The story of an NFL player who murdered his girlfriend (and the mother of his three-month-old daughter) and then killed himself is a senseless tragedy that resonates along many lines. Understand something fundamental: This is not merely a football story.
The sorry fates of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins will be debated for months and years to come. Adding to the sad and strange turn of events, the football player shot and killed himself shortly thereafter, leaving a nation to guess what was fatally wrong with him.
The case is so shocking that it makes people sick just to try to unravel what happened here. Football players are also TV stars. We see them play on television all the time. We feel as if we know them as our friends, instead of seeing them as some sort of an aloof, distant hero. We want to protect them and keep their image intact.
Was this a case of a pro football player who snapped because of the pressure of his violent job? Was he a deranged young man who finally could no longer bear the strain of existing in such a high-profile cauldron of serious responsibilities on and off the field?
You can bet that this will spill over and become a gun-control issue as well. Whenever someone is killed by gunshot, especially when the case involves a celebrity, some people will question if the United States needs tighter gun-controls laws to be enacted.
Wouldn't this young woman as well as the killer have had their lives spared if there had been stricter laws governing gun possession.
Another aspect of this tragedy is the point of domestic violence. Family groups will raise their voices about the rights of young mothers who live with violent partners. Even if the killer had never demonstrated such violent tendencies, perhaps there were clues that pointed to mental instability on his part.
The NFL will come under scrutiny as well. The pro football game has become more violent than I have ever seen it. I've watched the game every Sunday (and Monday) for most of my life but I have never seen players getting seriously injured so often — every week. Concussions are the game's No. 1 concern now. Did the ultra-violence of the sport contribute to Belcher's state of mind?
Maybe we will never really comprehend why a football hero's life had to end in such a shocking, horrifying, and tragic manner.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)invention, Shunning the Naysayers and Creating a Personal Revolution," which Penguin will publish Aug. 7. Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
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