Just by the sound of his voice or the sight of his face, a televised sporting event took on extra significance. It was time to drop what you were doing and pay attention to the screen; there was something worthwhile going on, and Bob Costas was here to put it in perspective, his familiar voice narrating sports moments you’d remember all your life.
This week, the 40-year relationship between Costas and NBC came to an end, rendering official what has long been expected. As Costas told USA Today last summer, his relationship with the network had run its course, and “what was once a perfect fit no longer fits that description.”
There are no hard feelings, he’s said, and no animosity. “It’s all settled quietly and happily for all concerned,” Costas told the New York Post this week.
“Everything in this transition was planned and done (by) mutual agreement,” his agent, Sandy Montag, said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
Costas, at 66, is now free to contemplate what comes next, ideally “something that is a hybrid of his HBO show and ‘Later’ (his former NBC show),” as he told the New York Post. That would free him to become more of an elder statesman, a reasoned voice in a sports world dominated by hot, often silly and misguided, takes. Costas could have the luxury of time.
Costas, who joined NBC Sports in 1979, has been the Zelig of televised sports, hosting Olympic coverage 11 times and broadcasting the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals and the Triple Crown. He was inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame last summer.
His last Olympics work was in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and, when Mike Tirico moved into a “Football Night in America” role preceding “Sunday Night Football” games last season, Costas stepped into a different role for the network, similar to the one Tom Brokaw has occupied in NBC’s news coverage.
He had previously tried his hand at broader commentary on issues like gun violence, Native American mascots and the dangers of concussions in football, but the amount of time he was given for those essays never lent itself to the kind of thoughtful and distinctive nuance Costas has to offer. The fit, as he so ably put it, no longer was right.
No longer confined merely to television, he might find a new platform, one that would free him to “pursue a journalism show that includes news-making interviews and commentaries,” as he told USA Today last summer. The reach of such a platform could extend beyond sports. He would be free to speak freely about controversial topics, as he did after the Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher was involved in a murder-suicide in 2012; Costas then delivered a much-discussed prime time commentary about gun control. He later regretted it, not because of the content, he’s said, but because 90 seconds wasn’t enough time for thoughtful commentary.
“A friend of mine in broadcasting pointed this out to me yesterday, and I agree with him. He said, ‘you violated your own rule.’ Because we have had this discussion before: I’ve always said, if you’re going to get into touchy topics, nuanced topics, make sure that you have enough time to flesh them out . . . or save them for forums where you do,” he told “The Dan Patrick Show” in 2012. “In this particular situation, the timeliness of it was, if you’re going to comment on it at all, it had to be this Sunday.”
While he contemplates his next step, Costas will continue to appear on the MLB Network and will call about 20 games. The next step - and the timing of the next step - are largely of his choosing.
“I have some possibilities,” as he told the New York Post, “but I have to decide what I want to do.”