On Monday night, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III dazzled ESPN’s football nation with his ball-handling. But Griffin had nothing on the verbal wizardry of NBC’s Bob Costas, who a night earlier, during his halftime commentary on the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, quoted columnist Jason Whitlock’s call for gun control reform.
In the culture-war fishbowl that is the New York media world (and to mangle a metaphor), Costas became a lightning rod. As new details emerged in the Belcher investigation, the focus was on how Fox News was calling Costas the most horrible person in the world for seeking to trample the Second Amendment. and how MSNBC was calling Fox News the most horrible network in the world for calling Costas the most horrible person in the world.
And the NFL band played on.
Costas told The New York Times that “the criticisms of his commentary ‘hold no weight with me’ because the same people saying that that was an inappropriate time and place to talk about the gun issue ‘would have thought it was fine if they agreed with what I was saying.'”
Well, actually, I agreed with what Costas was saying but I don’t think his commentary was fine — because it was a diversion from encouraging his audience, in a football broadcast, to think about the likelier far larger role of football in the murder of Kasandra Perkins and suicide of Jovan Belcher.
Even Dave Zirin, the sports editor of The Nation, who praised Costas to the skies for having a smidgen of substance (in contrast with Fox and CBS on Sunday football), is saying today on Twitter, “Terrible indictment of media that story of Kasandra Perkins & Jovan Belcher is now a debate about Bob Costas. NFL breathes sigh of relief.”
As Costas’s fellow gun control proponent, but one disappointed that he chose the easy and somewhat self-aggrandizing culture war instead of the truly instructive one right in front of his nose, I want to make another point: The Belcher case seems to me a pretty flabby prop for the gun control argument.
I wrote a book about the 2007 double murder-suicide of WWE’s Chris Benoit; no gun was involved there. Further, the Belcher reports show that he fired nine shots into his girlfriend, then tenderly kissed her. This was no 10-year-old kid pulling a firearm from the mantle and accidentally discharging it.
All in all, we need fewer reenactments of hardened cable-news crossfire on gun control, and more non-trivial discussion about the elephant in the room: the pistol that went off inside Belcher’s brain.