'The NFL Beat': To Explode From Within

A personal take on the Jovan Belcher murder/suicide

'The NFL Beat': To Explode From Within

Week 13 of the NFL season has arrived, and with it comes the final week of your fantasy league's 2012 regular season.

Given the amount of parity in fantasy leagues this year caused by positional scarcity at the running back position and the relative fantasy underperformance of "elite" QBs, more teams than usual face a battle for their playoff life this weekend.

Week 13's Thursday night game brought fantasy owners mixed blessings, with numerous fantasy stars such as Matt Ryan, Julio Jones,Jimmy Graham, Roddy White, and Darren Sproles all wetting the bed while Drew Brees had a more "major" accident. Brees threw five interceptions that should have been six, and for the first time in 54 games, failed to put up a passing touchdown.

You're either in a big hole to start, or your opponent is.

--------------------------------- And now this column has changed. If you want fantasy football, please go to my website, where my rankings are currently Top 8 in the world. None of it matters, and it's all so trivial.

I just got news about the shootings at Arrowhead stadium, and I'm going to do what the Kansas City Chiefs should do tomorrow: Not do my job. Not play. Not try to wash over something so tragic, or cheapen its lessons by acting as if we can move on as previously planned.

The Chiefs are scheduled to play an NFL football game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at home.

A murder/suicide has occurred in Kansas City this morning involving a person that KC police have identified as Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher.

The storyline, as we are receiving it currently, is horrifying. More details will be coming out and what I say here is based on very, very early knowledge of the situation.

Reports are that Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then absconded to the Chiefs practice facility where he was somehow met or confronted by members of the Chiefs organization. This group was reported to be comprised of at least Chiefs General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Romeo Crennel. At this time, it is still unapparent whether the parking lot confrontation outside of the practice facility was by accident, or as a result of the organization being alerted by police that Belcher was at large and may be headed their way.

It is being reported that Belcher was "not threatening" upon being confronted, outside of the fact that he had a gun pointed at his own head.

The starting linebacker "thanked" his coach and GM, and then reportedly took his life right there in their presence. Belcher's near-three-month-old baby girl is now an orphan.

The National Football League has informed Carolina Panthers interim GM Brandon Beane that plans for travel will move on as planned for the Panthers, who will be boarding a team flight around noon central to Kansas City.

People handle grief in different ways, and suicide is probably the toughest one of all for survivors. The closure isn't there. The "looking back on the good times" aren't there. The image emblazoned in the front of your memory about the person you loved so much is that of one you didn't even know. You think back on the person as a stranger and a loved on all at once.

I was first touched by suicide at age 19, when I lost my best friend Max. My father, Max's godfather, was as stricken by grief as I was, but was able to help in a unique way, and I'll get to that soon.

I grew up with Max, we shared a cradle. I don't remember one summer we didn't spend together, and can't even count the number of fish we caught off of the pier or the miles we racked up on our bicycles going to get Big Gulps and candy to pass the time.

As I went off to college, Max started to lose his way. He wanted to join the Army, but like myself (can you believe it?) Max had a few learning disabilities. One included dyslexia and he couldn't pass the tests. He got a job at a funeral home and obviously entered a very dark time in his life.

I was in college, pledging a fraternity and touring the United States playing rugby with the Austin Blacks. It was anything but a "dark time" in my life. Still, every day, on the way to class, I walked by the 307-foot UT Tower that my father's brother voluntarily plummeted to his death from some 30 years earlier. The observation deck of the UT clock tower was closed for 23 years following this event.

I don't even know where this is going, but it's OK to admit that. It's OK to admit that you are in the dark or that you are lost. I am lost. Right now. In this column. So let me talk about music. I can always turn to music in times like this.

I met Casey McPherson in 2004 when we were both very different people than we are in 2012. Casey was blessed with the gift of music, and I was blessed with the love of it. We became friends as my old band toured with his old band Endochine frequently. Endochine was one of the best bands to ever come out of Austin. The term "Endochine," as explained by Casey, signified two things. One latin root meaning "explosion," the other meaning "inside." The combination of the two words signified an individual or object "exploding from within."

This name fit the beautifully tormented music perfectly, and was also an apt description for the group's interpersonal chemistry. Endochine could have been the next Radiohead had their members simply learned to not kick each other's asses so often or light house drum kits on fire after shows.

So it exploded, and did it ever.

In one horrible year, Casey lost both his father and his only brother to suicide. Things started sliding out of control. We can't get into it all here, but he was in a bad place.

We are lucky here in Austin. We have HAMM and the SIMS foundation, whose missions are dedicated specifically to artists in need of both physical and behavioral care. Casey was strong enough to take the hard way out. He was strong enough to fight for understanding instead of taking the "easy way" that was undoubtedly contemplated in his darkest moments of weakness and remembering.

Then he, or maybe we, started Alpha Rev. "Alpha" representing the start, the beginning, while "Rev" is the latin root for words of positive change like revelation. The beginning of something new, and by definition, positive. The rest was history, and I can't describe how much I have learned during my seven years touring, recording, and bonding with my bandmates who I now see no differently than family.

It isn't just in the music, either. Casey McPherson now sits on the board of directors for Mental Health America Texas, an organization through which we have been able to extend our message of hope and strength at a level that seems impossible looking back. Every public school student in Texas has heard the message, and hopefully the negative stigma involved with proactively talking about suicide will slowly begin to fade away.

For now, it hasn't. For now, "sick" is OK as long as it's not mental.

Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli were greeted by a player this morning who had just murdered the mother of his three-month-old baby. They then watched as this human being put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger after thanking them. I would assume they were also witness to whatever trajectory the bullet took, and whatever parts of the previously-intact body that may have become un-intact with the traumatic blast.

I will have trouble watching the NFL tomorrow, and I wasn't even in the same state as the tragedy, much less on the scene. The league expects the Chiefs to play in a football game literal hours after this? How can you coach with that image in your mind?

My opinion is that Pioli and Crennel should be put under observation at a behavioral center for preventative PTSD intervention, and should be thinking of things other than football.

But that's just me. People deal with grief in very different ways. The point of this column is this:

The truest form of strength is admitting you feel incapable of being strong. The truest form of strength is being just strong enough to know that you are currently weak.

Help is there. It's free, it's everywhere, and it's a shame that we can't talk about the leading cause of death by injury in the United States, and a disease that takes the lives of over 1 million Americans each year without setting off morality detectors or inviting vitriol from trolls. God Bless the Kansas City Chiefs organization, and the families of all involved.

[Alex Dunlap is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and founder of RosterWatch.]

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Jovan Belcher, Romeo Crenel, Drew Bress, Matt Ryan

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