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Bob Costas Talked Gun Control On Sunday Night Football, Controversy Ensued

Two days after it happened, just about everyone is stil trying to make sense of what Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher did on Saturday, shooting his girlfriend and then himself dead, orphaning the couple’s young child in the process. A tragedy of this magnitude is almost unthinkable in scope and makes it tough to know how to process it – on the one hand, to do what he did, Belcher was clearly deeply troubled, and most people’s instinct is to feel sympathy for people who are deeply troubled. On the other, Belcher took someone else’s life, too, and badly screwed up the life of a child – his child. It’s the worst thing a person can do, and can’t be excused no matter the mental health of the murderer.

So last night, on his weekly segment during halftime of Sunday Night Football, Bob Costas tried to make sense of the senseless, and in doing so, focused not so much on what led Belcher to kill, but how he did it. Video of Costas’ segment, then we’ll get to the reaction, to color your view of it as little as possible beforehand if you hadn’t seen.

This provoked a lot of immediate reaction, as basically everything viewed by a wide audience does in the age of Twitter. And the prevailing reaction, at least among those I saw in my Twitter timeline (and, from what I could tell, what those on my timeline saw in their respective timelines) was more or less, “Ugh, there goes Costas trying to be everyone’s dad again.” Of course, there’s a reason for this: Costas is often an insufferable scold, and for the “perspective” part of last night’s address, he was exactly that once again.

But judging by the reaction, that wasn’t the only part people had trouble with: they didn’t seem to like him bringing gun control into the equation, either. Now, some people are against any form of gun control, so it stands to reason that many would be upset with Costas. But this went beyond that: the kind of backlash I was seeing, I’m confident, trascended political views. (Indeed, here’s an example of someone who agreed with Costas on the substance, yet was turned off by the segment.)

Here’s the thing: had Costas talked about guns with the same air of smug self-satisfaction that gets people so riled up in the first place, the reaction would be entirely understandable. But really, all he did (once he was finished with his awful “perspective” pontificating) was quote a Jason Whitlock column.

For Bob Costas, that’s about as non-preachy as it gets, and it’s what made all the venom (or at least the fact that it seemed near-universal) a little odd to me. Either people all over the political spectrum like guns even more than I realized, or Costas’s reputation precedes him now, so that even when he addresses an issue in a relatively low-key way – with words that aren’t even his – the messenger has fully eclipsed the message.

  • Anonymous

    Gun violence accounts for 12,000 deaths a year. Alcohol causes 75,000 deaths a year, and obesity, between 100,000 and 400,000 deaths a year. So long as Bob Costas reaps no benefits from all of the Papa John’s and Budweiser commercials during an NFL telecast, he can say whatever he wants. Otherwise, he is a wholly misguided hypocrite.

  • http://twitter.com/tomwp Tom WP

    I agree that these are all causes for concern, but the news yesterday wasn’t that an NFL player drank himself to death or died of heart disease — it was that he shot and killed an innocent woman. Costas was in his right to discuss gun control, an issue that gets gun owners with persecution complexes in a tizzy every time it’s discussed. I think we can all agree that he’s a horrible, self-righteous blowhard, but simply questioning gun control laws shouldn’t be one of the complaints about that lousy lecture he gave last night.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rgrayeagle Gray Eagle

    I guess some people who are employed as sportz news casters have greater expectations for them selves, they want to be out there as the front runner of controversity at a time when it would do justice to just report it as it is, when boob costas says he condones guns, and wants more strickter gun control, realilizing that everybody is entitled to their opinion, just like every body has a arss hole, your entitled to one of each, but in boob’s case he has just confused one with the other. facts are facts look at where the strictest gun controls are and the record of those places as far as murders and deaths from guns, Chicago, new York, new jersey, any place where there is strick gun control there is a higher rate of murder with a gun of some type,. Then take it one step further, rope kills, knives kill, cars & trucks kill, booze kills, water kills, bath tubs kill, football kills, where is the limit put at, boob costas is so full of it as is so many other liberals, just simply look at the facts and you would know better than to spout out about gun control and what it would do.

  • John

    gun control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars

  • Anonymous

    Maybe people are fed up with making every tragedy into an argument for gun control, and Costas’ comment was just the last straw. John’s comment below is exactly right; it’s like reporting on a horrific drunk driving accident and saying “if he hadn’t had a car, he and the victim would still be alive” — with the subtext being that everybody should have to ride bikes. Or it could have been that he was quoting Jason Whitlock, who annoys even more people than Costas.

  • Anonymous

    I just read the Twitter comment from the gun control supporter. She’s right. Costas pretty much dismissed others’ comments that a tragedy like this makes us realize what’s really important (human relationships) and made it clear that to him what’s really important is making this all about gun control.

  • JHop

    If I’m reading your analogy correctly, you’re saying that having more guns helps to stop the people who have guns already? I think the issue Costas is getting at is that guns – when in the hands of a calm, sane individual – are generally allowable and non-dangerous. However, when someone snaps from anger or a neurological disorder, they become a dangerous thing. You could make the same argument about cars I supposed – just look at the articles about crazy wives driving over their cheating husbands – but in all its a much different scenario due to the basic functionality of the item in question.

  • Xavier

    What Costas should have discussed was the fact that head injuries, not just concussions are now an accepted part of football, especially at the pro level. Research released just this week talks about the detrimental and cumulative effect of these injuries over time to both physical and mental health of players. In addition, no mention how overt aggressiveness is encouraged and cultured in football, and literally most sports, from the time kids begin playing and especially as they reach the upper echelons of college and pro sports. Then why didn’t he talk about the entitlement to special consideration and attention along with the perception of invincibility and immunity from all but the most serious actions and crimes enjoyed beginning as premier college athletes and into the pros? Not to mention a bunch of black athletes raised mostly by single mothers and/or grandparents in poor circumstances who suddenly become millionaires and idols with no concept of how to deal with or manage it all. Could any of this be the reason why the guy went over the edge and believed he could fix it all with a gun? I suggest the real blame belongs to the “game” and the football “culture” rather than the gun and the so-called gun culture.

  • Will

    Well put. I didn’t take it as a lecture, however; and wasn’t it apropos for him to comment in such a way?

  • Anonymous

    Wrong! Costas was referring to what he believes and that is than no one should have a gun at any time.

  • Anonymous

    You know this… how, exactly?

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