With its Chiefs party bus nestled into the corner of Lot C inside the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot Sunday morning, a group of tailgaters chose to stick to its usual routine.
That was the plan anyway.
But before anyone cracked open a beer or started the grill, a member of the group, Austin Thibodeaux, suggested they remember the victims of Saturday morning’s tragedy, in which Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend, 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins, and then killed himself.
So Thibodeaux and the group of about 20 friends formed a circle and prayed for Belcher, Perkins and their 3-month old daughter. The prayer lasted less than a minute, and 15 seconds of silence followed.
“We prayed for Jovan and his girlfriend, but mostly we prayed for the child,” said Thibodeaux, who resides in Lee’s Summit. “We owed them that much.
“But we didn’t try to let it take too much out of our day. We wanted to pay our respects and then keep it the same as every other week.”
For the remainder of their tailgate, Thibodeaux’s group treated the pregame as business as usual. That meant food and drinks, and a little football talk.
The activities remained normal outside the stadium Sunday morning prior to the noon kickoff with visiting Carolina — fathers playing catch with their sons and friends playing games of washers.
Still, something felt a little different for many of the stadium’s regulars.
“It’s just not real enthusiastic like it usually is,” Chiefs fan Todd McQueen said. “I’m still kind of stunned by it all. It’s real difficult to take in. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to act right now.”
Most acted like they would have prior to every other Sunday home game.
“In a way, I felt like they shouldn’t play,” said Chris Tobias, who was attending his second Chiefs game of the season. “But once you’re out here and everything gets going, I don’t want to say you forget about it, but it goes to the back of your mind a little bit.”
Fans who spoke with The Star before kickoff said they never thought about skipping Sunday’s game but entered the stadium with a different mood.
“I want to be here because I love the Chiefs,” said Bryan Serocki of Salina, Kan., a season-ticket holder, “but even if they play well, how can we even be happy? How can we cheer?”
Battling that same question, Glen Moore of Lee’s Summit brought his 7-year-old son Nate to the game Sunday.
He spent the morning trying to explain to Nate why Arrowhead wouldn’t have the same atmosphere.
“It’s hard to explain to a little kid what’s going on with it and why anything like this would happen,” Moore said. “That’s tough for me to handle with this.”