Often lambasted as a self-righteous, cranky, out-of-touch voice in the sports world, Bob Costas has proved in the last week that he's secretly cooler than all of us.
The broadcaster has been battling a nasty infection, soldiering through NBC's Winter Olympics prime-time coverage and subjecting the world to his swollen, red eyes. As the redness spread from his left eye to the right, he maintained good humor about his infection and those silly glasses he's been forced to wear.
Costas will get a night off tonight, with "Today" show host Matt Lauer replacing him. Perhaps the tipping point for Costas and his producers was Monday's late-night broadcast, in which the always professional anchor downed vodka alongside Mary Carillo in a last-ditch effort to soothe his infection. "My eyes can’t get any redder," he explained. "No matter what I do."
Let's just acknowledge the moment when Costas, long criticized for trying to bring sophistication masquerading as pretension to a sports world that could use it, lowered himself to our level and imbibed on national television. Bob Costas: a man of the people.
Costas certainly hasn't made it easy for the everyman to identify with him: His commentary advocating gun control after the murder-suicide of the Kansas City Chiefs' Jovan Belcher was blasted as alienating and "sanctimonious," if not an uncomfortable truth that an audience of NFL fans wasn't prepared to hear. And this generation of cynical, jaded sports fans (and writers) isn't particularly receptive to an older sports broadcaster waxing poetic about the romanticism of Mickey Mantle and baseball in its golden age.
But maybe we've been wrong about Costas all along. His stubbornness to continue anchoring Olympics coverage, red-eyed and all, is the sports broadcasting equivalent of the bloody sock. He's not afraid to take shots on one of his network's most important broadcasts of the year, and is apparently no stranger to the open container. Note this awesome anecdote from a Deadspin commenter: After a fan at the 2011 Belmont Stakes threw Costas a full can of beer, he proceeded to catch it -- one-handed -- and shotgun half the can in front of the crowd.
It's time to give the man his due and raise a glass to (and alongside) Bob Costas. Anyone who can match his ability to ask the hard-hitting questions with an affinity for taking a can of Coors Light to the face is just fine in my book.
(Kavitha A. Davidson is a Bloomberg View columnist who writes about sports. Follow her on Twitter at @kavithadavidson.)
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