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What's to blame? Guns? Or football?

Published December 4, 2012 3:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What is the one thing that will get the typical American male to criticize the National Football League? Defending the national gun culture. Viz:

The real threat to football players — Rich Lowry | The National Review via sltrib.com ... There's a reason that halftime of NFL broadcasts is usually reserved for game analysis and highlights, rather than social science. NBC announcer Bob Costas showed why with a little sermonette during the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game Sunday night.

Just a day earlier, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before driving to the Chiefs' practice facility and shooting and killing himself in front of the team's head coach and general manager.

During halftime of "Football Night in America," which is not to be confused with "Monday Night Football" or "Thursday Night Football," Costas referred to Belcher's shocking murder-suicide as "nearly unfathomable." He then proceeded to fathom it in terms of a cliched gun-control fable. Costas quoted approvingly sportswriter Jason Whitlock's argument that "our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy."

Costas is an extraordinary and justly acclaimed broadcaster, who apparently hasn't spared a moment's reflection to the long-running argument over guns in our society. If he had, he wouldn't have treated such tripe as priceless words of wisdom.

... Costas left out the most powerful part of Whitlock's commentary, which was an excoriating attack on the NFL for letting the Chiefs' regularly scheduled game be played the very next day after the killings. ...

... Nearly simultaneously with Belcher's murder-suicide, Boston University researchers published a study that found, in the words of a Reuters report, "years of hits to the head in football or other contact sports lead to a distinct pattern of brain damage that begins with an athlete having trouble focusing and can eventually progress to aggression and dementia." It is apparently not big hits to the head that bring on the condition, called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but a diet of small blows....

... If Costas really wanted to issue a jeremiad in the aftermath of the Belcher killings, perhaps it should have been directed at the vastly profitable football-industrial complex of which he is a small part. In keeping with his view expressed in the past that the NFL is "unacceptably brutal," he could have said: "As I stand here, I, too, profit from a game that depends on men doing violence to one another with effects we still don't fully understand." But that would have hit too close to home, and the third quarter beckoned.

[Actually, I don't think Lowry properly describes either Costas' remarks (above) or Whitlock's column (following). But I do think it is notable that a conservative such as Lowry is picking up a New York Times cause — concussions among athletes.]

In KC, it's no time for a game — Jason Whitlock | Fox Sports

... How many young people have to die senselessly? How many lives have to be ruined before we realize the right to bear arms doesn't protect us from a government equipped with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons?

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. ...

[I recommend Whitlock. And not just because we're both from Kansas City.]

Also:

So much for control — Randy Wright | Provo Daily Herald ... CNN's Piers Morgan tried to make a case on his Monday show that all 300 million guns in America should be confiscated. This is the only way to prevent crimes like the one perpetrated by Jovan Belcher, linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, Morgan said.

I think the only way to prevent this sort of thing is to ban football. Belcher's suicide follows those of former football players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson. Blame the concussions.

Costas wrong; Rush right (Yes, I said it.) — E.J. Montini | The Arizona Republic

The Shill Becomes a Journalist — Robert Lipsyte | Slate

In speaking up for gun control after the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, Bob Costas finally took advantage of his pulpit.

And now ...

— Bob Costas calls Jovan Belcher commentary "a mistake" — The Washington Post ... Bob Costas said he made a "mistake," violating his own rule of not trying to compress a nuanced topic into small bit of air time, with his controversial halftime commentary Sunday night on the murder-suicide committed by Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs the day before.

"My mistake is I left it open for too much miscommunication," Costas said in a lengthy interview on "The Dan Patrick Show." The 90-second weekly spot, he said, doesn't offer enough time in which to adequately discuss the issue of "the football culture, the gun culture, domestic violence." ...