Sports

Bernstein: Belcher Tragedy Has No Bigger Meaning

Jovan Belcher.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Jovan Belcher. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Dan-Bernstein Dan Bernstein
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since...
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By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist

(CBS) Sometimes horrible things are just horrible things.

It makes us feel better when we can determine direct causes, identify means of prevention of similar acts, or categorize those involved as somehow different, distant or foreign.

This process, sometimes, can be societally valuable as it enlightens us to dangers and spurs us to ask more and better questions. It also can be inherently selfish, as we reflexively seek subconscious reassurances that something like this is less likely to happen to us.

Seemingly driven by both nature and environment — in this case psychological responses sorted, accelerated and amplified by modern multimedia – we also race faster than ever to broaden incidents into patterns, attaching parts of the story as needed to globalize well-worn narratives or advance agendas.

In the aftermath of the Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher murdering Kasandra Perkins and killing himself, the events have been forced into being About Something More.

Bob Costas loaded the discussion with his jarring “gun culture” comments on NBC Sunday night, a halftime essay inspired by the more incendiary opinions of FoxSports.com’s Jason Whitlock. The expected blowback arrived not just in howls from the masses, but from thoughtful, well-meant rebuttals like that of Jen Floyd Engel, also of FoxSports.com.

Yet this is no different from the last time the NFL-and-guns story came to the fore. There is nothing new since Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg in 2008, or since the Tank Johnson story of 2006 – the houseful of guns discovered, and the felon friend shot to death shortly thereafter.

There is no more reason to use Jovan Belcher to catalyze second-amendment debate than any of the all-but-anonymous victims of the nightly gun violence on Chicago’s streets. They were people, too.

Others have mentioned reports of Belcher having short-term-memory problems in the days previous, wrapping him into the ongoing discussion of football-related brain trauma. Sadly, however, this connection is also not reason to make the incident into more than it was, as that possibility has become self evident. That consideration is immediate, for most, and this makes it no more the story than before.

Kevin Powell on CNN.com believes the issue at heart is outsized football machismo, fitting this into an existing outline of warped, restrictive, damaging definitions of manhood. Sports Illustrated’s David Epstein describes the disconnect between on-field and off-field behaviors, what we know about a man and what we don’t.

Frank Bruni in the New York Times tried to put everything together in a piece about the ugly underside of the NFL, merely using Belcher as the latest touchstone for cognitive dissonance – what with all the drug abuse, violent crime, Dave Duerson, Junior Seau, the Saints’ bounty program, Michael Vick’s dog-fighting, the pending class-action concussion lawsuit and Dez Bryant assaulting his own mother. Bruni wanted the murder/suicide to be the latest reason to ask “Why am I a fan of this?”

This is what we do when such things occur, and it’s not wrong. The responses themselves, in fact, are part of the pattern we are hard-wired to seek.

All of these same opinions will be offered again, and perhaps soon. In some form, from some place. We can be sure of this when we look not for high-minded explanations after the fact, but for obvious truths.

Football artificially selects for violence, a system that inherently covers for sociopathy as a business risk in the endless quest for size and speed. Undereducated and under-parented products of the soulless talent-mill are handed large sums of money and can tend toward untidy social lives that lack support and structure.

Rattling the brain around in the skull causes damage. The sport is bad for you. It can, indeed, cause a physical spiral that involves drugs and alcohol.

It is legal to own guns in America, and will remain so.

And what happened was about all of this, but not necessarily a specific referendum on any part of it.

In a story Monday in the Kansas City star, we saw the terrible occurrence involving Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins and so many others referred to as an “unthinkable tragedy.”

Really?