an easy way to deal with it. I've dealt with it a couple of times, and it's as hard as it gets, especially when you're very close to somebody. But it's something you've got to work through, it's part of life. Nobody likes it, but sometimes I think it's therapeutic'' to go ahead and play the game.

But the shared experience of sport can't overshadow what the individual is going through. Todd Farchone, a research professor in the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, said it's easy to understand how everyone got on board with taking the field in Kansas City, even if that wasn't necessarily the way every one of them would've handled it.

``I can imagine being a fly on the wall in that meeting and hearing all the different perspectives,'' Farchone said. ``Some people, as the decision was being made, probably wanted to do what's best for the team. But people deal with grief in different ways. Some want to get back to work immediately and throw themselves into things they need to do. Others might want to go through a lengthier process, to deal with the loss immediately.''

After thinking this out, I realize my feelings on what was appropriate this past Sunday aren't so cut and dried.

Really, there's no right or wrong when it comes to grieving.

All I can say to the Chiefs is this: You won the game as a team, just don't forget to take care of yourself.

Talk about it. Cry about it. Grieve about it.

That doesn't make you weak.

That makes you a man.


Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963


AP Sports Writers Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., George Henry in Flowery Branch, Ga., and Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colo., contributed to this report.

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Sean LeeOct 5 06:42p

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (concussion) is feeling better but will have to pass all of his concussion tests before he is cleared to play again, according to head coach Jason Garrett.

Lance DunbarOct 5 06:42p

Dallas Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar (knee) will miss the rest of the 2015 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in Week 4. He scheduled [ More ]

Ronnie BrownOct 5 05:32p

Free-agent RB Ronnie Brown (Chargers) re-signed with the San Diego Chargers Monday, Oct. 5, according to a source. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Andrew LuckOct 5 05:12p

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is expected to play in the Week 5 game against the Houston Texans Thursday, Oct. 8. Luck has a slightly separated throwing shoulder [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsOct 5 04:42p

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins' (calf) status for the Week 5 game against the Tennessee Titans is uncertain at this point, according to head coach Rex Ryan. 'He looked [ More ]

Jordan ReedOct 5 04:42p

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed's (concussion, knee, ankle) head injury is a real concern, according to head coach Jay Gruden. Reed has a long history of head injuries dating [ More ]

Daniel FellsOct 5 04:42p

New York Giants TE Daniel Fells (ankle) was placed on the season-ending Reserve/Injured list Monday, Oct. 5, due to a staph infection in his ankle. TE Will Tye was [ More ]

Antonio GatesOct 5 04:22p

San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates is in great shape and will be play in the Week 5 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to head coach Mike McCoy.

Ryan MallettOct 5 02:42p

Houston Texans QB Ryan Mallett will be the starting quarterback for the Week 5 game against the Indianapolis Colts Thursday, Oct. 8, according to head coach Bill O'Brien.

Christine MichaelOct 5 02:42p

Dallas Cowboys RB Christine Michael will have a role in the offense, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones, with RB Lance Dunbar (knee) possibly out for the rest [ More ]

Dez BryantOct 5 02:32p

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (foot) could return after the Cowboys' Week 6 bye, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones. Bryant recently had a positive examination of the [ More ]

Cecil Shorts IIIOct 5 02:12p

Houston Texans WR Cecil Shorts (shoulder) is considered doubtful for the Week 5 game against the Indianapolis Colts because of the dislocated shoulder he suffered in Week 4.

Alec OgletreeOct 5 02:12p

St. Louis Rams LB Alec Ogletree (ankle) will need surgery on his ankle, according to head coach Jeff Fisher. Ogletree is a candidate to be placed on the short-term Reserve/Injured list.

Dan CampbellOct 5 01:52p

Miami Dolphins tight ends coach Dan Campbell was named the team's interim head coach Monday, Oct. 5.

Julius ThomasOct 5 01:52p

Jacksonville Jaguars TE Julius Thomas (hand) is scheduled to meet with a doctor Monday, Oct. 5, and may be cleared for full practice after the meeting. His status for [ More ]

Caleb SturgisOct 5 01:32p

Philadelphia Eagles PK Caleb Sturgis will remain the team's kicker for the time being, according to head coach Chip Kelly.

Will MontgomeryOct 5 01:22p

Chicago Bears C Will Montgomery (leg) will miss the remainder of the 2015 season after he suffered a fractured tibia during the team's Week 4 game. He will need [ More ]

Josh JohnsonOct 5 01:22p

Indianapolis Colts QB Josh Johnson was released Monday, Oct. 5.

Colin KaepernickOct 5 01:02p

San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was 13-for-25 for just 160 yards and an interception in the Week 4 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He also ran for 57 yards on 10 carries.

Kyle BrindzaOct 5 12:42p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers PK Kyle Brindza was released Monday, Oct. 5, after missing seven kicks in the last two weeks.

Joe PhilbinOct 5 11:52a

Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was fired Monday, Oct. 5, according to Sun-Sentinel.

Willie SneadOct 5 11:02a

New Orleans Saints WR Willie Snead played 48 snaps (66% of the offense) Sunday, Oct. 4, in Week 4, while WR Brandon Coleman played just 19 for 26% of the offense.

Andrew LuckOct 5 10:12a

Updating an earlier report, Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) is expected by the team to be under center Thursday, Oct. 8, against the Houston Texans. His shoulder injury [ More ]

Daniel FellsOct 5 09:52a

New York Giants TE Daniel Fells (foot) had an unexpected foot surgery and is likely headed to Injured Reserve, according to sources.

Jordan ReedOct 5 09:42a

Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (concussion) was diagnosed with a concussion Sunday, Oct. 4.

Andrew LuckOct 5 08:52a

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (shoulder) has a short week to prepare for Week 5, but he's trending toward being ready Thursday, Oct. 8, against the Houston Texans. 'He [ More ]

DeMarco MurrayOct 5 08:42a

Philadelphia Eagles RB DeMarco Murray said he's not getting enough touches in the offense Sunday, Oct. 4. 'No, I'm not,' Murray said. 'I don't think I am. It's how [ More ]

C.J. SpillerOct 5 01:42a

New Orleans Saints RB C.J. Spiller carried just twice for 10 yards in the Week 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys, but he had an 80-yard touchdown catch and [ More ]

Willie SneadOct 5 01:42a

New Orleans Saints WR Willie Snead posted six receptions for 89 yards in the Week 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Mark IngramOct 5 01:42a

New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram carried 17 times for 77 yards in the Week 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys. He also added six receptions for 51 yards [ More ]

Drew BreesOct 5 01:42a

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (shoulder) completed 33 of his 41 pass attempts for 359 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His 80-yard touchdown pass to RB C.J. [ More ]

Brandon WeedenOct 5 01:12a

Dallas Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden completed 16 of his 26 pass attempts for 246 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the Week 4 overtime loss against the New [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
Player Notes:
Forum Posts:

© 2015 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group