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.