Over the next weeks to months everybody with a voice is going to have an opinion on the tragedy that occurred with Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. TV and radio personalities, bloggers, newspaper writers, and even misguided fans will want to weigh in on what exactly happened. Some will confidently say he was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and stress the importance of a quick autopsy. Others will posit that Belcher had some form of mental illness, and this was a dire consequence of it. Many will opine that he was a spoiled, pampered athlete who was upset about his salary or playing time on a noncompetitive team. A few will even suggest that he didn’t know his father, was a product of a bad environment, and never fully escaped all of it.
My suggestion: completely ignore every opinion that is written or spoken.
The only two people who know exactly what and why from the events of the morning of December 2nd are deceased. Yes Belcher talked with Chiefs officials at the facility prior to completing his suicide, but at that point they could only have a glimpse of the whole story. Advancements in medical testing have found after autopsy a few handfuls of athletes in many sports that suffered from CTE. This obviously leads one to believe that countless more are suffering from, and will eventually battle this condition. Many of these athletes have committed violent acts … many, many more of them have not. Writing this calamity off so quickly as a result of this progressive illness in a 25 year old is quite cavalier.
No one knows if it was CTE, mental illness, both, or none of the above
Mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder carry a very strong stigma in American society. We are quick to write off acts of violence or idiocy as the deranged motives of a “crazy” person. Do people with mental illness sometimes commit crimes? Obviously the answer is yes. Do people without mental illness commit even more crimes? Once again the answer is clearly yes. It is completely unfair to those with mental illness to say that Belcher killed two people because he was bipolar. Mental illness doesn’t just happen upon someone in a split second like a sneeze. If Belcher was exhibiting bizarre behavior it should have been noted by his coaches during the week at practice. Steps could have been taken to get him help and/or remove any weapons from his possession. No changes to his demeanor, manners, or performance, nor the need for such intervention from the team’s staff have been reported by anyone in the organization.
The two deceased during much happier times
By all accounts Belcher was a personable young man who had been a starter his entire NFL career. He was a new father living with his girlfriend and her mother. It is possible that he was pretentious and spoiled. Conventional wisdom says that is probably not the case. He’s been a starter on a terrible team his whole career despite not getting a single football scholarship offer coming out of high school. In addition, he ended up playing at the (tongue in cheek alert) football hotbed Maine University. It’s somewhat hard to be pampered when one is well compensated financially, undersized for their position, and actually somewhat lucky to have their job. Belcher was extremely grateful and gracious to his headcoach, general manager, and position coach moments before he killed himself. He made a point to thank them for the opportunity; this doesn’t exactly sound like someone who was disenchanted by his Q-score or standing on the team’s depth chart.
I’m no psychiatrist, psychic, or prophet, but I have enough insight to recognize that no one knows for sure why Jovan Belcher is a murderer and now deceased. Unforeseen tragedies tend to make people very opinionated, which can be problematic because too many opinions can easily drown out facts. My recommendation is to not fall victim to the rhetoric and conjecture of untrained personnel who were nowhere near the scene of either crime. Wait for actual facts to arise, if they ever do, because explaining a tragedy is much more difficult than simply saying that because A and B exist, C must assuredly come next.