I can’t criticize the decision to go ahead with the Carolina Panthers vs. Kansas City Chiefs game tomorrow as scheduled. Who knows the right thing to do after an NFL linebacker kills his girlfriend, and then does the same to himself in front of the team’s head coach and general manager?
If you know of anyone with years of experience in dealing with that specific situation, please call Roger Goodell and make an introduction.
All I know is that I’m going to see the Chiefs and Panthers on television tomorrow, and I’m going to feel awful. I’m going to wonder how many of the Chiefs players are playing through tears as they instinctively look around for #59 and he’s not there. I’m going to look at head coach Romeo Crennel and wonder how many times he’s replayed that horrific scene in his head. I’m going to wonder if some guy’s Range Rover is parked on a blood stain in a stadium adjacent lot.
I’m going to wonder what Crennel could possibly have said during a pre-game speech.
There’s just too much happening emotionally right now. And again, it’s not like I can put myself in anyone shoes here, but for me, for my own personal preferences, I’d just rather not see that game tomorrow.
I know a postponement or cancelling causes logistical nightmares. And I know it would suck for people who depend on Chiefs games to make a living ‒ vendors, scalpers, people who sell parking, bars and restaurants around the stadium. It is, in a thousand ways, the more difficult decision to make.
I just don’t know how I could look at Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli and say to them, “Yeah, I know you watched one of your linebackers kill himself yesterday morning, but you’re still going to have to work tomorrow.”
And to be clear, for all I know, Crennel and Pioli could’ve been the ones pushing for the game to go on as scheduled. I don’t know what they wanted, and as fans, we’re likely to never know who made the call, or why they made it. My hope is that wherever the decision came from, it was made for human reasons and not logistical or financial ones.
For example, the need to refund ticket money, I would consider a bad reason to decide to play this game. Television obligations would be a bad reason to decide to go ahead with this game. Keeping a balanced NFL schedule would be a bad reason to go on with this game. Mollifying the fantasy football players of the world would be a really bad reason to decide to play this game.
My hope is that none of those things factored into the decision.
There are so many people who are going to be feeling unfathomable things during this game, and it’s an unfortunate fact that those feeling most intensely are also charged with entertaining us at the same time. Are you comfortable with that? Someone who had two absolutely devastating nightmares come true yesterday ‒ one, losing a friend and co-worker to suicide, and two, learning that that friend was also capable of murder ‒ is going to be on television tomorrow, playing a game that, at the end of the day, exists for your amusement.
He’ll have television cameras on him all day. He’s going to be right there, front and center in the fishbowl, for everyone to see.
At the very least, participation should be optional for the Chiefs tomorrow. Some guys ‒ maybe even most ‒ are going to want to play, maybe because it takes their mind off the tragedy, or maybe just because that’s what they do. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with either of those things.
There would also be nothing wrong with a player or coach having a heavy heart and needing tomorrow to mourn and process. And if that was the case, there shouldn’t be any repercussions for that person.
Imagine this scenario: With 1:44 to play in the second quarter, the Chiefs are down 41-0. Members of the defense are confused and wounded, and they can’t concentrate on the game. The Panthers offense slices right through them, time and time again. The despair, due both to the tragedy, and now the shellacking, spreads, and the Panthers are absolutely kicking the Chiefs all around the football field with little or no resistance.
Would we call the game then?
It’s really not that far-fetched a scenario. The Chiefs often struggle to look like an NFL team under normal, happy circumstances. Is it crazy to think that something this sudden and tragic could devastate them? Is it worth risking this scene actually coming to fruition?
This is a game that we don’t need. Not that we need any of them, but this one in particular, we really don’t need. The Chiefs are not going to the playoffs. The Panthers are not going to the playoffs. This game has no bearing on the playoff race or anything else that seemed like it was important a day ago. It will also not be a thing of football beauty. We will not miss out on greatness if this game were to cease to exist. If there was ever a game we could be comfortable letting go, it would be this one.
Unsurprisingly, though, we’re not letting it go. Brady Quinn and Cam Newton will take the field tomorrow, and at some point, it will settle into something like a real football game that isn’t being played amidst unthinkable circumstances.
I don’t know if that’s the right thing. I hope it’s at least being done for good reasons.