Jovan Belcher Was a Horrifying Rorschach Test for Sports


Sometimes sportswriters choose their topics. Other times, topics are thrust upon them. Being in Kansas City, last week's murder-suicide falls into the latter category. I was at Arrowhead on Sunday. Before the game there was a brief announcement over the PA asking for a moment of silence to "remember all victims of domestic violence." That was it. Then they played football.

But then Bob Costas spake unto us. Costas used his weekly soapbox at halftime of NBC's "Sunday Night Football" to express his loathing for handguns. Or, more accurately, to express Jason Whitlock's loathing for guns. Like any event too vast and dark for the human mind to comprehend, news this inexplicably bad becomes like a mass-media-administered Rorschach Test. Everyone sees what they want, and a given reaction is more likely to reveal some truth about the person who has it than to offer any genuinely fresh insight on events.

That's the case with Costas. He revealed himself—at best—to be insensitive, self-serving and shallow. At worst, he was ghoulish: callously seizing on the horrifying deaths of two people in order to boost his own stature. Costas has long harbored delusions of punditry, and his utterly tepid, easily dismantled, half-pilfered rant about handguns sounded like just another attempt elevate himself to an observer of human events.

In the wake of his speech, just as Costas surely hoped, the national conversation turned. Now we are no longer talking about the shooting in Kansas City, the dead couple, or their orphaned child. Now we are talking about what Bob said on NBC Sunday night.

What he said, almost incidentally, was hapless. There is, in fact, statistical and anecdotal evidence that concealed carry laws can reduce crime, some of which has been published in The Atlantic. But Costas barely made an argument worth demolishing.

Costas could, and should, have begged any woman experiencing domestic abuse to get out of that deadly situation as quickly as possible, and then suggested ways to find a woman's shelter.

Or he could used that platform to point out that men in this society are taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness, doubly so for athletes, and especially when it comes to mental illness. Bob could easily have used that national pulpit to say how wrong that is, and to urge any man experiencing intense anger, depression, or violent impulses to seek help immediately. If Costas truly wanted to be controversial he could have noted, as his new best friend Jason Whitlock sometimes does, that a lot of rap and hip-hop that players listen to dehumanizes women and glorifies gun violence.

Finally, most crucially, Costas had an opportunity to do something good. He might, for instance, have called for his audience to make donations to a local battered women's shelter, thereby having a huge, positive, tangible effect on otherwise a bleak situation.

But he didn't do any of that, did he? All Costas did, really, was call attention to himself, using platitudes borrowed from another writer. That tells us nothing new about gun violence. All it tells us, really is something we already knew: that Bob Costas has a very high opinion of himself.

Guys, that's my look at this awful Rorschach Test, anyway. Maybe I'm wrong. Tell me, Patrick: What's your take?


Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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