Archived Story

A trending tragedy in pro football

Published 10:23am Monday, December 10, 2012

I was riding to the 2012 Southeastern Conference championship game when I heard the initial reports of the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide in the Kansas City Chiefs parking lot.
Of course I wanted the details, but I also had so many questions.
What is it about our professional athletes that are sending them into these downward spirals resulting in death?
Often the outward appearances that are displayed in the locker rooms don’t project the actual inner workings of a players thoughts or eventual actions.
In the press conference after the Chiefs defeated Carolina last Sunday, Brady Quinn spoke some heart felt words to the press.
The former Notre Dame quarterback questioned how sincere we all are when we ask the question “How are you doing?”, and at the same time how sincere are we when we answer back?
Who knows what the underlying circumstances were between Belcher and his girlfriend, and sadly the couples issues will fall into another category of despair that continues to circulate around the NFL.
When Junior Seau killed himself with a gunshot wound to the chest, his friends, family and closest affiliates were completely shocked.
Why Junior Seau? The face of the San Diego Chargers franchise and a guy that had so much going for him. Or did he?
Obviously, something had shaken Seau to the core and it rode him to the brink and a place where he couldn’t handle it anymore.
On a personal note, I’m from the same place in Atlanta as former Denver Broncos wideout and South Carolina standout Kenny McKinley.
Kenny was one of the kids that always had everything come naturally to him, whether on the football field or basketball court, Kenny was good at it.
He was what they called “a good kid” and a guy that very rarely put himself on a pedestal with what he could do athletically, even though he very well could have.
Although he was one of the best high school quarterbacks I had ever seen in person, Steve Spurrier wanted his athleticism on the perimeter from the wide receiver position.
I would say the ‘ole ball coach’ made a good move because McKinley left Columbia statistically as the best wide receiver in school history.
He fell ill-fated when he was cut due to injury by the Denver Broncos and when his child and girlfriend left his house one morning, McKinley killed himself in what I truly wanted to believe was an accident.
But, what I wanted to believe and what I knew were the facts were painstakingly different.
Kenny’s death started my thought process with a question that will never be answered when referring to death: Why?
We don’t have answers for why individuals make decisions with their lives, no matter how small or how tragic, but we do have thoughts.
All McKinley and, on a much bigger scale, Seau had ever done was excel athletically and when that was taken from them, I believe that their mind sets for personal worth, no matter what they portrayed on the outside, dramatically changed for the worse.
Although it was far from the truth, in their mind: What were they good for?
I also don’t know why Belcher felt he had to kill someone else, but I don’t find it a coincidence that he went to the Chiefs facility and thanked the staff for his athletic opportunities before turning the gun on himself.
Sports can bring the best out of people, but to what point in society have we invested ourselves entirely into them?
Ultimately, we will never know, and that is what makes it never-ending.
What I want to believe is that these athletes that find themselves in depression, or debt, or suicidal will reach for help when they need it, but I fear that it will never be that simple.
Cowart is the sports editor for The Outlook.