“Oscar has had previous charges against him but we always thought he was a good guy.” — Shashi Naidoo, friend of Oscar Pistorius
Having guns is one thing; being obsessed with guns is another. Pistorius’ comments to the press as well as his own tweets indicate that the South African Paralympian, charged Friday with the premeditated murder of model Reeva Steenkamp, clearly was obsessed with things that go bang.
You might think that sleeping with a cricket bat and a baseball bat and a pistol might be enough protection for a man, especially when you live in a gated community. But Pistorius wanted a little something more on hand — a machine gun.
In 2009, this “good guy” was arrested in the alleged assault of a 19-year-old woman, though authorities declined to prosecute, citing lack of evidence. In November, he reportedly threatened to “break the legs” of a friend of a man he thought had slept with his then girlfriend.
Local newspapers have suggested that Pistorius shot Steenkamp either in an accident or mistook her for an intruder. Perhaps. But Steenkamp was shot four times — in the head, chest and arms — with a 9 mm pistol. And police say there had been domestic disturbances at Pistorius’ house before the shooting of Steenkamp.
Pistorius has charm, talent, a compelling personal narrative and a nation that loves him. Until Thursday, he also had a model girlfriend, not his first, by any means. But firearms appear to be his steadiest companions.
Pistorius once told a reporter that, when battling late-night insomnia, he would steal off to a nearby shooting range with his handgun. Yes, nothing prepares one for drifting sweetly into the arms of Morpheus like squeezing off a few rounds.
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“He’s got a good heart.” — Ian Laperriere, Philadelphia Flyers executive on Nick Cousins
Ah, yes, a good heart.
Cousins, 19, is a highly regarded Flyers prospect who nonetheless was passed over for three recent top events for junior players. Why?
Probably because in August he and two other members of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Junior Hockey League were charged with sexually assaulting a woman.
One wonders what Laperriere would think of Cousins’ heart if he wasn’t such a prodigious scorer — 88 points in 55 games this season — but the “heart” quote is nothing compared with what Laperriere said later in a Philadelphia Daily News story.
“Let’s be honest, stuff like that has been happening forever. You can’t get away with anything now. He can’t put himself in those situations.”
The italics are mine. The backlash is Laperriere’s.
“That is absolutely not what I meant to say,” he told Jennifer Conway, a sexual-assault victim, after she emailed him about his quote. “I would never, ever say rape is OK. I struggle sometimes with English, and I was trying to say that these situations have happened before, and hopefully all the players will learn from this, to not put themselves in bad situations.”
Laperriere has put himself in a bad situation, and has spent the last few days trying to extricate himself, which has only spread the story — and Laperriere’s quotes — even wider.
Which, in bringing light on the subject of violence against women and the attitude that permits it, especially in sports, is a good thing.
Contact Jim Gordon at email@example.com.