Costas’ ‘Mistake’ is incorrect focus on cause of tragedy

On Sunday night, during halftime of the “Football Night in America” broadcast, veteran announcer Bob Costas delivered a commentary on the tragedy that had happened less than 48 hours before, involving the murder of Kasandra Perkins by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who later committed suicide right in front of GM Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel.

The Washington Post‘s Cindy Boren reported on the aftermath of Costas’ comments:

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.”

“For a long time, I’ve been wanting to get off my chest my disgust with this idea that every time something tragic happens, no matter what it may be, that in any way touches sports, there’s a chorus of people saying, ‘you know, this really puts it in perspective.’ Which is a bunch of nonsense, because if that was true, we wouldn’t have to have that perspective adjusted every time the next tragedy occurs. It’s a bunch of nonsense,” Costas said. “And what I was trying to say was, that if you want some perspective on this, there are a number of issues related to this that we could begin to talk about and think about. The problem was that I didn’t have enough time to get to many of them. And that, I think, was my mistake, to be quite honest, Dan. A friend of mine in broadcasting pointed this out to me yesterday, and I agree with him. He said, ‘you violated your own rule.’ Because we have had this discussion before: I’ve always said, if you’re going to get into touchy topics, nuanced topics, make sure that you have enough time to flesh them out … or save them for forums where you do. In this particular situation, the timeliness of it was, if you’re going to comment on it at all, it had to be this Sunday.”

In his commentary, Costas cited a column by Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports and concluded that “if Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins [Belcher’s girlfriend] would both be alive today.”

Costas felt the heat for his comments immediately on Twitter and in lengthier criticism Monday, when some were calling for NBC to fire him.

I’m not a “gun nut,” one who believes that gun ownership cannot be restricted–nor am I an individual who believes in stronger gun control laws. What I am is someone who was taught long ago by responsible gun owners that a gun is like anything else–when used improperly, results that could at best be considered “unfortunate” can occur.

I believe that guns have a place in society. But I also believe that “using a gun improperly” means pulling its trigger several times to end the life of your 22 year old girlfriend and mother of your 3 month old child. Then, driving 20 minutes away and putting the gun against your skull and pulling the same trigger again while you are in full view of your boss and your boss’s boss.

It’s not the purpose of this posting to argue the uses of a handgun…but I’m almost certain that no one will argue that amongst its purposes are suicide and the murder of an innocent young woman. Or any innocent, for that matter.

Responsible gun owners–those that take a firearm safety course, or have been taught firearm safety by another–have learned all this (if it wasn’t already self-evident). The student is taught the gun’s power, how to properly discharge it, unload and clean it. The class also warns of the weapon’s lethal results.

It’s been reported that Jevon Belcher liked guns, that he had several. Kansas City police spokesman Darin Sapp confirmed that Belcher used two handguns, both legally registered to himself. He liked to go to the firing range, sometime with Perkins, whom he was teaching how to shoot. He either never had a firearm safety course, or forgot what he learned.

Here’s the thing: Taking away guns is a short-term answer. The long-term solution and one much more difficult to implement is to properly educate gun owners. True, it might not stop robberies or drive-by shootings or other random acts of violence like Aurora or Columbine, CO…but it might just prevent ordinarily well-thinking individuals like Belcher from carrying out his deadly acts.

People don’t intentionally drive automobiles into crowds of pedestrians on the street…it’s just not done. There’s nothing physically stopping you, in most cases, from doing it. But I’m sure there are many reasons why it rarely happens, the biggest reason being: It’s not something you do.

Around the world there are many countries that own lots of firearms but also have a low rate of gun-related crime: Germany and the countries of the Netherlands come to mind. In those countries, the thought is the same, because that’s how it’s taught since childhood: It’s not something you do.

It was reported that the murder was prompted by an argument between Belcher and Perkins…that she had stayed out too late the night before with her friends. (It was also reported that Belcher himself had been out the night before, and had appeared at a few places, described by an eyewitness who knew him as “very drunk.”)

It’s not too hard to imagine a certain amount of irrational jealousy, rage and mistrust brewing within Belcher if Perkins came in too late to suit him. Perhaps there were drugs and alcohol involved, although at the early hour of 7 am–when the situation was already unfolding–one would hope not.

Belcher could also be a victim of the repeated blows to the head common to an NFL player’s life, that caused the dementia that affected and ultimately caused the suicide of Junior Seau and many others. Perhaps steroids were also part of the cause.

But this is where Costas really gets it wrong. His comment at the end–quoting from that column by Jason Whitlock–that “if Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today” sounds good at first, but misses the point.

Suppose Belcher had run down Perkins with his car, and in the process fatally injured himself. Doesn’t it then follow that “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a car, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today”?

Costas failed to address how education that could end or at least curtail domestic violence would make the gun issue moot. If the argument never escalates, then the murder-suicide doesn’t occur.

Or: “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess anger [and possibly jealousy and mistrust], he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

It is unthinkable to me how anyone could point a gun and shoot another human being over anything that is not a non-threatening situation.

Properly taught, that’s not even an option you’d consider.

Here is the video of Costas’ comments during the Sunday night halftime broadcast:

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