TV commentators generally oblige fans, who seem to prefer their sports telecasts neat, with no social commentary mixed in.
But the gut-punch tragedy of the murder/suicide committed by Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday caused Bob Costas, in his “Sunday Night Football” halftime commentary, to speak out in favor of stricter gun-control laws — a topic taboo for even presidential candidates — on the nation’s top-rated prime-time TV show. Critical reaction online was immediate, as you can see from Twitchy’s roundup of tweets.
Costas’s comments (via Awful Announcing’s transcript):
You knew it was coming. In the aftermath of the nearly unfathomable events in Kansas City, that most mindless of sports clichés was heard yet again, ‘Something like this really puts it all in perspective.’ Well if so, that sort of perspective has a very short shelf life since we will inevitably hear about the perspective we have supposedly again regained the next time ugly reality intrudes upon our games. Please.
Those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports, would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective. You want some actual perspective on this? Well a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree, but, who today, said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article. “Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, “ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, (and its possible connection to football), will be analyzed. Who knows? But here, (wrote Jason Whitlock) is what I believe, If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
Whitlock, who has columnized about the Kansas City Chiefs for years and knows those players as well as anyone, also criticized the decision to play the game just over 24 hours after Belcher shot Perkins, the mother of his three-month-old daughter, to death and then went to Arrowhead Stadium and shot himself, with Coach Romeo Crennel and General Manager Scott Pioli looking on. (You can read the Fox Sports column here.)
Was this the right time and forum for Costas to discuss the issue?