The Art of Performance: Tragedy in professional sports, personal lives

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By Dr. Keith Wilson

Tragedy struck in Kansas City on Dec. 1. The first focus was on the Kansas City Chiefs football team. Linebacker Jovan Belcher committed suicide in the parking lot of the team headquarters in front of the coach and general manager.

This was the tip of iceberg of the tragedy. Many more terrible details have been discovered that have impacted many different families connected to this terrible situation. Belcher killed Kasandra Perkins before driving to the stadium and killing himself.

Zoey, their three-month-old daughter, will never know her parents. No child deserves to begin their journey into the world with this set of intentional tragedies. She will never understand how her parents could dessert her at the beginning of her life.

This tragedy is not an isolated event. Everyday there are victims of domestic violence whose lives are changed by a person who uses violence to terminate a disagreement. Domestic violence is a prevalent reason murder occurs in our society. Intimate partner homicides accounted for 30 percent of the murders of women and 5 percent of the murders of men, according to the Domestic Violence Resource Center. Violence on family members is a significant problem for our culture.

This particular domestic violence event got national exposure because it engulfed the professional football community. The Kansas City Chiefs and the National Football League had to decide how to respond to this particular situation. The first decision concerned whether to play the football game the next day on national television. The players, the team management and the NFL all agreed it was better to play the game so the players would have a way to release their internal stress in a football game. It was a reasonable response to try to keep things as normal as possible in the face of tragedy.

While playing the football game in Kansas City might have helped the football players move forward, it did nothing for the real living victim of this crime. Zoey, the infant daughter, had no choices in this event.

Zoey deserved the best of a father who prided himself on performing under pressure as a football player. He became a starter in the NFL against long odds as a non-drafted player out of the University of Maine. For Zoey, it is unfortunate he did not use these skills in the platform of life that matters most, parenting the child he brought in the world.

He did not perform under pressure when he had a disagreement with Zoey’s mother.

He did not perform under pressure when he made decisions the night before when he was out partying and putting himself in a compromising position.

He did not perform under pressure when he had to determine the consequences of any actions he would take in this stressful situation.

His professional football teammates said he was very good at performing under pressure. But when it came time to make difficult decisions for his family, he forgot he had skills that would help him make good decisions in a compromising situation.

Belcher is now the image of the domestic violence epidemic of our country. He did not use his professional skills in the arena that matters most. Responsibility for your family is the only arena that really matters. Football, and any other profession, is nice, but it does not compare to being at your best where it matters most, taking care of your children.

Let’s hope the publicity this event has generated will encourage adults to learn and use the skills they need to resolve conflicts so they can stay focused on the needs of their children.

Dr. Wilson is a performance consultant in Hardin County and owner of The Wilson Center for Performance. He is performance anxiety consultant to the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center. He can be reached at TheWilsonCenter7@aol.com.