Is Football Heroic? Jovan Belcher, Violence, and Masculinity

Is the masculine power the makes football exhilarating, the same destructive force that killed Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins?

The murder-suicide last Saturday by Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs has been linked to the “hyper masculine” nature of the game of football. It got me to wondering what archetypes are we gathering around the tv set to watch. If we watch football to see violence used to achieve our goal, then we have become collective tyrants, and a society that values shadow behavior.

I actually don’t think shadow behavior is the attraction. I think we watch football to see an exhibition of the heroic. The players are examples of physical discipline who push their will, endurance, and their bodies to achieve a goal. The hits are impressive for the ruggedness of the recipient—the ability to brush off pain and get on with the job at hand. We also admire a hit cleanly delivered showing the masterful use of force within acceptable boundaries.

That is what makes the game interesting. There are rules, and a code of good sportsmanship, and integrity, that require the players to control their violent potential while using force to assert their will. The players maintain their focus and drive with herculean self-control to stay within the limits of acceptable behavior. We watch football to see the appropriate use of force through self-
control. I certainly hope the coaches are delivering this kind of message in the locker room. I hope they are calling on heroic and warrior king archetypes rather than the win at all cost tyrant and the self-pitying coward in their pep talks.

Which brings us to the connection with Jovan Belcher killing his partner. A man who is rooted in his archetypal values carries those values even when no one is watching. A man in his full positive masculine power, the warrior king, chooses to place high value on the feminine. He considers it the highest use of his power to control the physical factors that might do harm to her, without controlling her, because that would kill her essential energy which he has discerned to be valuable—more valuable than his insecurities. The mature masculine drive is to provide for, protect, and preserve the feminine’s ability to inspire and create life.

Jovan Belcher didn’t kill his partner and himself because he was too masculine. He didn’t have a strong enough attachment to the positive masculine to overcome his insecurities.

Maybe it is time to really look at why we watch football, or hockey, or any sport. The archetypal message of the game is playing a big role in society whether we recognize it or not. I want to watch football to see a valiant effort by a well coordinated group of rugged allies to reach their goal through self-discipline and with integrity. How about you?


Read more: We Don’t Talk: Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins

Image credit: imikeh/Flickr

About Kim Hudson

Kim grew up in the Yukon and moved to Vancouver as a teenager. After getting a Biology/Geology degree from UBC and a Master’s in Mineral Exploration from Queen’s University, she prospected out of Dawson City and optioned properties. Later she became a land claims negotiator before settling down to have a family. She eventually studied writing for film and television at Vancouver Film School and was struck with an idea for a book that expands the work of Joseph Campbell to include a feminine archetype. Published to great reviews in 2010, The Virgin’s Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine, Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening has been developed into a workshop on archetypal leadership. Kim now lives and writes in Whitehorse. You can find Kim at her Virgin’s Promise blog and on Facebook. 


  1. wellokaythen says:

    I’ve been more than a little surprised to see that there has been no follow-up story or related story about the death of a Dallas and player and arrest of another this last week. Maybe I missed it over the weekend, in which case I retract what I’m about to say.

    I’m trying very hard not to read too much into the lack of attention to it. Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack and all that, I get it. Maybe it’s just timing, or the fact that there’s already been enough NFL tragedy for the time being, or because male suicide has been a particular focus of late, and the murder/suicide happened first. And, if I were really all that concerned, I should have written up something myself, so I’m part of the problem, etc.

    That being said, I can’t help thinking that the key difference may be that in the KC case a woman was killed by a man’s tragic behavior, while in the Dallas case a man was killed by a man’s tragic behavior. Is this a case where it was “just a man” who died, so not as big a deal? Maybe because they were both drunk neither one was really innocent? Perhaps because he was a big strong football player not a helpless person, so it’s not such a big tragedy. (I’d say it’s a pretty helpless position to be a drunk passenger in a speeding car driven by a drunk driver.)

    As someone from Texas, I also suspect that they were “just practice squad” guys, not “real” players, so the tragedy is somewhat muted. Like the death of a stuntman instead of a movie star.

    This may be a horribly unpopulat thing for me to say, but I have to say something when I think the emperor has no clothes: the death of a woman is not more tragic than the death of a man. I know no one would ever say outright that women’s lives are more valuable, but that’s the impression I get quite often from all sorts of sources.

    I really, really hope I wrong about all this and am reading way too much into the nonexistence of something.

  2. It is, as you surmise, the coaches word but also the athlete’s parents, teachers, coaches through growth and a society that idolizes the end product. The production process is a life rammed full of a sense of vicious entitlement. That separation, exaltion, and promise of worship instill entitlement that is super-human.

    Think about it. Have you ever met a pro or pro-bound football player without a hefty sense of entitlement?

  3. First of all, lte me say that I don’t consider professional sports stars ‘Heros’. They are in fact physically gifted athletes driven to achieve heights of physical feats thatus average joes(and Janes) can only dream of, even if we played the very same sports in High School or College. I think there’s one possible angle that no one ‘s quite looked at. This young child , if I read correctly, was born only 3 months ago. When I think back, when my first daughter was born, it was a happy time, but it was also filled with a sort of stressful ‘ undercurrent’. Between the postpartum hormonal thing the wife was going through, along with the sudden changes in everyday lifestyle, well, when you combine that with the high level emotional state pro football players operate at, I’m just saying that it’s a POSSIBLE lethal combination.

  4. Indeed indeed indeed indeed! Mental health is an overlooked contributing factor to IPV. An overlooked factor of mental health is substance abuse. Whether the condition is organic (genetic presdisposition), experiential, or due to psychological damage from substance abuse, the consequences are every bit as crippling. Unfortunately, mental health does not take equal precedence to physical health in the States. Many private insurance policies will not provide comprehensive coverage for mental health care, yet mental health conditions can be as chronic and socially damaging as many physical health conditions. Mental health care cuts from Medicaid have been tabled at the state level across the nation. Considering the shortcomings that are already present, anything more would be catastrophic.
    Thank you for bringing in this part of the discussion, Miguel.

    • Absolutely Salvice you are so welcome! Mental Illness and Mental Health Care are as you said generally not given the same level of attention and distinction as other medical conditions. What happens when a person has a serious medical condition that goes undiagnosed and untreated? It often gets worse and it may even be fatal. We must do all that we can to encourage people to look after their mental health and stop stigmatizing it so that people will not be ashamed to reach out for help if they feel that they need it. Perhaps when we can begin to do this more we may begin to see a reduction in tragedies such as these. Research shows that one of the greatest indicators of potential violence in someone living with a mental illness has been found to be if that person also has a previous history of violence. Additionally, if you combine that with Alcohol and or Drug abuse – you potentially have a ticking time bomb on your hands. Once again for the sake of clarity not every person who has a mental illness is prone to violence any more than any one else in the general public.
      In each instance mentally ill or not it simply can depend on the individual and the factors that are surrounding each said occurrence. As a man of color who is lived many years with a psychiatric disability – Schizoaffective Disorder – Bi Polar Type II and is in successful treatment – I was inspired and motivated to bring this piece into the conversation when I noticed that it did not seem to included in this article. Thanks again also to Kim for bring this discussion to the floor.
      Best wishes to all, Miguel!

  5. Heroism can be found outside of sports. There have always been men of great courage who chose to not participate in any sport. But I guess they don’t count.

  6. I think that the overwhelming factor in this tragedy is that he most likely had an underlying and undiagnosed mental illness possibly combined with a co occurring personality disorder that was never properly treated. In a situation such as this that has resulted in such a devastating tragedy. Many will take to posting vlogs and creating videos etc with their own takes and view points. Now that in and of itself is not a bad thing because we need to talk about these things. However if we will pay close attention to what people are saying as they are speaking from their hearts will be able to identify another very large problem within our society as well. That problem is the ignorance that most people have regarding mental illness. I think if we take a look at this situation first from this standpoint it may build a case for what I am saying. Someone who is well balanced emotionally would not kill themselves and their partners due to an argument or because of an on going disagreement that the two of them were having. Most reasonable people would agree with the statement. However often enough when we attempt to take that conversation farther along this line of reasoning that is when this train of thought in many cases jumps the tracks. If we were to mention that he was possibly suffering from a mental illness we would most likely hear a flurry of other responses. Those responses would vary greatly depending upon whom you were to ask. What we need is more education regarding mental illness especially as it occurs in men and in communities of color. The latter whom are all too often in terms of mental health issues are overlooked and under served. This is not to say that all people living with a mental illness are violent – for most of US are not. In most cases we are often rather the victims of violent crimes due to the fact that we are seen as easy targets. I have witnessed that first hand many times – and in several of those instances I was the victim. Let’s take some time people to go deeper and not be tempted to look at things from the surface point of view because in most cases things are not always what they appear to be. Finally I would like to acknowledge that Jovan and Kassandra were receiving counseling for their domestic issues prior to this, however, a mental health professional no matter how experienced they may be can fully help you if you are not forthcoming regarding all of the issues that may plague your mind. This is a factor that may have also played a role in this sudden escalation from disagreements to death. RIP Jovan and Kasandra – GONE TOO SOON!

    • I wonder if all people, those with mental illness and those trying to make sense of their life, need a strong personal story to guide their actions. All cultures now and throughout time have stories and I think it is because it is a powerful way to give meaning and direction. I agree with the comment above by Salvice as well. How lost do you have to be to work out your relationship issues through murder-suicide? Feelings drive us. We need strong archtypes to use those feelings in a constructive way.

  7. “Jovan Belcher didn’t kill his partner and himself because he was too masculine. He didn’t have a strong enough attachment to the positive masculine to overcome his insecurities.”

    Can we have the same discussion about the 283 men who murdered their intimate partners and/or children and committed suicide last year (VPC)? Murder-suicide is not a football phenomenon, though many media outlets would try to have us convinced that it is. There is a much bigger manifestation taking place, especially since a woman is more likely to die at the hands of her intimate partner than from any other person, 30.1% to be exact from 1976-2005. ( Do we recall the rash of family eliminations that took place from 2008-2010 as well?

    Bringing in digits from the other side, 30 women committed acts of murder-suicide back in 2011 (VPC). 5.3% of male homicide victims were the targets of intimate partner murders in the BJS report. In future reports, it would be more informative to see a breakdown of the sexual orientation of the couples involved. IPV among same-sex partners is a hidden crisis, unfortunately. IPV and IPH takes place among both sexes. It is also worth noting that men are less likely to report IPV to the police, and that women are less likely to injure their partners to the point of requiring hospitalization than men are (hospitalizations often result in police reports). That definitely has an influence on the much lower rates of reported assaults coming from male victims.

    In conclusion, don’t hit or murder your partner, regardless of sex. It won’t fix your relationship problems. In fact, you could end up orphaning your infant child. It is profoundly selfish to choose abandoning one’s own children as the best answer for resolving relationship conflict.

    Off topic: a nuance that I did notice in the BJS numbers was the spike in homicides that take place involving acquaintances and strangers in the case of male victims of homicide. Most discussion of that issue has taken place in commentary punch-outs. Would a GMP writer be willing to look further into that issue? Thanks.

    • John Anderson says:

      “Bringing in digits from the other side, 30 women committed acts of murder-suicide back in 2011 (VPC). 5.3% of male homicide victims were the targets of intimate partner murders in the BJS report”

      A little misleading as men are killed at almost 4 times the rate of women. Men killed by their female intimate partners account for approximately 33% of intimate partner murders. When you consider that women only commit about 10% of the murders in the U.S., a woman who kills is much more likely to kill an intimate partner than a man.

      The crime probably has more to do with the intimate nature. That’s why I think false rape reporting is more common than believed. People are more likely to commit a crime if there is an emotional attachment.

      • Tyrants and Cowards can be men or women, both acting from the masculine archetype of power: asserting your will even against the will of others. Thanks for making this important point.

      • Indeed, the 1/3 approximation IPH rate with women as perpetrators has popped up. One said up to 40%, though the source of the data and time periods in question were not cited. Obviously there needs to be a more well-rounded approach to confronting IPV. It is not exclusive to any ethnicity or socioeconomic class, and we definitely agree that the breakdown based on sex has not been kept on the table enough. Regardless of who carries out the act, people are injured or die, and children are left with no family and a lot of trauma. Moises Prospero, et al’s
        “Intimate Partner Violence” (2002) also indicated that about 35% of IPV takes place symmetrically. That’s a huge proportion of couples mutually beating on each other. Current interventions on IPV are not working.

        A BJS article that discusses the astronomical rates of male homicide victimization can be found at . It concerns the 1976-2005 period as the above notations did.

Speak Your Mind