On Kobe Bryant, Stephen Colbert offers personal reflection and call to action

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert offered condolences to the families of Kobe Bryant and those lost in Sunday’s helicopter accident.

Days after a helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others, the world is still trying to come to grips with what happened. On Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert provided his thoughts on the tragedy, offering words of comfort while also calling for changes in helicopter flight regulation.

Like people from all walks of life, late night hosts used portions of their shows to remember Kobe Bryant. Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien and others all delivered tributes to Bryant as a basketball player and as a father.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was off on Monday and therefore did not join other late night show’s in honoring the victim. Host Stephen Colbert and band leader Jon Batiste did comment on the tragedy during Tuesday night’s show.

Unlike the other hosts that discussed Bryant and his legacy, Colbert never interviewed or met the basketball star. Instead, the Late Show host reflected on his own experiences with grief and tragedy while urging some good to come from the devastating loss of nine lives.

Jon Batiste’s comments on Kobe Bryant are similar to many that have been shared online and on air. For basketball fans, Bryant was bigger than the game itself. He was Michael Jordan for a certain generation. So for Batiste to meet Bryant was in a thrill in itself and only magnified by Bryant’s warm personality off the court.

Without a face-to-face interaction to recall Colbert instead talks about subjects he knows all too well: loss and grief. In 1974, Colbert’s father and two of his brothers died in the Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 crash. Colbert has spoken about the tragedy several times and discussed how it has impacted his comedy, religious life, and personal philosophy.

Colbert goes on to explain how the accident in 1974 led to the creation of the Sterile Cockpit Rule. The Federal Aviation Administration law forbids any nonessential activities or discussions from taking place inside the cockpit during critical phases of flight such as takeoff and landing. As Colbert says, this did not take away from the pain or heartache but it did offer a way to prevent future accidents from occurring.

This is the call the action that Colbert makes following the loss of nine lives. His message was quite different from those of other late night hosts but remains a conversation worth having. Fair or not, many people turn to celebrities or television personalities to provide some explanation, context, or solace when tragedy occurs. Unfortunately Stephen Colbert has had to do that a number of times but consistently finds the right tone and message.

Colbert should be commended for sharing his own story of loss in offering comfort to the victim’s families. The host has also been rightly praised for taking the time to read the names of all the victims, including John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah and Peyton Chester, Christina Mauser, and Ara Zobayan.

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Tributes and memorials for Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, the Altobellis, the Chesters, Christian Mauser, and Ara Zobayan will continue to come out and deservedly so. Hopefully the changes that Stephen Colbert calls for will also be discussed and his message of hope in the face of grief will resonate with those who need to hear it.



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