Bob Costas is a sanctimonious prick. But he is a talented sanctimonious prick with a knack for hitching his wagon to attention-getting liberal tropes that pander to his Baby Boomer demographic. After a stint at a station nearby his alma mater Syracuse, he continued his career in obscurity in the 1970s at a Midwestern small market television affiliate. But his boyish good looks brought him to the attention of NBC executives, who also sensed in him this knack for preaching to the choir. Thus started a near forty-year career as a major network sports anchor and sportscaster. Costas was so ubiquitous at the network, it seemed like he anchored every sport on the planet; basketball, hockey, football, the Olympics, boxing, golf, NASCAR, and horse racing, to name just a few.
Costas was awarded over two dozen Emmy’s over his career. It is an incredible achievement, particularly since many of his peers with similar talents and similar longevity were lucky to even be awarded one. But all this success and the adulation of his audience and his peers led Costas to adopt a form of winners arrogance–where he was obviously the smartest guy in the room. And in Costas’s way of thinking, smart guys have an obligation to be conscientious objectors on TV–meaning his objections and his conscientiousness, of course.
So Costas spoke his mind, whether we wanted to hear his opinions or not. This meant that we had to hear that gun ownership was bad during football season. We had to hear criticism of Republican presidents during baseball season. And we had to hear that professional football killed people during basketball season.
It was those comments about football that finally bit him in the ass. In spite of all the stupid things he said on the air and in opinion pieces in the New York Times, it was finally his criticism of football that brought the Bob Costas era to a much overdue close.
Ironically, his play-by-play in NFL games was the reason he caught his broadcasting break in 1976. His elevation to the national network meant more of the same; he called play-by-play for for eight years in obscure games for NBC. Costas was finally elevated to studio host in 1984–something he parlayed into an eighteen year gig; twenty-six years of NFL coverage overall. But Costas’ dark secret over all those years was that he hated football. He hated the violence and he found football’s game play pointless. So when he learned about a possible link between the degenerative brain disease CTE and concussions in football, he became open about his disdain for the sport.
The NFL stewed in its anger over Costas’ antics. In the end they said nothing. In somewhat similar circumstances in the past the NFL had asked ESPN not to renew it’s Playmakers show (about he off-field antics of a fictional NFL franchise). But the NFL decided it wasn’t worth the trouble to get Costas removed.
Costas’ impromptu editorial comments angered NBC’s executives and their bosses at Comcast too. Think what you like about the NFL or the sport of American football, but the fact is the NFL is more popular than the NBA, NHL, MLS, and MLB put together. There was a period of time when NBC did not have an NFL television package, and it was like living through a Dark Ages. Billions of dollars are at stake in NFL broadcast rights. So NBC asked Costas to tone it down. He declined to do so. Thus it was just plain old insubordination that did Costas in. Costas was so dumbfounded at being released for insubordination that he continues to blame the NFL for his ouster. But the evidence suggests otherwise.
So the Costas era ends like so many other Baby Boomer broadcast personalities that dominated TV for decades. Forced out over something stupid that they did or stupid that they said. Thank goodness.
2/18/19 update: this article was edited for readability.