They’re People, Just Like the Rest of Us

I can not even begin to imagine pain like this.

Saturday morning I was at the gym lifting weights then I heard of a completely horiffic tragedy.

I had just finished a set of rows when I looked up at the TV and saw that ESPN had a breaking news story.

I paused and paid close attention, wondering what had happened.

I then learned that Jovan Belcher, a 25-year-old linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, had shot and killed his girlfriend, then himself.

This just happened this morning, the day before the Chiefs are to play the Carolina Panthers. It will be awhile before we find out the full story of this unspeakable tragedy, if ever.

So far the details sound like another domestic dispute gone wrong. And it’s likely that the truth died with Belcher and his young girlfriend.

Belcher and his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins, had an argument at their Kansas City home this morning. Belcher then shot Perkins several times in front of her mother. Perkins was pronounced dead later at a local hospital.

According to eyewitness reports, Belcher then drove to the Chiefs’ practice facility, near Arrowhead Stadium, where he shot himself just as police arrived on the scene.

Belcher shot himself in the head in the parking lot, in front of head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli, and other team personnel.

Belcher did not threaten any of the witnesses. Crennel talked to Belcher for awhile, trying to reason with him and calm him down. Belcher thanked his coach and general manager for all they had done for him. But then he took his own life in front of these people that he said had been so good to him.

On the surface Belcher seemed to be living the American dream. An undrafted free agent from the University of Maine, he signed with the Chiefs after graduating in 2009. He had made the transition from special teams player to linebacker and worked his way into the Chiefs’ starting line-up in 2010. He had a beautiful 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, with whom he had a three-month-old daughter. He was well-liked by his teammates, many of whom were in shock and disbelief upon learning of his death.

Sadly this is not the first case of an NFL player in the prime of his career taking his own life.

On December 13, 1993 Jeff Alm, a defensive tackle with the Houston Oilers, went out with lifelong friend Sean P. Lynch. The next morning at 2:45,  Alm lost control of his Cadillac on a freeway exit ramp. Lynch was thrown from the passenger window to his death. Upon discovering his friend’s corpse at the bottom of a steep embankment, Alm took out his shotgun, fired it into the air, then turned it on himself. Like Belcher, Alm was 25 years old.

On September 20, 2010, Kenny McKinley, a 23-year-old wide receiver with the Denver Broncos, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. McKinley had just been drafted by Denver in the fifth round the previous year. He played in eight games as a kick returner in 2009 before being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury late in the season.

An investigation into McKinley’s death by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department revealed that he was suffering from depression over his knee injury and debt, which resulted from a gambling problem.

It makes me wonder what an investigation into Belcher’s life would reveal.

It seems like pro football players have it all. They earn more money in a year than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. They drive beautiful, expensive cars while most of us are trying to keep our clunkers held together enough to make it to work and back home each day. They can date any woman they want.

But that glitz and glamour has a dark side. Alm lost his best friend in a terrible car wreck after a boys’ night out. McKinley injured his knee and faced an uncertain future and staggering gambling debts. Belcher reportedly was having problems with his girlfriend, Perkins, with whom he had a three-month old daughter. Now that baby will never know her parents.

We all dream of being rich and famous. At one time or another we’ve thought that fame and fortune would erase all our worries. But these examples show that professional athletes are just as vulnerable to the pressures of everyday life as the rest of us are. Losing friends, uncertainty about our jobs and difficulties in relationships are problems we have all faced at one time or another.

But is it really worth ending your own life over it?

Is there any problem so large that it makes you want to take your life in front of your boss and co-workers? Or leave behind your parents? Or rob your children of a relationship with you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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