When Bob Costas is on his game, he's the best interviewer in sports. His NBC interview with Jerry Sandusky, right after his charges were made public, would have made even the most seasoned legal prosecutor proud. And his HBO show, "Costas Now," was routinely the best source of intelligent sports analysis on TV. He's a smart guy, and he isn't afraid to let you know it. When he's off his game, the shtick becomes smarmy and sanctimonious. He's the freshman English major who tries to impress you by using "oeuvre" in a sentence. It's annoying, but it's not infuriating.
Last night, though, his soap box wasn't just used to reach the height necessary to be seen by NBC's cameras: It turned him into a massive hypocrite. Costas used Sunday Night Football's halftime show to deliver a debate on gun control in America. The video is above in case you missed it, but here are the relevant quotes:
"You want some actual perspective on this? Well a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree but who today, said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article. "Our current gun culture," Whitlock wrote, "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. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions, and its possible connection to football, will be analyzed. Who knows? But here is what I believe, If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."
There is a time and a place to have a debate about gun control in this country. The murder rate is too high, and it's silly that we can't talk about why it's too high without resorting to name-calling. But Costas chose to deliver a one-sided view of the debate during halftime of a football game. A football game! Is Costas aware that in the coming weeks, we're going to find out more about why Belcher may have been in dazed mood, on painkillers and self-medicating with alcohol, and feeling violent enough to shoot his girlfriend nine times? That maybe, just maybe, it could have been spurred by playing football games?
In email messages sent to us, the friend described Belcher as a young man whipsawed between football-related head trauma and ongoing substance abuse, and the source speculated that a "combination of alcohol, concussions, and prescription drugs," mixed with domestic problems, led to Belcher's murder of Perkins and his subsequent suicide.
The friend wrote that after the Chiefs' Nov. 18 game against the Bengals, the last game Belcher played in, Belcher "was dazed and was suffering from short-term memory loss. He could not remember the events that had taken place prior to that game or what he had said to get Kasi [Kasandra Perkins] to return home."
"If you review the footage of the Cincinnati game, he took a few hits to the head directly," the friend wrote.
Deadspin's report is still only one guy talking. It's certainly possible that Belcher could turn out to just be a scumbag who would have capable of Saturday's actions if he had never played football. But isn't it a little freaky that on the same day Costas—who, it should be reiterated, makes part of his living off money made from televising NFL games—decided to give his editorial, researchers at Boston University found evidence that players as young as 18 suffer traumatic brain injuries from football? "The most extensive examination to date of deceased athletes’ brains shows that most had signs of brain damage after suffering repeated head injuries—including two high school football players who died in their teens," the Boston Globe reported. "These findings could prove helpful to the mega lawsuit against the National Football League filed last spring by thousands of former players and their families, who claim that the National Football League hid information that linked football-related head injuries to dementia, depression, and other cognitive problems."
Cognitive problems, which lead to depression, mood swings, and erratic behavior. Which could have led to Belcher's actions. We don't know, obviously, if that's the case yet. But even the possibility should have given Costas pause. It turns his decision to turn Belcher's actions into a forum to give a speech about gun control—during a game that featured one team missing its star quarterback and running back due to head injuries— into something that would darkly funny if it wasn't so fucking sad.