On its face, the idea of Romeo Crennel having to coach a football game mere hours after witnessing his own player, Jovan Belcher, commit suicide seems petty and dickish and greedy and lazy and stupid. I know that was my first thought yesterday when the NFL announced that the Panthers-Chiefs game would go on as scheduled. I always count on Roger Goodell to do the wrong thing, and I certainly don't expect him to show any kind of fortitude when it comes to inconveniencing his corporate sponsors. Goodell's NFL brakes for nobody.
Supposedly, the decision to play today came after the NFL "discussed" the matter with Crennel and the Chiefs. I don't know if I buy that (and really, the family of Kasandra Perkins ought to have a say in this, too). But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that playing the game as scheduled wasn't the worst idea in the world.
Football played (and watched) on emotional tenterhooks isn't football at all, but maybe that's OK. The most important thing is to find a way to burn off the daylight. Football offers at least that much. You will hear the word "distraction" enough times today to make you want to throw up into a bucket. It's a horrible cliché, but it's not wrong. What does putting the game off until Monday or Tuesday really accomplish, apart from looking like a sensitive thing to do? Death is insidious; it doesn't work on a calendar. Sometimes it takes years to work its collateral damage, and you'll be going about your everyday business, shopping for eggs or something, when it does.
The last thing you want in the wake of a tragedy is to have all the time in the world to sit there and think about it, to let it play in your head over and over again until a kind of permanent darkness settles over you. It's reassuring to know that the world keeps rolling on, that it doesn't all crack apart the moment something bad happens.
Of course, this whole argument exists outside of the bigger argument (sure to come) about whether any football game should ever be played. Because the second thing I thought when this happened, right after, "Oh God, that's awful," was, "Oh. Concussions." I know I'm not the only one who went there, either. There's obviously no clear explanation of what happened yet, but it's probably not great that a lot of people think that football could have had a hand in something this horrible. But for today, the game will be played. And that's probably all right. Because there's never a good time to play a football game. And soon, that may be true in every possible way.