Earlier today, we covered the relatively surprising news that Bob Costas would be stepping down from his longtime role as NBC’s primary host of the Olympics.
That opens up the role for Mike Tirico, perhaps the most well-qualified replacement in sports broadcasting, having hosted or presented everything from Monday Night Football to the World Cup.
As for Costas specifically, we had a few hints as to his future role:
As for what’s next for Costas, SBJ’s John Ourand reported that he will no longer be hosting Sunday Night Football, though will still make appearances during the NFL playoffs and NBC’s Triple Crown horse racing coverage.
And now, Costas himself has elaborated upon those future plans, having granted Ourand a brief but wide-ranging interview.
You can listen to it here:
The entire thing is obviously worth checking out, but here’s Costas on what he’ll be doing next:
“I’ll still be involved, in a lot of it. I’ll still show up now and then on football if there’s a story to cover, rather than a game to present. An interview to do, an essay to do, a point to make. I’ll still do the Kentucky Derby, big events like that.
I’ll have a role, and they’ve been very nice to put it this way, similar in sports to what Tom Brokaw has in news, where it’s been a long time since he’s anchored the nightly news, but he still shows up with a certain degree of frequency, when there’s some story or issue where his perspective would be valuable. I’ll still have that.
But if I’m going to do more baseball and do it as well as I’m capable of doing it at least I think I’m capable of doing it well, I’ve got tot devote more time and attention to it. So I’ll do more of that on the MLB Network. and then maybe, not immediately, but maybe, somewhere down the road, something will come together some place where I can do more of the long-form programming I used to do elsewhere.”
Granting Costas what amounts to an emeritus role is a wise move for NBC. The parallel with Tom Brokaw on the NBC News side is a fair one, and it makes sense to allowCostas to rove a bit, lending his presence to stories he’s passionate about, or those where his particular experience and historical perspective could be assets.
Costas also gave a bit of advice to his Olympic successor:
“The job of the host, as first really developed by Jim McKay, is to be a very good generalist. to know the history of the Olympics, know the history of the host (city) and host nation, and to know the big storylines that run through each Olympics.
And then, if something jumps onto the radar screen unexpectedly, there are excellent researchers. Then it’s part of the host’s job to be able to take a briefing quickly, make some sense out of it, and communicate that to the audience.
But it’s important not to get bogged down memorizing every cross-country skier from Norway, or every platform diver from Peru. That’s a waste of time and energy.”
That might inspire a few eye rolls, because it’s very easy to argue that the biggest issue with how NBC covers the Olympics is that focus on a sweeping, overarching narrative, instead of covering it like an actual sporting event.
That’s still a valid critique, but even in a world where NBC ditched the most prepackaged, tape delayed aspects of the broadcast, the host would still need to be able to talk about everything, and he or she couldn’t possibly memorize all the facts beforehand. The ability to quickly absorb and convey new information as events happen is essentially the role of a broadcaster.
Ourand and Costas covered a few more interesting angles, including why Costas would never do NBA or MLB games for Turner, and just how intimidating Vince McMahon was to interview. But the closing segment featured Costas on his flip phone usage:
“I do (have a flip phone.) I’m beginning to ask myself the very same question. On days like this, when people see on the Today show you’re announcing a transition, they want to wish you well. and then a hundred texts come in. and it takes a little while. even though I’m pretty good, I’m like a court stenographer, I’m very very quick texting on a flip phone.
But it still takes longer than it would if I’d come into the 21st century. so today may have been the tipping point. That may actually be the bigger story than me leaving the Olympics. Today is the day when I have to say to myself, can I any longer justify the flip phone?”
Of course Bob Costas uses a flip phone.