Sportswriters get something of a bad rap, often for good reason. Our sector is dismissed as the "toy department" in the department store of the news business, and there is merit to that dismissive stance. After all, when all is said and done, at the end of life, how many folks in their deathbed look to their loved ones and say, "If only I had spent more time obsessing over how Adrian Peterson did in my fantasy football league?"
The hours that our citizens wile away watching sports, attending sporting events, poring over their fantasy league standing and masturbatorily discussing their place in said standing with other equally masturbatorily inclined addicts are staggering, and frankly, frightening, and sad.
I recognize the irony of those words and sentiments coming from me, a sportswriter, but allow me to explain. I see myself as a human being first. Yes, I write about sports, in particular boxing, for a living. It could be argued that I spend far too much time watching near-naked men pummel each other, and reading about these folks, and taking up space on the internet communicating the goings-on in the sweet science. But I also manage, every day and night, to peel my eyes away from that arena, and focus on more substantive matters. In fact, when I read the New York Times, the sports section is the last section I turn to. Because I see, in the grand scheme of things, that sporting events are quite low on the ladder of happenings which are meaningful, on a day-to-day basis. Much of this sports obsessed nation, and indeed, world, doesn't seem to agree with me.
Seems to me we are a people addicted to diversion. How many times do you hear someone -- or maybe you yourself say -- "I can't be bothered with the news? It's too depressing... And as for politics, why does it matter? Nothing ever changes."
The reasons "nothing ever changes" are varied; the political system is pretty broken, as lobbyists and the most moneyed call the shots, and the people elected by the people too often represent a narrow band of people, ones who just happen to fund their campaigns, and provide them cushy landings when they exit the public arena, and enter the private sphere. But imagine if more people spent less time watching those highlight shows packed with dunks and QB kayoes and walkoff dingers, or whatever dumb tag the anchor has just some up with, and spent some of those hours keeping up on current events. Like, say, that murder-suicide which occurred in Kansas City on Saturday. This "real world" news event probably got on the radar screens of more degenerate sports addicts than usual, because the principal person involved happened to be a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, of the National Football League. Authorities have said that Jovan Belcher, age 25, shot his girlfriend, then drove to the stadium where the Chiefs play, and in front of the coach and general manager, shot and killed himself.
"Real life" intruded into the realm of sports fans on Sunday, when NBC announcer Bob Costas, during halftime of a Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game, made clear his stance that this nation has a gun and violence problem, bigtime.
He offered excerpts from a column written by sports columnist Jason Whitlock, stating, on air, "Our current gun culture, Whitlock wrote, ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy" and "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... here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe: if Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."
Bravo, Bob Costas. And Whitlock, who writes for Fox Sports, and who wrote, "I would argue that your rationalizations speak to how numb we are in this society to gun violence and murder. We've come to accept our insanity." You both did the "toy department" proud. You took a risk, going out on a limb, trafficking in an area which so many wrongly deem "political" and therefore basically a third rail, because broadcasters and writers employed by politically gunshy corporations only selectively want to show content that could turn off roughly half the nation which opposes a particular viewpoint. You acted like human beings first and foremost... and not so stunningly, got hammered for it.
Sadly but predictably, the Michelle Malkins and Herman Cains and Ted Nugent said Costas "hijacked" the moment, and was "sanctimonious" and labeled him a "fool." Yes, more outrage and disgust was mustered for what Costas said, and his choice of venue, than what Belcher did, in many quarters. And many of these same Costas haters didn't even give lip service to the carnage Belcher's actions resulted in. No, they skipped right over any sort of empathic response, didn't mention that Belcher and Kasandra Perkins had a daughter, Zoey, who is three months old, and will never have a single memory of her parents. No, in the sad and sick and insane world of the Costas haters, the glaring issue is that the sportscaster took a stance against guns and violence during their precious football game. Costas broke into their diversion, and for that, he should be pilloried, or better yet in the minds of the gun-lovers, he should be fired.
I am curious, what would it take for a Malkin, Cain, Nugent, or any of these folks who love to trot out the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" and "do you blame the car for the DUI hit and run death" and "if we ban guns only the bad guys will have them" and "if everyone were armed, the nation would be a safer place" and "knives are bad too, think of OJ" responses for them to change their tune? Does one of their loved ones have to be in one of the movie theaters, or schools or malls when a murderer goes on a rampage for them to see the light, that we need to address the culture of gun idolatry and casual violence in the United States?
How have they come to so easily accept the every-couple-of-months high-profile shooting incident without coming to the conclusion that the laws and attitudes that we have in place are not fucking working?
Listen, I just work in the toy department. I don't pretend to be clever enough or informed enough to be able to solve or even begin to address the culture of casual violence and gunplay in America. But I'm proud to say I stand with Bob Costas, proudly, and to publicly proclaim my belief that guns make it too easy to kill people, and that it is time to address, meaningfully and resolutely, our sick national addiction to firearms, and the warped attitudes that manifest in our citizens shooting holes in one another. I end with a question, and prayer: you people that hear about the latest high-profile shooting or mass murder, and don't see a need to fix this problem, and continue to stubbornly debate for a status quo that is barbaric. Why do you accept this grotesque parade of killings and mass murders? And I pray that one of your loved ones doesn't get shot and killed in the next inevitable shooting.