Sometimes in life, there are no right decisions. When a member of your family suddenly dies, there is no planning for that. There is no way to predict how you will react; how it will be possible to move on and make life normal again.
When that person suddenly dies—as Kansas City's Jovan Belcher did on Saturday—by taking his own life after a horrific and unfathomable series of events led him to the steps of the Chiefs' football facility, where he committed such an unthinkable final act, it is impossible to know what should come next.
Who can plan for what comes next?
General manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel had to see a member of their family end his own life right in front of them, and that very same day, they had to sit down and think about what should come next…about a football game.
On the one hand, it's ludicrous to think about football in the wake of such a horrible tragedy. On the other, Belcher took his life on a Saturday, and the NFL is a multi-billion-dollar business and the Kansas City Chiefs are hosting a televised game with 75,000 people expecting to enter those gates on Sunday. That's not a lot of time to figure out a realistic plan.
The whole idea of figuring out a plan is preposterous. Is it even possible to weigh the value of someone's life against hosting a football game? Would the decision be different if Belcher was shot by someone else, not himself? Would the circumstances of Belcher coming from having just shot and killed his child's mother change the decision to play a football game the next day? Would it be a tougher decision if this were just a suicide and not a murder-suicide?
This is for a football game?!?! Someone had to sit down and decide whether or not to play a football game after all this. Those questions you never expect to think about suddenly needed answering.
There is no way to predict how those in charge could react. There are no right decisions.
And yet someone had to make them. Whether it was Pioli or Crennel or Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or the players themselves, someone had to make the difficult decision of what to do next.
Per the Chiefs, via Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, they chose to play the game:
After discussions between the league office, head coach Romeo Crennel and Chiefs team captains, the Chiefs advised the NFL that it will play tomorrow's game vs. the Carolina Panthers at its originally scheduled time.
That's the right decision. Playing the game is the right thing to do. It's not because of the TV contracts or the logistics of turning away thousands of fans or travel for the opponents or figuring out when is an appropriate time to reschedule the game or because the time on the field can serve as a healthy distraction for players and coaches or because that's what those involved in this tragedy would have wanted them to do.
No. All of those things may have been factors, but they certainly were not the reasons why playing the game is the right thing to do.
Playing the game is the right thing to do because, simply, that is what they decided to do.
It is hard to imagine anyone knowing what to do when faced with this situation in life. There is no planning for what happened. There is no "what if" contingency plan for the next day, even if that next day involves an NFL football game.
They chose to play, so playing is the right thing to do. Had they decided to wait until Monday or postpone it until Wild Card Weekend, knowing both teams were out of the playoffs anyway, that would have been the right thing, too.
And with that decision comes all the logistical issues. There are 50 some-odd members of the Kansas City football family who have to look around the locker room and block out the reason why one locker stays empty on Sunday. The Chiefs—the entire NFL community—will have to lift up their heavy hearts and play a football game this weekend.
Is it the right thing to do? Yes, because that's what they are doing.
Sports have always managed to put life in perspective. On most days, sports allow us to forget about life for a while; that our favorite team is struggling supersedes real-life issues at work or at home or wherever. There is something oddly comforting about the notion that your favorite team losing a game can actually ruin your day, or your week or even your year. It's hilarious how much stake we put in our team's success.
Then something like this happens. On days like this, life figures out a way to put sports in perspective. Who wins and who loses doesn't really matter. It never should.
For Pioli and Crennel and Hunt and the entire Chiefs family, they had to figure out a way to separate sports from life and life from sports—to maintain enough perspective on both—in order to decide whether or not to play a never-more-than-now meaningless football game on Sunday.
They made the right decision. Because they had to.