The Jovan Belcher Tragedy

By now, you've probably heard the horrific details. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend in front of her mother, then drove to Arrowhead and committed suicide, in front of his coach and GM, fatally shooting himself. It's the kind of news that sends everyone reeling. As prayers go out for the family and friends involved, here are some links to what's being written about these tragic events.


The Kansas City Star details the events that transpired: 

The argument apparently started about 1 a.m. Saturday, when Kasandra Perkins returned to her Kansas City home from the Trey Songz concert at The Midland and drinks afterward with friends.

Her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, lived with her and was mad that she’d stayed out so late, a friend of Perkins said.

The disagreement ended tragically about seven hours later, when Belcher killed Perkins by shooting her multiple times at the couple’s home, witnessed by his mother who was in from New York visiting the couple and their 3-month-old daughter.

Belcher then drove the few miles to Arrowhead Stadium, where, in a parking lot outside the team’s practice facility, he fatally shot himself as Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, coach Romeo Crennel and other team personnel tried to stop him.

Read more here:

The USA Today spoke to some of Belcher's current and former aquaintances, seeking to portray who Belcher was off the field. 

Dwayne Wilmot, who was Belcher's position coach at Maine, recalled that the easiest way to make him smile was to tell him his mother was coming to a game.

"Family was paramount for Jovan. You could see it at every game," said Wilmot, now a coach at Yale. "His family showed up in force. He relished the opportunity to make them proud as a student and an athlete. He did what he did for their love and their adulation.

"I'm devastated right now. Trying to hold together."

When asked if Belcher had any off-field concerns in college, Wilmot mentioned he had some maturity issues but nothing out of the ordinary. He also offered that Belcher completed his college studies early.

"Kids ages 18-22, they all have things they'd like to do over," the coach said. "When I was that age there were things I'd like to do over. To see him grow and evolve in that time, it is an absolute and utter shock to be talking about Jovan in the past tense.

"What you saw was the burning desire to be successful. If he had the opportunity, he'd make the most of it. … This is a tragic end, but his life had a greater good than just this tragic end."


Yahoo's Eric Adelson wrote that Belcher's conflicting portrait revealed an earnest, hard-working young man.

Belcher's story, up until this weekend, was the stuff of inspiration for boys who choose a big dream and cling to it no matter what. "He was the standard," former Maine defensive coordinator Robb Smith told Sports Illustrated, "He was never a guy in trouble on campus." Belcher's focus seemed unwavering, not only on the field where he became a starting NFL linebacker despite being decidedly undersized at 228 pounds, but also off of it, as he honed his athletic skills in high school wrestling. Anyone who chooses that sport knows it is among the most mentally challenging of all athletic pursuits. Belcher's love of wrestling is another indication of the dedication it took to reach the top of the sporting world. He found time to star on the mat and play four different positions at West Babylon High on Long Island.

And then there was this fascinating and enlightening read from Patrick Rische at Forbes, "The Economics of Suicide, and Rationalizing the Irrational":

The social science of economics tries to explain human behavior and understand choices people make under different circumstances. Even behaviors that seem highly and horrifically irrational to most people .

For example, Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker shed light on The Economics of Crime decades ago. Though most of us would consider acts of crimeirrational behavior stemming from a person’s mental illness or social oppression, Dr. Becker argued that one’s decision to commit a crime may berational in the criminal’s mind if they believe the marginal benefits of their crime outweigh the marginal costs (e.g. probability of apprehension, conviction, and punishment), AND if they believe their alternative opportunities to realize similar benefits are slim to nil.

Analogous to the economic study of crime, there has been academic research which analyzes The Economics of Suicide. The first significant academic research on suicide was by sociologist Emile Durkheim in 1897, but economists Daniel Hamermesh and Neal Soss published An Economic Theory of Suicide in the Journal of Political Economy (one of the leading academic journals in economics) in 1974. The model they constructed, which has subsequently been used by numerous other researchers, predicts the following:

The notion of suicide occurs when the discounted stream of expected satisfaction over a person’s lifetime is sufficiently low, and perhaps negative when one factors in the expected costs associated with survival.

Just 24 hours after these tragic deaths in Kansas City, our hearts are either filled with grief, sickness, horror, or all of the above. Furthermore, we don’t know exactly what led to Jovan Belcher killing the mother of his child.

But using the Hamermesh/Soss rationale constructed above, it may be possible to understand the logic behind why people in these situations make such tragic and fatal decisions…however irrational it may appear to most of us.

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