A Peek Inside Another Culture
If you’re not into sports, you may have missed the murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins. Belcher shot Perkins to death, then drove to the team’s training facility Saturday. In front of coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli, Belcher shot himself to death.
The Chiefs had a game less than 24 hours later. After consulting with the team, the NFL decided the game would go on as scheduled–a decision many people disagreed with. A few, including Foxsports.com columnist Jason Whitlock and Tampa Bay Times columnist Eric Deggans, have said that the game shouldn’t have been played so soon after the tragedy.
The Chiefs chose to play. It’s possible the NFL pressured them, but they probably didn’t need to. I suspect that in the same circumstances, every NFL and major college football team would have done the same thing. I think many high school football teams would have done the same thing, too.
I’m no football player, and I can’t claim to be a cultural insider. But football teams are trained to bond together to overcome adversity. It’s part of the myth.
“From here,” former NFL coach Dennis Green once said, “we have to go on the road, in the snow, in hostile environment, and play our kind of game. And we don’t want it any other way.”
Certainly a tough road to the playoffs is far different than trying to suit up after one of your work family kills his wife and then commits suicide at work, but apply the thought process. Football players are conditioned, from very early on, to meet and overcome obstacles. You have to. It’s a painful game to play. In order to find success, you have to play through pain and injury. NFL players can point to the league about their playing through concussions, but they’re part of the culture, too. You have to be tough to play football.
And you have to be a team. Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Packers, is well-know for talking about winning. A former player once said that Lombardi “treated us all the same, like dogs.” And yet Lombardi spoke of love as often as winning. Love is an odd thing to inject into a discussion about football. But love of your teammates will help you through. When things are tough, you pick each other up. You don’t let each other down.
And when something earth-shattering happens, one of the normal responses is to seek normalcy. To look for something familiar and safe. Something where you can find comfort in a shared bad experience. For a football team, that could be to be with each other, working on the things you’ve drilled on since you were a boy.
This post isn’t about whether the game should have been played. It’s about the culture in which the decision was made. It’s a culture I think I understand–at least a little. I’m not sure I could live successfully in it. You might not even understand it.
But it’s there. Along with a million other unique cultures that you or I or any other author may not understand. Our ability to understand such cultures will expand our ability to write them.