The most confounding, distressing aspect of following the Chiefs this season isn’t their plodding starts in the first two games.
It isn’t wondering when Justin Houston will return.
Or navigating the chaos of parking at Arrowhead Stadium, which we can only hope will be resolved for their game Sunday against the New York Jets.
The real agony and confusion is in reconciling the emerging presence of Tyreek Hill, the human blur who is the Chiefs’ most thrilling addition on the field.
Hill’s surreal speed makes it appear inevitable he will return kickoffs 105 yards or so — as he did last week against Houston only to have a touchdown called back because of a penalty.
But if you’re like most victims of domestic abuse or those who love them and otherwise care about them, if you’re conscious of the real world over the biosphere of sports, you might wish the Chiefs could call back their fifth-round draft pick of Hill.
Mere months after he pleaded guilty to felony domestic assault and battery by strangulation of his pregnant girlfriend in December 2014, when he was at Oklahoma State, the Chiefs should not have drafted him.
Especially not given the extreme episode of domestic violence that roiled the community and franchise on Dec. 1, 2012, when linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered Kasandra Perkins and then killed himself.
Especially not because the Chiefs’ vague vetting procedure and assurances to trust them couldn’t possibly offset the statistics, studies and expertise that say the crime Hill pleaded guilty to is often a precursor to more violence.
Especially not because it casts an awkward and compromising challenge at their fans, who ought to be entitled to root for their team with abandon instead of being left to feel like, what, exactly, when watching Hill?
Unless you pretend a problem isn’t there because it’s inconvenient to face it.
Then again, Hill’s presence is blurry in more ways than one.
Because the Chiefs did draft him, and he is here, and there is no getting around that.
So, now we’re left to ask ourselves how to deal with it.
And we’re left to ask ourselves if it’s right and good to have the charitable hope of rehabilitation and redemption in a 22-year-old even as you stay cognizant of what he did?
That means more questions than answers for some of us who feel gridlocked by it.
And there are likely few answers that could suit all — particularly because no one can presume to speak for a victim of domestic abuse.
Still, the crux of this seems to me to be right about here:
Can the sentiments of thinking always and first about the victim, yet hoping for the reform of the perpetrator, rationally co-exist, or does that inherently trivialize the victim?
Even if we believe we have more reason than most to think Hill shouldn’t be here, is it really for the greater good that the batterer be condemned forever and denied something that might provide the greatest hope to be a productive citizen? And perhaps is financially beneficial to the victim and their child?
(It’s not known whether that is taking place; Hill’s victim has not been able to be reached for comment).
Or are we allowed to feel both at once?
Are compassion for his victim and wholehearted hope that Hill can have a productive life ahead and never engage in abuse again — as a football player or not — incompatible stances or wishes?
In a sense, it seems contradictory and impossible to try to embrace both feelings — particularly because we may not know for years whether Hill truly makes good on this second chance.
Every time he’s on the field, it’s a reminder to any victims of domestic abuse that while their scars remain he’s enjoying his freedom and livelihood with nearly two years remaining on his three years’ probation through Aug. 15, 2018.
If there is any shred of good in Hill’s visibility, it makes for a vehicle for awareness and education and can remind victims they are not alone, Scott Mason, director of marketing at the Rose Brooks Center domestic violence shelter, said just after Hill was drafted.
As for the crucial question of Hill’s future conduct, who knows what’s to be said for the cumulative forces of the court-ordered anger management and yearlong batterer’s program (that experts have said was insufficient) combined with (again vague) actions the Chiefs are taking to support him?
Hill, according to the Chiefs, has cooperated fully with every meeting and session required of him by the state and the club and has completed all areas of the NFL’s rookie transition program, which included sessions on domestic violence, and meets weekly with club councilors.
Coach Andy Reid kept it generic when asked Friday about Hill, saying “he’s been a good citizen” and “staying on task” with what is structured for him.
For his part, Hill said Friday in a brief interview that he is grateful for what he has around him here in the locker room.
In particular, he is trying to emulate the way teammates Jamaal Charles and Jeremy Maclin live their lives “and try to make that mine.”
Little is known about Hill’s apparently transitory early life, but this may be the most structured few months he’s known in years.
“Every day, to me, is a second chance,” Hill said. “I’m here to play football and learn how to be a (good) citizen. Every day, I’m still learning.
“Just can’t change in one day, so I’m developing into a young man just by being around these older guys.”
Sincere as he might be, ultimately, of course, these are only words.
It might help reinforce them if the Chiefs were more transparent about specifics and making vigorous public statements against domestic abuse.
It will help reinforce them if Hill demonstrates stability through his probation, which then at least would expunge the crime from his record.
Then maybe he himself could help all by becoming a repentant voice against domestic abuse … instead of the mere reminder of it he is now.
For this column, I contacted a handful of experts and thoughtful friends and asked them to help me think about this controversial matter rather than to be quoted directly.
They all see different facets to this, though most feel at least some level of disillusionment with the Chiefs: One is not watching them this year because of Hill.
Here’s how one of the smartest and most sensitive Chiefs fans I know put her quandary:
“I find myself cheering for Tyreek — first because he’s so fast and so fun to watch, and in the middle of the game, I (personally) am not thinking, ‘There goes that domestic abuser,’” she wrote in an email. “And then I catch myself. After the play is over and the yards are gained, I can’t help thinking, ‘Wow, that was great. But I wish it had been someone else.’
“And then again (to show how completely conflicted I am), I sort of feel for him. Maybe he’s so damn fast because he’s always been running away from something.”
Indeed, much as the Chiefs shouldn’t have inflicted this dilemma on us, the optimist in any of us should hope he can become a symbol of the capacity we have within us to shed our demons.
Then again, as my friend wrote, “If not … are we just fooling ourselves into thinking any of this is OK?”
That’s too personal to speak for in others, of course, and too much of a blur to sort out yet for some of us.