Bob Costas' Sin: By Talking About Gun Violence, He Let Reality Intrude into Football's Fantasyland
So what was it -- really -- that got everybody so fired up about Bob Costas' timid little attempt at a gun control message on Sunday Night Football last Sunday? Was it less about gun violence than the intrusion of real life into the violent dreamscape of professional football?
In the first place, Costas pinned his commentary on another writer, Foxsports.com columnist Jason Whitlock, whom he said he was just quoting. Whitlock had written about the bizarre/crazy practice-field murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs starting linebacker Jovan Belcher, who killed the unmarried mother of his child, a Dallas woman. Whitlock said, "What I believe is, if he didn't possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."
Does anybody argue with that? Is somebody really going to tell me that Belcher could just as easily have killed the mother of his child in front of his coach and general manager with a 2-by-4? Yeah, maybe. But it seems awfully damned unlikely.
And anyway, I don't believe that's what all the gun-nut outrage is about. Dallas Morning News columnist Mark Davis today added his voice to the wailing chorus, saying of Costas, "...maybe he will devote future halftime shows to analyzing game statistics. Otherwise, unless he wants to further alienate at least half of his fan base with political diatribes he should choose his muses more carefully."
Mark, I do get the thing about television football show ratings and how Costas could hurt the broadcast and so on. But, you know, shouldn't we talk just a little bit about the dead mother and father of a 3-month-old child? Is it the best approach on this story to express your deep and abiding consternation over the show's ratings?
And, hey, Davis' remarks are sage understatement next to a lot of what's getting said out there in the gun-o-sphere. National Rifle Association Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President for Life Wayne LaPierre quickly posted an in-house video on the NRA website in which he ripped Costas for "whining" about the murder-suicide when he should have been talking about fuball.
LaPierre said TV viewers Sunday had "... tuned in to watch a sporting event," but instead of that, "...what they get is a national sportscaster whining about his social agenda.
"The American public, it's shameful, they're disgusted by it."
I don't know, Wayne. I was still back on the murder-suicide itself. I watched the game and saw Costas' speech, which I thought was interesting in the kind of weak waffly way you'd expect from a sports guy speaking from behind a mask of Dorian Gray face work. I think a lot of us were thinking more about the baby than about the horror of real life intruding on the sacred Walter Mitty fantasyland of professional sports.
It took Costas himself about two seconds to start dialing back on it. Her told MSNBC, "What I was talking about here, and I'm sorry if that wasn't clear to everyone, was a gun culture. I never mentioned the Second Amendment, I never used the words 'gun control.' People inferred that."
Yes. We did infer that. Bob, you read this quote from Whitlock's piece: "Our current gun culture simply 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."
I would infer, you would infer, your mom's dog would infer that you were saying we need to control guns more. We do have to live with the implications of our own words, Bob, or, as in this case, our own words but borrowed from somebody else. The borrowing doesn't get you out of the implications.
I myself am not actually here to argue gun control. Had the loud blunderbuss out just two nights ago (true story). My wife, son and son's girlfriend came home from dinner to find a trashed out '91 Cadillac beater dead in the middle of the street with a flat tire in front of our driveway and a motionless body on the floorboards in the back seat.
It was an East Dallas deal. EMS came first, then cops. They hauled some poor drunk schlub out of the car and trundled him off with his hands behind his back in plastic cable ties, then scraped up the car, and it was over. My son had brought the gun and a baseball bat downstairs (gun at my request, bat his own more sporting idea) in case we were going to have to hold the fort for a while before the authorities arrived.
I was checking the safety on the gun when he said, "Maybe it's not a good idea to wave the gun around in the front window while the police are arriving."
I'm no gun-hater. I'm kind of with Obama on it. I have some respect for the Second Amendment. And anyway, I don't believe for a second that this Costas' flap is even about guns. It's about the suspension of disbelief that is professional sports fandom and the howls of pain that erupt when any small rent appears in the delicate curtain shrouding this vicarious fantasy of manhood and aggression.
I remember sharing an office with a sports writer who slammed his phone down one day and uttered a loud stream of profanity. A city desk editor, intruding on the foreign territory of sports in the first place by even calling him, wanted him to write the REAL story of Dallas Cowboys football player Michael Irvin and his drug charges.
"City desk people are so stupid," he said. "They don't understand that people who read the sports pages don't want to know the REAL story about anything. They read the sports pages to get away from real stories. That's what the sports pages are for."
That was Costas' real sin. He ripped the curtain and allowed real life to show its ugly unlifted face in the middle of the Punch and Judy show. That just wrecks it.