Sunday, December 9, 2012

Return To Normal?

  One of the more surreal episodes in the history of professional football occurred last Saturday when Kansas City Chief linebacker Jovan Belcher had an argument with his live-in girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, killed her with one of the nine bullets he shot her with, drove to Arrowhead Stadium, met with the Chiefs GM and coach, and then fired one last bullet into his head.

  Belcher seemed to all appearances as a self-made athlete and the complete antithesis of the often used stereotype of the pro athlete as talented and pampered street thug. He wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, ended up at a small college, the University of Maine. (Here is his background) He graduated in less than four years and was the Colonial Athletic Association defensive player of the year. Even though he was undrafted by the NFL, Belcher was signed as a free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs. He worked his way into playing time, signed a two million dollar contract for this season and started the first ten games of the season for the Chiefs.

  Belcher was living the life. He drove a Bentley. He had a house where his mother, 3-month old child, and girlfriend (the child’s mother) lived. He did charity work and seemed to be well thought of by his teammates. What has come out after the suicide-murder is that Belcher had been having arguments with his girlfriend for months and was being provided counseling by the team. A police video from hours before the murder-suicide showed Belcher asleep in his Bentley outside another woman’s apartment and heading up to the apartment after talking with the police. The argument that preceded the shooting was about Perkins’ late night out with friends attending a concert.

  There have been numerous reports of Belcher having violent episodes in his past, yet in college he was a member of ‘Male Athletes Against Violence’ and everyone who knew him was very shocked by the news.

  The story was covered in some way, shape, or form during every network football telecast. There was some talk of possibly cancelling the Chiefs game against the Carolina Panthers, but the organization and league decided to play the game as scheduled. On Bob Costas’s weekly commentary on the half time of the Sunday Night Football game, he offered his agreement with a quote by sportswriter Jason Whitlock , "If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."

  As shocking as the Belcher episode was, I think most of the reactions to it were that we as football fans were supposed to be moved by it to either want a game to be cancelled or make a stand to against gun violence. Maybe because it was an NFL player who committed the murder makes it different, but there were 31,400 deaths by firearms in the US last year (20,000 suicides). I’m sure some of these deaths were more tragic than Belcher’s murder-suicide, but not one of them was considered cause to cancel a professional sporting event.

  Bob Costas is a respected enough journalist that he should be afforded the right to offer his opinions on any topic he chooses. Gun control always becomes a hot topic whenever a gun related crime makes the headlines. I think everyone would be safer if there were no guns around and I have no confidence in our corruption laden systems to believe that criminals would not be able to get their hands on guns whenever they wanted. If somebody thinks that having a gun makes them safer because they’re protected from criminals or even their own government I have no problem with them owning a gun. 12,000 firearms related deaths not related to suicide in a year is 1/40th the amount the amount of cancer deaths in 2011, but the calls to outlaw guns dwarfs the appeals to outlaw tobacco.

  Costas’ comments came under such a firestorm that he and NBC felt compelled to undertake a spin/damage control campaign to clarify his position on gun control, the second Amendment, and gun reform. I agree with Costas comments on the Dan Patrick show when he said that trying to explain his thoughts on a complex subject in less than two minutes left the comments open to be misinterpreted. I wonder what the media reaction would have been if Costas said that Belcher and Perkins would still be alive if they stayed home with their three month old child instead of going out at all hours of the night.

  As much commotion the murder-suicide caused on Saturday and Sunday in the world of sports reporting, by Monday the incident had largely disappeared from the sports headlines, leaving the field of handguns to the news stations in order to turn their attention to the ‘pistol’ formation that Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins employed to beat the Giants on Monday Night Football. By Friday, sports attention had been turned to the Knicks destruction of the NBA champion Miami Heat, the upcoming week of football games including the Redskins matchup with the Ravens and Monday Night’s Texan-Patriot matchup, and Johnny Football winning the Heisman Trophy.

  It seemed as if the sports world was returning to normal. Yesterday, Dallas Cowboy defensive lineman Brent Jones was arrested for intoxication manslaughter when he flipped his car in a pre-dawn accident, killing his teammate Jerry Brown. Maybe Saturday NFL murders are the ‘new normal’.

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