North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

December 7, 2012

Robert Carter: Jovan Belcher case opens up several cans of worms

By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News

COMMENTARY — The mysterious case of the apparent murder by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, and his subsequent death by suicide in front of his coach and general manager, has brought to light a host of intertwined issues that simply won’t go away.

Belcher killed his girlfriend — the mother of his three-month-old daughter — by pumping nine bullets into her, then reportedly kissing her forehead. Belcher then drove to the Chiefs headquarters and thanked coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli for what they had done for him. He then went into the parking lot, and as police approached, he went behind a vehicle and put a bullet into his head.

There are three big issues at the forefront here: gun rights and the Second Amendment, the hip-hop culture that glorifies gun use, and the effect of continued blows to the head in all levels of football.

The gun-rights issue grabbed the spotlight Sunday night thanks to NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who delivered a commentary that angered critics on the right for what they perceived to be gun-control advocacy. Costas’ remarks were out of place, ill-conceived or both, opponents complained.

Costas received support, or at least understanding, from two unlikely sources: Bernard Goldberg, the former CBS News reporter turned conservative media critic; and Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News Channel titan and best-selling author.

Goldberg is a friend of Costas of long standing, and the two talked at length on Monday, before one of Goldberg’s regular appearances on “The O’Reilly Factor.” In that conversation, Goldberg said Costas was not advocating the repeal of the Second Amendment, or even much tighter restrictions on gun ownership or use, and was simply commenting more on what he called “the gun culture.” Costas also feared those who would hoard large collections of guns.

The gun-control debate has raged for years, and will continue to do so despite the Belcher case. Frankly, this singular event has no bearing on who should own guns and who shouldn’t, because Belcher had nothing we know of in his record that would have disqualified him from legal gun ownership.

As for the use of guns to settle every dispute, that’s more pertinent. It’s also something with which I have first-hand experience, as I live in Fairfield, a city that’s riddled with gun use. I’ve joked about being serenaded to sleep by the sounds of random gunfire, but there’s more truth to that than I, or city fathers, care to admit.

More and more, the answer to any argument seems to be to “pop a cap in their (behind).” It’s a sorry answer, but the culture has told them it’s they way to go to prove one’s manhood.

But what compounded effect does the brain-damage issue have on this? We dearly love our football here in the Deep South, and forcefully decry any attempt to water it down. Blows to the head are just part of the game, we say, and it’s been that way for years.

That’s true, but the game has never been played with the speed and force that it is today, particularly on the professional level. The toll taken on the bodies of NFL players is incredible — just as the medical staff of any team. And high-level college football is not far removed from that level of abuse, either.

More and more studies are confirming our worst fears: the repeated blows are affecting players’ ability to think straight.

These are issues that we still have to examine on all fronts. It’s just a pity that it takes a tragedy like Belcher’s to bring it to the forefront once again.