Most sportscasters treat off-field tragedies the way Dolphins punter Brandon Fields treated the football on Sunday: like a live hand grenade. But rather than dance around the NFL's latest gruesome death -- Kansas City Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher murdering his girlfriend then killing himself this weekend -- Bob Costas took the opposite tact on Sunday Night Football.
In a speech that's set the Internet aflame, Costas argued for stricter gun control laws -- and specifically cited the shooting death of an unarmed Florida teen last week.
Costas references a column by Kansas City-based columnist Jason Whitlock, who cites the killing last week of 17-year-old Jordan Davis at a Jacksonville gas station by Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old who apparently became enraged over loud music coming from Davis' car.
"'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," Costas said.
The broadcaster's speech has sparked a vicious argument online, mostly focused on whether a national NFL broadcast is really the venue for political discourse.
Deadspin calls Costas' outburst a "sanctimonious, horseshit editorial," while Fox News called it a "rant."
But Costas's real crime was in playing up the gun safety side of Belcher's case without mentioning the elephant in the room: the NFL culture that mixes vicious concussions, painkillers and drugs into a cocktail that seems increasingly prone to erupt in violence.
Sure, it'd be great if Belcher's case opened doors to a national conversation about gun control. But the issue has become so dead -- and so thoroughly won by the NRA -- that neither presidential nominee even mentioned it last month.
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Here's Costas's full speech, via Awful Announcing:
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."