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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Yeah, It Was a Stupid Thing to Say. Can we PLEASE Stop Talking About It?

 Its been less than three full days since NBC sportscaster Bob Costas used his halftime segment on Sunday Night Football to expound on the tragic murder-suicide perpetrated by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, and I'm already sick of hearing about it. If you watched FOX News in the last 48 hours, then you've probably seen or heard about Costas's remarks. Basically, Costas stired up a controversy when he echoed the sentiments expressed by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock in his Sunday column. Here's a piece byan excerpt of what Whitlock wrote:

Jovan Belcher, a starting linebacker for the Chiefs, murdered the mother of his child shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday. He hopped in his car, drove to the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility, thanked Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli — and shot himself in the head in front of his coach and general manager around 8:10 a.m.

Within two hours, the NFL instructed the Carolina Panthers to travel to Kansas City as scheduled in preparation for Sunday’s noon kickoff. By 3 p.m., the Chiefs announced that Crennel and team captains had decided to play Sunday’s game as planned.

Short of terrorist attack and weather disaster, nothing slows the NFL.

A 25-year-old kid gunned down his 22-year-old girlfriend in front of his mother and three-month-old child, and all he could think to do in the immediate aftermath is rush to thank his football coach and football employer. Belcher’s last moments on this earth weren’t spent thanking the mother who raised him or apologizing to the child he would orphan. His final words of gratitude and perhaps remorse were reserved for his football gods.

It should come as no surprise that Crennel, Chiefs players, Pioli, owner Clark Hunt and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell quickly agreed not to delay Sunday’s football congregation at Arrowhead Stadium.

Football is our God. Its exaggerated value in our society has never been more evident than Saturday morning in my adopted hometown. There’s just no way this game should be played.

Twenty-eight hours after witnessing one of his starting linebackers take his life, Crennel will stand on the sideline as young men play a violent game. Twenty-eight hours after one of their best friends killed the mother of his child and himself, Chiefs players will take the field and play a violent game.

Football is a game of emotion. Football is a game in which the coaches and players preach about treating each other as family.

How can they play Sunday? Why should they?

Belcher and his girlfriend didn’t die in a car accident 30 minutes away from Arrowhead Stadium. This isn’t some tragedy Crennel and Pioli heard about. Belcher crashed his car through the gates of the Chiefs practice facility. He pointed a gun to his head in front of Crennel and Pioli. He killed himself within a quarter of a mile of Arrowhead Stadium, where the players and coaches work.

I just don’t get it. And I’m not trying to vilify the Chiefs for choosing to play Sunday’s game. It shouldn’t be their decision. Roger Goodell should’ve made this call. Crennel, Pioli and Kansas City players are justifiably still in a state of shock.
I wholeheartedly agree, and if these were the sentiments Bob Costas chose to repeat on national TV Sunday night, then he wouldn't have evoked the ire of the emotive Right. But Costas didn't question the wisdom/sensibility/propriety of going ahead with a football game the day after one of the teams' star players killed his girlfriend in front of their child and then committed suicide in front of his coach and GM. Instead, he chose to quote or paraphrase the following lines from Whitlock's article:  

Our current gun culture simply 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.

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.
Costas made it clear that he shared Whitlock's view, telling the audience that, while he did "not always agree" with Whitlock, the columnist had "said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article." 

Bob Costas’s little speech didn’t prevent me from enjoying finally watching my Cowboys win a game. Truth be told, I didn’t even watch it when it aired. Like most football fans, I spend halftime not watching whatever filler material networks come up with to fill time in between the second and third quarters. I only learned about what he had said Monday morning on the news. It seemed to be a hot topic, at least on cable news.

Now I'm getting sick of hearing about it. What Bob Costas did on Sunday night wasn't right, and it wasn't wrong. It was stupid. It was stupid because he chose to adopt as his own the opinions of a man who in other venues has called the NRA "the new KKK." It was stupid because Costas himself, like many anti-gun celebrities, benefits from the protection of armed guards. It was stupid because "our current gun culture" is not characterized by an increase in violent crime, at least not if you believe in statistics. 

I live in Texas. Actually, I live in Arlington, about four miles west of the stadium where Costas gave his little speech Sunday night. We have a right-to-carry law. Since the law was passed in 1996, our violent crime rate has dropped 20%, and the murder rate is down 31%. In 2010, there were actually 229 fewer murders, 748 fewer rapes and 9,011 fewer aggravated assaults than in 1996. (Our population increased by about 6 million, or 31%, in the same time span.) If handguns don't make us safer, then the knowledge that a murderer/rapist/robber's would-be prey might be packing surely has.

Finally, because Costas's controversial comments were, in his own words, prompted by a desire to get some "perspective" on this tragedy, here's another perspective on this hubbub by Whitlock's fellow Fox Sports columnist Jen Floyd Engel, with whom I do not always agree: 
This is not simply about guns. This is about rights. It is a slippery slope from doing something in the interest of public safety to giving up what we hold dear. The slope is greased with fear, with a self-righteous belief that we know better than the framers of the Constitution. And it is all based on informal fallacy.

The idea that if we just ban all guns then Kasandra Perkins doesn't die and a 3-month-old baby is not orphaned is the very essence of a stated premise that fails to support its proposed conclusion. Yes, guns are dangerous and people such as Belcher sometimes use them to do awful things. What I believe in my heart is Jovan Belcher was going to find a way to wreak havoc that day whether he had a gun or a knife or only his fists. And even the potential to stop him is not justification for willingly handing over rights guaranteed to us.

If this makes me a gun nut or a wing nut or a preachy PITA, then I'm OK with those labels. Although, I prefer Constitutionalist.
I prefer Doctor. (Seriously, I'm an M.D., but that's neither here nor there.) Whatever your take on this tragedy and guns in general, can we at least agree that there's better things for the media to fixate on right now? Oh well, if Bill O'Reilly would rather talk about this than the "War on Christmas," then so be it. I'll just watch CBS. (Their football coverage sometimes includes Lily Aldridge.) 

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