A nightmare of a season for the Kansas City Chiefs turned into a real life nightmare Saturday morning with an unthinkable tragedy that shook the Chief’s organization and the Kansas City community to its core.
After murdering his girlfriend, Jovan Belcher drove to the Chiefs practice facility, and there in front of head coach Romeo Crennel and general manger Scott Pioli, Belcher committed suicide. In just a short period of time on an otherwise peaceful Saturday morning two lives were violently ended, one infant child was made an orphan, a community was left shocked and heartbroken, and a franchise was sent into mourning, struggling to make sense of a senseless tragedy.
But the Chiefs played on. With little hesitation, the players on the Kansas City roster decided to play their game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon as scheduled. The Chiefs players showed great professionalism in the wake of such horrifying events, as they never even considered the possibility of not playing the game. With just over 24 hours passing between the time the team was evacuated from their own practice facility and the start of their game on Sunday, the Chiefs played with no indication that they were at all distracted by the events that had unfolded the previous day.
In the middle of everything was Crennel. After witnessing a man take his own life, something so disturbing that no person should ever have to bear witness to it, Crennel carried the responsibility of preparing his team to play a football game the very next day. After such a trying season professionally, even prior to Saturday, Crennel’s problems became more personal after witnessing the death of a young man who he had spent the last three years coaching and whose life he had help to mold over that time. Through it all, Crennel was able to hold himself and his team together for what was an emotional weekend in Kansas City.
The Chiefs fans, to their credit, set their griping aside in the wake of the tragedy. A season’s worth of complaints about the team, about Crennel, and about Pioli were put on the back burner, as the Arrowhead faithful came out in full support of the Chiefs. In a lot of ways the fans and the Kansas City community needed the distraction of a football game as much as the Chiefs needed the full support of their fans, and on Sunday both got what they needed from the other.
The end result was arguably the best game the Chiefs have played this year. The Chiefs played with incredible focus right from the start: they scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time this season, they didn’t turn the ball over, and they committed just one turnover all game long. It was a truly inspired performance by a team going through turmoil.
In the long run, this win by the Chiefs won’t mean much. It may or may not lead to additional wins the rest of the season, and it may or may not prevent Crennel and Pioli from losing their jobs after the season. But on the day, it was exactly what a team and a community needed, as they try to make sense out of a senseless act.