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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sportscasters and Politics

“Here comes the orator! With his flood of words, and his drop of reason.” — Benjamin Franklin

While watching the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night I was astonished to hear Bob Costas’ remarks on gun control during his half-time commentary. Costas was commenting on the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chief’s linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins last Saturday. Costas devoted a halftime monologue during NBC's Sunday Night Football broadcast to repeating the anti-gun inanities of Jason Whitlock, a Kansas City-based sportswriter. I know Sunday Night Football is televised by NBC, but watching Costas one would have thought you were watching MSNBC.

Ed Morrissey writes in Hot Air:

“If you were watching what turned out to be an unexpectedly good and well-played game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys last night, then you’ve already seen this strange interlude from Bob Costas last night, in which he used 90 seconds of halftime analysis to pontificate on the need to make handguns illegal. Nothing Costas says in this clip is new or even terribly interesting — Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher used a gun to kill his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and himself, so no one should own guns — but the context of his anti-Second Amendment rant was incredibly bizarre, and not just because it came in the middle of a halftime show with “God Bless America” playing in the background:

Why bizarre? Well, if you watched NBC’s Football Night in America last night, you’d already know that the broadcast team could barely even mention the fact that Belcher committed murder. Before and during the game, they used phrases like “lost her life in this tragedy” to describe what happened to his victim and other non-judgmental phrases. Into that context comes Costas to blame the gun. It was surreal; an experience only interrupted in the post-game show when Rodney Harrison appeared to get a little angry and remind everyone that Belcher killed someone else besides himself. And while I didn’t watch the earlier games during the day, NBC’s crew was not really an exception in how they approached the Belcher murder-suicide story.

Kudos to the Chiefs, however, who dedicated their game yesterday not to Belcher or gun control, but to the victims of domestic violence. That honored the true victim, and highlighted the true social ill.”

MSNBC joking aside, this was not one of the famed sportscaster's finer moments. Costas can't hide behind the "I was merely quoting someone else's opinion" excuse here. He goes out of his way to mention that he doesn't always agree with the columnist in question, but that in this case, the individual "said it so well" that his piece merited on-air repetition. I understand that horrible instances of gun violence sometimes motivate well-intentioned people to espouse counterproductive, or even unconstitutional, "solutions." But the sentiments that he chose to amplify fail the very test of "perspective" about which he's lecturing viewers. The vast, vast majority of domestic violence cases involve no weapons at all, so banning guns would do nothing to rid us of that scourge — which is the result of human failure and evil. A man's fists are not to blame when he's pummeling his wife or girlfriend. The man himself is to blame. This applies to other tools of violence, as well, including knives and guns. I would remind Mr. Costas that one of the most infamous cases of domestic violence committed by a high profile sports figure, O.J. Simpson, was committed with a big knife. Should we ban knives? (Note Simpson was acquitted by a jury in the criminal case, but held responsible for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in a civil trial).

As for the sanctimonious assertion that if only that gun had been unavailable for purchase, both the murderer and his victim "would both be alive today," the evidence tells a different tale. The perpetrator reportedly shot his girlfriend nine times. This suggests massive, overwhelming rage, if not serious mental illness. Someone that committed to ending another's life before taking his own is going to follow through. One can argue that a gun made that gruesome task easier to execute, but people were brutally killing each other on this planet long before they had access to handguns. Finally, the statement that "handguns do not enhance our safety" may sound intuitive to some, but quite a bit of scholarship suggests that precisely the opposite is true.

Today, 40 states issue permits to competent, law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns (Vermont and Alaska have the most libertarian approach: no permit needed. Arizona is about to join that exclusive club.) Every time a carry law was debated, anti-gun activists predicted outbreaks of gun violence after fender-benders, card games and domestic quarrels.

What happened?

John Lott, in "More Guns, Less Crime," explains that crime fell by 10 percent in the year after the laws were passed. A reason for the drop in crime may have been that criminals suddenly worried that their next victim might be armed. Indeed, criminals in states with high civilian gun ownership were the most worried about encountering armed victims.

Even Belcher’s Kansas City Chiefs teammates refused to blame guns for this horrifying murder-suicide. "If you have daughters, you should (have a gun),” Chiefs defensive lineman Shaun Smith said Monday. “You have to protect yourself. You work so hard to get to where you at, I'll be damned if I’ll just let someone take it from me.”

As a person whose family suffered the fatal results of domestic violence I can speak from personal experience on this subject. In 1963 my wife’s cousin and one of maids of honor at our wedding was murdered by her abusive husband. Her husband, a controlling, alcoholic, and abusive person came home one night and for some reason or other her murdered his young bride with a shotgun. It was not the fault of the gun that caused this brutal murder; it was the action of a mentally deranged, alcoholic, abusive husband who was at fault.

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, and Bob Costas certainly has a large platform from which to pontificate. But people watch Costas for his sports commentary, smooth delivery, and classy comportment. This political jeremiad caught many football fans off guard and undoubtedly enrages millions of law-abiding gun owners, who feel infantilized and demonized by its message. These citizens, of course, are sounding off in emails, letters and tweets — not resorting to mindless violence, despite what Messrs Costas and Whitlock might think of them. Mr. Costas should stick to Xs, Os, and batting averages and eschew comments on gun control during a sportscast.

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