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Some Belated Thoughts on Jovan Belcher

I bring this up not because I have anything original to say, but because I want to highlight a particularly insightful comment. 

On Monday’s Hang Up and Listen podcast, Slate magazine’s Josh Levin called Belcher’s story “a Rorschach test.”  It’s been a while since I’ve encountered a comment in sports analysis that is simultaneously so uncommon and so entirely accurate.

Belcher’s murder/suicide this weekend is a (thankfully) rare sports news story that has literally nothing to feel good about from any angle. And what you react to first about this story, or what you react to most strongly, I’m discovering, is instructive.

My first thought was that a this was the product of a total abdication of mental healthcare by the sports community. Because that’s my personal hobbyhorse, and the events of Belcher’s last hours echo eerily the Donnie Moore incident that has haunted my imagination for years and (in part) inspired my original post. 

I was disgusted with myself later for not jumping immediately to the issue of violence against women, that we were turning someone who committed horrific acts on par with those of Rae Carruth into a tragic hero. 

You could, as Bob Costas did on Sunday Night Football, call for stricter gun control in the wake of an act of violence for which firearms were necessary, but not sufficient. You could bemoan the NFL’s negligence in helping to prevent brain damage, or substance abuse, or its callous treatment of Chiefs players in making them take the field the day after one of their own committed a bizarre and unthinkable act of violence. You could bemoan the culture of stoic paleo-masculinity that forces athletes at all levels to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of personal or professional tragedy. 

You could take this event and spin it to fit whatever cause you like, because there’s more than enough bad feeling to go around. But I don’t know what the causal element to Belcher’s murder-suicide was, and neither do I know what the most awful part of the story is. 

I hope some change occurs, either in sports or society, as a result of this thoroughly awful event. But it’s hard to hope for something concretely good in the wake of something so senselessly awful.