Last week, NBC sports broadcaster Bob Costas carved out a few minutes during halftime between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles to denounce what he called the “gun culture” in the wake of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide.
This week, another tragedy struck the NFL. Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent allegedly drove while drunk late Friday night in Irving, TX, and crashed his car. His passenger, practice squad team mate and best friend Jerry Brown, died in the crash. The Cowboys dealt with the tragedy, dedicated the game to Brown and gave the game ball to his mother after narrowly defeating the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. In recent years, the Cowboys have a lot of experience dealing with law-breaking players, as do most NFL teams. Brent is now out of jail on $500,000 bond but faces charges for intoxication manslaughter.
During the Sunday Night NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, Bob Costas apparently spent no time at all decrying the “drunk driving” culture. I wasn’t watching the game, and I won’t watch any NFL on NBC as long as Bob Costas remains employed there, but a search through the news today reveals only other writers wondering why Costas didn’t speak out. Perhaps it’s because Costas did not have a Jason Whitlock column to tell him what to think, as he did after the Belcher killings.
If there is a culture that explains any facet of both the Belcher killings and the death of Jerry Brown other than the individuals’ own conduct, it’s the culture of partying and irresponsibility that grows up around professional athletes who are turned into instant millionaires and treated like gods of the arena when many have yet to truly grow up. Many pro athletes grow up without fathers and have not had any moral training before becoming incredibly wealthy and idolized. Eighteen NFL players have been arrested on suspicion of DUI this year alone. Belcher was apparently abusing drugs and alcohol, had not married the mother of his daughter (whom he murdered before killing himself) and had been running around with another woman the night before his rampage. We may learn similar things about Mr. Brent, who the evidence already accuses of killing his friend after a night of debauchery, and who already has a DUI conviction on his record. Professional athletes have gone from the days when they could be looked at as pillars of the community, to a culture of rich spoiled brats who lurch from one scrape with the law to another until they retire and find themselves bankrupt.
Where is Mr. Costas to denounce this culture? As a sports journalist whose own culture routinely hails the latest generation of pro athletes as the greatest ever, Bob Costas is part of the problem. He makes his living grabbing crumbs from the professional sports gods’ table. He is hardly courageous enough to take on the very culture that has made him a wealthy demigod.