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Patrick Hruby

Rorschach Test

The Atlantic Sports Roundtable on Jovan Belcher, Bob Costas and making sense of horror

The Atlantic online

Bob Costas went there. Hours after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend, and then shot himself dead in the parking lot of Arrowhead Stadium, the NBC host used his Sunday Night Football halftime appearance to bring up the issue of guns in America.


Viewers -- some of them, at least, and mostly fans of the Second Amendment -- were outraged. Others were annoyed that Costas was talking about something political, and not something, well, football football football.

The Atlantic Sports Roundtable weighs in on the controversy:

Jake Simpson: ... Many NBC viewers were turned off by Costas's editorializing at halftime of a football game, feeling it was the wrong forum. Deadspin's Sean Newell unleashed an anti-Costas rant entitled "Here Is Bob Costas's Sanctimonious, Horseshit Editorial On Jovan Belcher." Costas did have his defenders in the press, including Deadspin founding editor Will Leitch, who wrote at Sports On Earth that he was impressed with Costas's willingness to take an unpopular stand on a hot-button issue (essentially, guns are bad) on national television.

Me? I don't have a huge problem with what Costas did, despite my feeling that we should wait for more facts to come out before stating our opinions as journalists. As Leitch said, he's earned the right to say whatever he wants in his weekly 90-second life lessons during halftime of every Sunday Night football game. Also, I think he's right: Americans are more likely to escalate violent confrontations to a deadly level because of the preponderance of guns. And if you don't agree with Costas and cherish the 2nd Amendment above all others? Just change the channel next week ...

Hampton Stevens: ... 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 ...

Patrick Hruby: ... I don't think much of the criticism directed at Costas was rooted in a disappointed desire for more journalistic patience, nor in dashed hopes that Costas would unspool a Lincoln-esque speech. It was rooted in defensive anger over a perceived attack on the right to bear arms, or in the fact that Bob Costas—a sportscaster—mentioned such a thing in the first place.

Why was Costas mixing political peanut butter with my football chocolate? Doesn't he know better? Doesn't he know his place? Doesn't he know what the audience wants?

As someone who has spent much of my career jail-breaking the sports page — reporting and writing on the intersections between sports and culture, between sports and politics, between sports and, well, everything—I can tell you this: A lot of fans hate that. Because they watch sports to escape. They want sports to be a separate, hermetically sealed world of wins and losses, stats and standings, my team and yours, heroes and goats ...

Read the full article at The Atlantic online