As Cam Newton's Hail Mary pass fell short of the end zone and the Kansas City Chiefs earned their second win of what has been a disappointing NFL season, no win of Week 13 had come against such tough odds.
No win in 2012 could ever be so bittersweet.
Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend yesterday. He repeatedly shot the mother of his three-month-old daughter and then drove to the Chiefs facility and committed suicide in full view of head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli.
Preparing for an NFL game is more than a full-time job. Many will never know the personal hell NFL coaches put themselves through as they work 70, 80 hours or more in preparation for each week. Marriages suffer, health suffers, children grow up without their fathers—all for a game.
Words will never do justice to what Crennel and Pioli went through over the past 24 hours, nor to what they were thinking as the final seconds clicked off of Sunday's victory. Joy, certainly, was part of the equation, relief too. Numb may be the best word to describe anyone near the Chiefs organization today, as the reality of what happened—what was seen—may not set in for days or weeks.
Zoey Michelle will grow up with neither a father nor a mother. Belcher's young daughter is, perhaps, both the smallest and the biggest victim of this entire tragedy. By all accounts, her parents loved each other. Pictures of the happy family dot Instagram and Facebook. As Zoey grows up, Belcher's mother, who has taken custody, will have to decide how much she knows of her father—a father from whom no one saw this coming.
So, admittedly, it's easy to see why many wondered why this game was even played at all. Out of respect for the dead, out of respect for Zoey, out of respect for two families torn apart by such horrible events, why not postpone the game?
It's a moot point now, as the Chiefs players themselves lobbied to play. The game's start was punctuated with a moment of silence for all victims of domestic violence. It was a tacit nod to Kasandra Perkins, but a tactful admission that none of us really know the full story.
What pushed Belcher over the edge? What created the monster? How does a soft-spoken, well-mannered, member of the "Male Athletes Against Violence" turn himself and his family into statistics? How does the world shatter so quickly around people who looked to be on solid footing?
We don't know.
We might never know.
We wrestle with these difficult questions even as we fully admit that we have no idea what Crennel, Pioli, Belcher's teammates, or the families of the victims are going through now or will go through in the weeks to come. We don't know the extent of the nightmares, but we know they will come. We can't possibly hope to quantify the grief. We just know that it will be immense.
So, if only for a moment, we cheer for the Kansas City Chiefs today. We cheer them on both as football fans and as fellow humans. We cheer for their fleeting moment of joy in a time of such incredible sorrow. We cheer for the redemptive and healing power of sports—that anyone could find a reason to get out of bed after what these men went through.
Against all odds, they picked up a hard-fought win in the most difficult of circumstances. No one would have blamed them for a loss. No one would have raised a complaint if Crennel, Pioli or any number of teammates had excused themselves from this game.
Instead, they stayed. They persevered. They won.
It might only be the second win of the season. It might be the last win of the season. Yet, no win is bigger for the Chiefs or any other team in Week 13, and no win may ever mean so much to this group of men for the rest of their lives.
Just as we cheered for the Chiefs today, we look forward to continued healing and success for a team that deserves it more than any of us could ever know.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."
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