John Steigerwald

Column John Steigerwald

John Steigerwald has been a fixture of TV, radio, and newspaper sports in Pittsburgh, and has a Sunday column in the Observer-Reporter.

Blame alcohol, not guns for Kansas City tragedy

Blame alcohol, not guns for Kansas City tragedy

December 8, 2012

Bob Costas blamed the gun.

It wasn’t exactly a novel knee-jerk reaction to a senseless murder-suicide but definitely knee-jerk for him to say, on the halftime show of NBC’s Sunday Night Football that Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and the woman he murdered, Kassandra Perkins, would still be alive if Belcher didn’t possess a weapon.

Actually, Costas was publicly agreeing with Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, who had written that and this: “Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our laws, tempt us to escalate arguments and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.”

It’s an old, flawed argument that shows an ignorance of the origin and purpose of the 2nd Amendment, but that’s beside the point.

Costas admitted later in the week that he shouldn’t have used the halftime show of the game to make his point, mostly because it didn’t afford him the time to address the subject thoroughly enough.

Costas has been around long enough and has earned enough credibility that he should have known that. He also should have known that the stance he was taking was even more unoriginal than it was unpopular.

Whitlock and Costas talked about the gun culture and how it leads to violence and murder. It would have shown a lot more courage if, instead of referencing the influence of guns, they had referenced the contribution made by the fuel that keeps the NFL owners rich – alcohol.

According to reports in the days following the murder-suicide, the argument that led to the shooting began when Belcher came home late after a night of partying.

Could Costas have just easily said that, if not for the alcohol culture, Belcher and Perkins would still be here today?

How many of the absurd numbers of run-ins with the law by NFL players would not have happened if alcohol had not been involved?

I’ll take an unscientific stab and say 90 percent.

How many gun deaths would not have happened if the shooters hadn’t been drinking?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that Costas should have called for the return of prohibition. I’m suggesting that he and Jason Whitlock picked on the wrong culture.

• Charlie Batch’s performance against the Baltimore Ravens was one of the best local sports stories of the last 10 years.

Your friends in the media, including me, didn’t come out looking too smart. I don’t know of anyone who expected the Steelers to win, much less expect Batch to be the main reason for it. I also don’t know of anyone in the local media who could think of anybody else they’d rather have prove them wrong.

• When the NFL decided to greatly reduce the number of kick returns by moving the kickoff from the 30 to the 35-yard line last year, there was quite a bit of speculating that it was the beginning of the end of the kickoff. That speculation was proven to be well-founded when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an interview with Time Magazine that he thought it was a good idea to at least start thinking about an alternative to the kickoff.

He mentioned a suggestion by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schianno that would give the scoring team the option of punting from their 30-yard line or trying to maintain possession of the ball by advancing it 15 yards.

We have now reached a point in NFL history where people everywhere did not start rolling around on the floor laughing when they heard that ridiculous suggestion. You can bet that Goodell would not have floated it unless it’s being given serious consideration.

In fact, prior to Thursday night’s game he said that the competition committee will look at it in the of season.

This, of course, is all in the interest of player safety. It also is another example of misplaced concentration.

If Goodell and the NFL were really interested in reducing the frequency and the intensity of on-field collisions, they would get serious about reducing the size of NFL players. They could go a long way toward doing that by having a drug testing program that isn’t laughed at by every reputable expert on performance-enhancing drugs.

Goodell and his employers have to understand that fans don’t really care about player safety. They’re interested in being entertained. That doesn’t mean that they enjoy watching players get seriously hurt, but they do enjoy watching players trying to hurt their opponents with big hits. It’s called football.

Incrementally legislating violence out of the game is a noble idea, but if it’s also incrementally legislating excitement out of the game – which it is – it won’t take long to ruin the sport.

They’re well on the way to doing that right now.

• It’s really heartwarming to hear NHLPA director Donald Fehr say that accepting the NHL’s demand for a 10-year CBA wouldn’t be fair to future players, but I’d be willing to bet that 85 percent of the locked out players would sign off on it. The kids who are playing pee wee hockey right now will average over $3 million per year in the 2022 NHL.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter. His website is



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