So what happened this past Saturday is that NFL linebacker Jovan Belcher shot to death his girlfriend (and the mother of their infant daughter) and then drove to the stadium of his team, the Kansas City Chiefs, and killed himself, in front of several coaches, with a gunshot to his head.
All very tragic, but hey, that’s life in America, whaddaya gonna do. Because this attitude is so prevalent, some people don’t seem terribly upset by Belcher’s murder-suicide, but are pretty peeved that NFL commentator Bob Costas — perhaps one of the most respected sports commentators in the U.S., certainly one of the most visible — took a few moments during halftime of a game the next evening to advocate, in a calm, reasoned fashion, for gun control. You can watch video of Costas’ commentary at TVNewser, which also features video of Fox News castigating Costas; be sure to check out the comments on the TVNewser piece, which includes people calling Costas “unprofessional,” “pathetic,” and “a pandering dwarf” — among other charming epithets — for daring to sully the escapism of football by bringing “politics” and reality into it.
Was Bob Costas wrong to deliver a pro-gun-control message during a halftime show?
I do not want this to be about debating gun control, and I will shut down any tangents that get into that. I do want this to be about debating whether or not it’s appropriate for a sports journalist — or, really, any journalist — to bring in discussion of areas outside his or her typical purview when the situation warrants it. (It’s not like Costas’ commentary came out of the blue.) I happen to agree with Costas in this case, but even if he took the opposite stance, I can’t see how I could contest the reality that the violence of this game and the ultra-macho culture that surrounds it is indeed connected to America’s overall culture of glorifying violence and guns, and so guns and gun control are fair game here, particularly when a major-league professional player commits a gun crime. If a football commentator wanted to argue that easy access to guns wasn’t a factor in this tragedy, well, I would disagree with him or her, but I wouldn’t say that it was wrong of them to talk about this in a football context.
Perhaps this gets close to home for me because I am sometimes accused of inappropriately bringing politics or feminism or other topics that don’t “belong” in film criticism into my reviews. To which I reply, of course: Bullshit.
(Perhaps one U.K. parallel might be how the current debate over racism in football — that is, the game that Americans call soccer — doesn’t seem to have resulted in the same handwringing. No one here in the U.K. seems to think it’s inappropriate for sports commentators to talk about racism, even though it has nothing to do with the actual playing of the game.)
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