“Hopefully we can learn from this and try to actually figure out whether someone’s battling something, you know, deeper on the inside than what they may be revealing on a day to day basis,” Brady Quinn, quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, noted after the tragedy of that hit his team a day before their most recent game with the Carolina Panthers.
Javon Belcher, their starting linebacker, had driven up to the Kansas City complex in a deranged mood early Saturday morning and confessed to Kansas City coach, Romeo Crennel and General Manager, Scott Pioli that he had just shot his wife. He stood before them with a gun pointed to his head. Then, as his coach and GM tried to talk him out of it and police cars were arriving, Belcher knelt down, did the sign of the cross, and shot himself.
All of his fellow players were taken completely by surprise. Belcher’s life until that moment had been the stuff of story books. The son of a single mother, he had established a great reputation, starting in high school, where he excelled in football, wrestling and academics. The reputation as a model son and leader continued in college, where he majored in child development and family relations, and had joined a group called, “Male Athletes Against Violence,” which required members to sign a pledge to look honestly at their actions with regard to violence.
His coach at Maine University, Jack Cosgrove, noted in USA Today, “He’s very much in control of himself and comes across very soft-spoken, an absolute gentleman. He’s able to blend this quiet confidence, this demeanor, with his passion for learning, becoming a better person, a better student, a better football player.”
He was an undrafted free agent at Kansas City who soon became a starter. After he became a starter, he signed a million-dollar contract and his future looked bright. Then his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, gave birth to a baby daughter, Zoey Michelle Belcher, and things began to change.
Not much has been revealed so far about the events on the morning of the shooting. Apparently Kasandra Perkins went out to a concert and stayed out late with girlfriends, leaving her daughter in the hands of Belcher’s mother, Cheryl Shepherd. Belcher also went out for drinks with friends. When he came home early that morning, he and Perkins had a quarrel and Belcher shot her several times in front of his mother. After kissing his dying wife good-bye, he got in his car and drove five miles to the Kansas City Chief’s complex.
One relative of Perkins indicated that there were tensions between them since the birth of their child. “It wasn’t a healthy thing that was going on,” Angela Perkins was quoted in Newsday of the relationship between Belcher and her cousin. She said she had been in the couple’s home both before and after their daughter was born, and she noted that the stress of having a baby just before the season and Belcher’s constant time away from home for practices and road games “really put a strain” on the relationship.
Pioneering research on marriages by Philip and Carolyn Cowan in 1975, in which they studied the long-term relationships of couples before and after having their first child, demonstrated that there is generally a rise in marital tensions following the birth of the first child. Often this is linked with the differing attitudes and standards toward raising a child and towards the role of the mother and father in parenting.
When Angela Perkins described her cousin’s relationship with Belcher as unhealthy, she was probably talking about the way they communicated. Apparently, their communication was destructive and they were quarreling rather than applying constructive communication to resolve their differences. When couples quarrel, they try to use manipulation tactics to get what they want. Sometimes the manipulation consists of trying to make the other person feel guilty; sometimes it is shouting to intimidate the other person or crying to invoke their sympathy; sometimes it is an attempt to shame the other person for not being who he/or she wants; sometimes it is threatening the other person. All such manipulation is counterproductive and results in creating anger and resentment.
Belcher was raised by a single mother who probably adored and idealized him. He was also looked up to former coaches, friends and teammates. It may be that he came to see himself as a morally righteous person whose goodness could not be questioned. However, Perkins did not see him that way, particularly after their baby was born.
Angela Perkins pointed to Belcher’s constant absence due to football practices and traveling away from home as the source of marital tensions. It might not be too much of a stretch to assume Kasandra Perkins was complaining to her cousin about this and perhaps was also complaining to him, denigrating him as a man and as a father. If this was indeed the case, it might have burst his bubble of pride and provoked a narcissistic rage.
From my work with many male patients who had profiles similar to Belcher’s, I have seen first-hand how a man’s need to have his masculinity and goodness affirmed by a loved one can make him fragile when she instead belittles or finds fault with him. I have also seen that if such a man counteracts this by belittling his girlfriend’s (or spouse’s) mothering, it can likewise enrage her. If both the female and male are not in control of their feelings but are instead driven by them, fireworks can and do occur.
We also know that while Michelle was talking to friends and relatives about her ordeal, Belcher was talking only to his coach and GM, who, to their credit, did offer counseling. Belcher may have been denying the extent of his stress and the depth of his feelings about the situation. He may well have had murderous thoughts well before that morning, but he was the type of person who would want to hide such thoughts from himself and others-even from the counselor. If he could have spoken of such thoughts, it would have made all the difference. But apparently he could not. She he acted on them instead.
Brady Quinn made a good point. Maybe his teammates might have noticed more and done more. But when someone is intent on keeping things hidden, there’s not much anybody can do.