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A Culture of Football, Guns, & Sin

If you’re a sports fan or if you pay attention to national events, you know about the National Football League (NFL) Kansas City Chiefs’ linebacker who shot and killed his girlfriend last week and then committed suicide.  The football player was Jovan Belcher.  What caught my attention was the immediate rush to judgment by journalists and commentators in the sports and news media, most of whom wanted to place the blame on. the “gun culture” and the “violent game of football.”

I read over fifteen articles about the shooting and the opinions of various “experts” trying to explain what happened.  I’m not going to bother discussing whether strict gun control laws would have prevented the murder.  Jovan Belcher was a 25-year-old, 228 pound, 6’ 2” rock-solid athlete who didn’t need a gun to kill his defenseless girlfriend.  He could have used his bare hands or any number of items that would have been available in the house where they were living.

I’m also not going to discuss the football and brain trauma issue, other than to say that young men have been playing professional football in this country for well over 100 years, and although there have always been serious head injuries, there has never been a corresponding number of murders committed by injured players.

What was absent from the articles I read, was any discussion concerning the moral character of Jovan Belcher.  The articles focused on external factors, instead of what may have been going on inside the mind, heart, and soul of Belcher.

I’m going to lay out some undisputed facts about Belcher and the crime he committed, and then approach the situation from a purely Catholic (Christian) standpoint.  I think that in the end you will agree that more could be accomplished by focusing the discussion on Christian virtues, values, and behavior, rather than on guns and brain trauma injuries.

According to police reports, Belcher murdered his live-in girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at about 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 1, 2012.  At that time, Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd, was in the kitchen of Belcher’s Kansas City home and after hearing the gunfire, she rushed into the master bedroom where the crime took place.

Prior to the shooting, Belcher’s mother heard arguing between the couple and heard Belcher tell Perkins, “You can’t talk to me like that!”  She then heard gunfire and ran into the bedroom.  Belcher’s mother watched as he apologized to his dead girlfriend, kissed her forehead, and then said goodbye.  He then walked into his 3-month-old daughter’s bedroom and after kissing his daughter, apologized to his mother and left the house.

Belcher drove five miles to the practice facility at Arrowhead Stadium.  In the parking lot, he encountered Scott Pioli, the General Manager for the Kansas City Chiefs.  Pioli knew Belcher had been having problems with his girlfriend, because the Chiefs had provided counseling for the couple.

Belcher pointed a gun at his own head and told Pioli, “I did it.  I killed her.”  Other Chiefs employees arrived shortly thereafter, including Head Coach Romeo Crennel, and the linebackers’ coach, Gary Gibbs.  Pioli and Crennel tried to reason with Belcher and persuade him to put the gun down.  Before long, the men heard police sirens.

When Belcher heard the sirens, he thanked his coaches for everything they had done for him, asked one of the Chiefs’ employees if he would take care of his daughter, and then said, “Guys, I have to do this…. I got to go.  I can’t be here.”  He then knelt down behind a vehicle, made the sign of the cross, and fired a single bullet into his head.

Police officers believe that Belcher became suicidal during his five-mile drive to Arrowhead Stadium.  Police Sgt. Richard Sharp said, “He probably realized he had done something and he couldn’t go back…. He cared about her.  I don’t think he could live with himself.”

The night before the killings, while Belcher’s girlfriend attended a downtown Trey Songz concert and then went out for drinks with friends, Belcher “partied” at the Power and Light District.  The Kansas City Star newspaper reported that the couple got into an argument at their home at around 1 a.m. with Belcher complaining that his girlfriend had stayed out too late.  Belcher then left and drove to another woman’s apartment where he fell asleep in his car.

After being notified of a suspicious man sleeping in his car, police questioned Belcher.  It was obvious to the police that Belcher was intoxicated; however, he indicated to the police that he had not been driving.  Belcher than went into the other woman’s apartment and returned home a few hours later.  It was at that time that the couple argued and Belcher murdered his girlfriend.

Prior to the murder-suicide, Jovan Belcher only had a couple of minor brushes with the law.  Crime reports from the University of Maine, where he attended college, indicate that he punched out a glass window after arguing with a woman.  In another incident while he was in college, police were called to Belcher’s home over a non-violent dispute with a woman.

As Catholics, we know that as a consequence of our fallen human nature, we were all born with seven root passions: pride, lust, anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, and sloth.  As a result of the individual unique traits that each of us were born with, combined with the environment we grew up in and our life experiences, we each entered adolescence, and later adulthood, with a predominant tendency toward pride and one of the six other root passions.  A predominant tendency toward one of the six other root passions is called a primary fault.

It appears as though Jovan Belcher’s primary fault was anger.  When a person who suffers from the primary fault of anger is not taught to appropriately manage and control his anger, he learns to use his anger to get what he wants, serve his own self-interests, and satisfy his own pride.  Over time, he becomes adept at manipulating others through the use of intimidation, guilt, shame, bullying, and at times, physical abuse.

In addition to pride and anger, it appears as though Belcher also struggled with strong tendencies toward lust, envy, and gluttony (drunkenness).   If he had been taught about the dangers of these tendencies and the steps that could be taken to overcome them, there’s a possibility that he and his girlfriend would still be alive today.

And what are the steps Jovan Belcher could have taken to overcome his faults?  He could have been taught about the importance of daily prayer in overcoming his faults and learned to put into practice the contrary virtues for each of the root passions – humility (pride), kindness and forgiveness (anger), chastity and self-denial (lust), meekness (envy), and temperance (gluttony).

In October, I started writing a series of weekly mediations on the root passions and how to overcome them.  Each weekly mediation is made available for pick-up in the adoration chapel.  The mediations are also posted under “Mediations” in the “Category” column on the right side of the home page at Adoration.com.  You may want to take a look at the meditations and share them with your family members.

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