FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 10th, 2017
NBC OLYMPICS PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT – MARK LAZARUS, JIM BELL, BOB COSTAS, MIKE TIRICO AND AL MICHAELS
Thursday, February 9, 2017
MARK LAZARUS: Thank you, all, and thanks for coming out on kind of a difficult travel day. Even in the world of sports, it isn’t often that we have the opportunity to honor a legend while he’s still at the top of his game, and such a time has come today. But first a little bit of history. When I moved into my current role at NBC in May of 2011, one of the first calls I made was to Bob Costas, and yes, he answered on his legendary flip phone, which wasn’t quite as outdated six years ago as it is today. But we had a very nice chat, and Bob and I talked about the need to do whatever is necessary by both of us to maintain the high standards and success of NBC Sports.
Three weeks later, it was our turn to go to Lausanne to pitch our future rights deals with the Olympics, and we were amassing a large group. We really had a very short period of time to pull together what was going to be what we believed a definitive moment in the new company’s history, and we asked Bob to join us, and he graciously agreed and went along with us.
We had a sizable group, about 15 or so of us went over there. About 10 of us presented, and we all prepared meticulously, writing out our speeches and rehearsing them, and we did three or four full dress rehearsals in a ballroom in Lausanne, and Bob sat in at some of those, didn’t show up to a few of them, but you know, he kept saying, ‘I’ll be ready, I’ll be ready,’ and having watched his work and known him, we all believed that was going to be the case.
When we finally got to do our presentations, and what turned out to be roughly a two-hour presentation between speeches and tape, Bob was saved for the end. He was our closer. He was the guy who had been the face of the Olympic Games for NBC Sports for decades.
We all made our presentations. They all went fairly smoothly. Bob sat there with a note card with two or three words written on it, and gave the most eloquent 15- or 20-minute speech about the reason NBC was the right place to hold on to the Olympics, to be the ones to steward the incredible movement that the IOC cherished so dearly and that we at NBC did, too.
Bob’s role there, again, while we thought he was just sort of there for the ride, he was incredibly prepared and was one of the main differences as to why we have maintained the Games for this period of time.
When Bob and NBC came to a new agreement in 2012, we’ve had a lot of discussions about the future and what that might look like, and Bob pointed at that time to this moment, after the Rio games, as a time he wanted to reflect, and with the potential for him to maybe step away, and so we constructed a deal that reflected that potential opportunity for him.
So when he decided this fall to step away from the Olympics and only the Olympics, because he will still be involved in big NBC Sports events in a suitably big way, it brings us to today. So let’s take a quick look at the record of what he has accomplished and where we have been with Bob as our host.
The host since 1992, Barcelona Games, the primetime host. He’s been in the chair for all 11 Olympics since that summer, a U.S. television record for primetime Olympics. Bob has won 10 sports Emmys in the years he served as Olympic host as well as many other awards for his sports and journalism work. He’s up there on the Mount Rushmore of the greatest U.S. Olympic TV hosts, but unlike the real Mount Rushmore, there’s not exactly a crowd up there, there’s really just two; it’s Jim McKay and it’s Bob Costas.
The marathon is an historic Olympic event, but it also describes the work it takes to cover the Olympics, not only in front of the camera but behind the camera, the incredible work that our production team in planning, promoting, programming, and then eventually televising the games and now across multiple platforms. But Bob has been there for every step, anchoring an incredible 181 primetime nights.
While we’ve been unable to verify this, we are fairly certain that is 157 consecutive nights in the chair before being knocked off air by the most widely covered attack of pinkeye in history, makes Bob the Cal Ripken of Olympic hosts in any country, and he delivered each and every night.
I know it’s a lot of superlatives that I’ve thrown around and we’ve thrown around to heap on one guy, but Bob deserves them. So on behalf of everyone that’s been involved over the last three decades from NBC Olympics, NBC Sports and NBC Universal and now Comcast, Bob, we want to thank you for the outstanding standard-setting work you’ve done on our behalf. Thank you.
So today Bob is passing the torch, literally and figuratively as primetime host to a worthy successor, Mike Tirico.
Mike joined us last summer and has already made excellent contributions to the NBC Sports group on a wide range of events. Last August in Rio, Mike had his Olympic TV debut as host of NBC’s daytime coverage. He had a very difficult assignment: He toiled on our Copacabana Beach set for a couple of hours every afternoon. But somehow he was able to get through it and confirmed what Jim Bell, Sam Flood and I already knew about his extraordinary abilities. That leads us, again, to today.
So Mike is succeeding Bob. It’s like Aaron Rodgers following Brett Favre, or more appropriate given Bob’s love of baseball, it’s like Mantle following DiMaggio in center field for the Yankees. Mike is a tremendous talent who meticulously prepares for every broadcast as if it’s the most important one ever produced. He’s flawlessly handled play-by-play and hosting roles against some of the biggest sports events in the world, and we’re proud to name him our new primetime Olympic host and expect this will be a very long and prosperous run for all of us. Mike, welcome.
So before we have Bob come up, I’ll turn this over to a very special guest, another one and only, via satellite, Al Michaels.
AL MICHAELS: Good afternoon, everybody. You mentioned Jim McKay, and in like 30 years at ABC I had the great pleasure and honor of working with Jim over four Olympic Games, and he was the standard bearer. He was iconic, he was a model, and I thought, who in the world could ever replace Jim McKay. Well, we have the answer. It was Bob Costas, and knowing McKay as well as I did, Jim would be extremely proud of what Bob has done as the ascendant.
When I think of Bob Costas, I think of somebody who is as fast on his feet as anybody in the history of the television business. Bob has done about 95 percent of his career without a Teleprompter, and I don’t have to tell you how hard that is, and when I think of Bob, he’s like a guy at the plate, you’re throwing a curveball, you’re throwing a curveball in the dirt and he will still hit it out of the park.
I’ve known Bob since 1983. I met him in Baltimore before the first game of the World Series at Memorial Stadium. He came into the booth to say hello, I was working with Howard Cosell and Earl Weaver, and Bob introduced himself to Cosell, and Howard looked at him and said, I know who you are, you’re the child who rhapsodizes about the infield fly rule. Howard thought of himself as the best broadcast journalist ever, but to me that mantle belongs to one Robert Costas. He always gets to the heart of the story. He is as good as great and interviewer as anybody I’ve ever seen in news, sports, you name it. He always gets the job done.
I also want to congratulate Mike Tirico. I had a chance to share the daytime host role with Mike in Rio de Janeiro, and Mike was with us all season long on Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, as well. I know the Orangemen of Syracuse are very proud, and Mike Tirico will do a fantastic job through the next two decades or however long NBC has the Olympic contract, so congratulations to you, Mike. Well-deserved. He will be fabulous.
Without further ado, it’s time to bring up the man of the moment who was able to overcome a co-starring role in the classic film “Baseketball” and is at the very top of his profession, a/k/a Rapping Roberto, Bob Costas.
BOB COSTAS: Wow. They tell me that’s live, so Alfalfa, can you still hear me?
AL MICHAELS: I can.
BOB COSTAS: Thank you. Thank you. This was wonderful to begin with, and for you to be a surprise part of it is just the icing on the cake, and we will see you on Monday for dinner in LA.
AL MICHAELS: We certainly will.
BOB COSTAS: Thank you, Al. Now get back to Bel Air. They’re waiting for you.
AL MICHAELS: They are.
BOB COSTAS: Well, this is more than anyone could possibly ask for, and as I run a lot of this through my mind, I know I’m going to leave some people out, and I apologize for that in advance.
Back in 1988 when I had my first Olympic experience as the late-night host in Seoul, and Bryant Gumbel, one of the most significant broadcast journalists of our generation or of any generation, was the primetime host, Mike Weisman then was running NBC Sports and Art Watson was the president of NBC Sports, and legendary figures like Harry Coyle, who virtually invented the way you direct a baseball game, was still around, people like Tommy Roy and David Neal and Ricky Diamond were beginning their careers, and I could go on and on, and all those people played a role in my career and in my life.
And then when Dick Ebersol, who had created later with Bob Costas, became the president of NBC Sports, he tapped me to host the Olympics in primetime beginning in Barcelona. Dick is one of the most dynamic and significant figures in the history of television and of television sports, and he put me in a position to succeed time and time again.
So I owe him a great debt of gratitude always, and part of why, if I was able to succeed more often than not, was that Dick and his successors surrounded me with extraordinarily talented and dedicated people. I like to think that every now and then, I elevated what I was presented with or what went on around me, but more often than that was the case, it was true that I was elevated by the work of people who supported me and who weren’t as well-known to the public as I was or Al has been or Mike has been and will continue to be.
My first Olympic researcher was Jeff Zucker, who later went on to run all of NBC Universal and right now is now the Trumps’ favorite human being running CNN, and he was succeeded by people like Molly Solomon, who runs the Golf Channel for us, and I’ve been surrounded by people like Aaron Cohen and Joe Gesue and Becky Chatman, and what they have done through the years has made my job not just easier, it’s made me look better than I deserved to look. I could always count on them. I could always be certain that anything they handed me was 100 percent verifiable. I didn’t have to check it. I could go with it. I could yell across the set with 10 seconds to go, Are we good on this? Is it 11 or is it 12? It’s 12, says Joe Gesue, or said Aaron Cohen, okay, whatever they say – and I knew that Mike Sheehan cared about every last bit of it and so did his predecessor Bucky Gunts. If something could be 1 percent better, they worked 10 more hours to make it 1 percent better, so I’m indebted to all those people.
And then when the transfer took place to Comcast, the first experience was the experience that Mark talk about in Lausanne, and I remember being on the plane with Steve Burke, because I had a baseball game to do, the Yankees and the White Sox, the next day, jet lagged, and Steve had to go to Santa Barbara or something by way of New York for some sort of Comcast meeting, so we left ahead of everybody else, and it was just me and Steve on the plane.
But when you hold a certain position, you have a telephone line even some 35,000 feet up in the air, and we were waiting for the call, and somewhere over the Atlantic, the call came that we had gotten the bid, we had won the bid, and we would have the next several Olympics, and I remember high-fiving with Steve Burke, and that kind of solidified a relationship that has carried on for the last several years, and not only have Steve and Mark and Jim Bell and Sam Flood, who’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with, not only have they given me a chance to do well, but they’ve treated me so well and so kindly. Their friendship means as much to me as our professional experience together.
I’ll still have a role in football going forward. It will not be as extensive a role, but I hope that I can contribute when something significant comes up where people would say, yeah, that’s something Costas should do. I’ll host the Super Bowl this coming year because Mike will already be at the opening ceremonies only five days after the Super Bowl, but maybe there will be an interview of some consequence or some significant person will pass away or retire and there will be an essay that will be called for and I’ll be asked to contribute, and I hope I’ll be able to do something at a level that is worthy of the standard established by Fred Gaudelli and Drew Esocoff and the people in the truck on Sunday nights and this past year on Thursday nights. I always felt a little bit guilty because Al and Chris and Michele Tafoya and Fred and Drew and everybody else were working their tails off, and I had the least taxing job. My job was to show up and kind of be like, ‘Hi, it’s me again, you know me because I’ve been here for a long time and I’ll try not to screw anything up, and every now and again maybe I can contribute something worthwhile.’
I always felt like I wasn’t pulling my fair share of the weight. I was being pulled along by the best broadcast team, all things considered, and I’ve been on broadcast where Mike Weisman was the producer and Harry Coyle was the director, and I can say that top to bottom, the best broadcast teams, or team that I’ve worked with on an ongoing thing, the Olympics are a separate thing, but a week-to-week, game-to-game basis, is Sunday Night Football.
I just noticed Mark Levy who’s disguised himself by growing a beard, and Peter Diamond, who has been at every Olympics since the Greeks invented them, going back to ABC. When you see the beautiful cinematography at an Olympic Games, just think of the opening what we call teases that bring us on the air that are designed to raise goosebumps. That’s Mark Levy and his team’s cinematography. That’s Aaron Cohen’s writing with maybe me collaborating a little bit, and then narrating it, and you think of the closing credits that follow every Olympics after I do some little summation, and then they run Ode to Joy and they show all those moments of just arresting beauty and how poignant it can be and how meaningful it can be, not just to the competitors but to all of us. That’s Mark Levy’s team, and that’s other people in this room.
I owe a great debt of thanks to all of them, including the guy who became the guy who runs the Olympics for us. I said to him earlier, I don’t even know what your exact title is. When I first met him, his title was, get people coffee, and because Randy Falco had hurt his leg or something, literally carry Randy Falco around because he was big enough to carry Randy Falco around, and since he’s advanced accordingly, and so now he’s the big poobah of the Olympic Games, and he’ll be rid of me and whatever problems that entails, and he’ll inherit Mike Tirico, Jim Bell.
JIM BELL: Thank you, Bob.
BOB COSTAS: But I just realized something. Since you don’t need me to come back here a second time, Mike Tirico received, as was mentioned earlier, the first scholarship in my name at Syracuse, so I have known him for 30 years or more. He is the right guy to do this. I know, even if I don’t always hit it out of the park, I know what’s required of the Olympic host. I know you need to be a really good generalist. You don’t need to know every platform diver from Peru or every cross-country skier from Finland, but you need to be a really good generalist and you need to know the history of the Olympic Games and the history of the host city and the host nation. You need to be able to take up briefing quickly, and you need to be versatile, well-versed not just in sports but in world events, and ever since he set foot at ESPN, the wide variety of sports and subjects that he has covered has displayed that versatility and that sharpness of mind that’s required of the Olympic host. So NBC has made the right choice, and I couldn’t be happier about it, so congratulations to Mike, and here’s Jim Bell.
JIM BELL: As Bob referenced, he’s right, it happens my first Olympics was in Barcelona in 1992 as a wide-eyed PA, and it was Bob’s first Games as the primetime host, and we’ve done a lot since then, 12 Olympics. And while we will rightfully celebrate a lot of his amazing on-air work, it’s a lot of the off-air moments that I can’t help but be thinking about where we’ve come to appreciate Bob’s character and his camaraderie.
It takes thousands of people to put on an Olympics, and Bob has been unfailingly kind to everybody throughout his entire run. It’s really remarkable.
To try to put some of the work in context, it’s tempting to sort of cut straight to the chase and make the case that Bob is probably the greatest sportscaster ever. You think about the work in play-by-play. You think about the analysis, studio host, journalism, interviewing. It’s simply incredible.
In case you didn’t know it, he’s the only broadcaster who’s won Emmys in sports, news, and entertainment.
So many indelible memories over the years in sports with multiple Super Bowls, World Series, NBA Finals, for NBC News, being able to come on the next morning and put a Patriots’ Super Bowl win or Muhammad Ali passing into perspective. I don’t think any of us will ever forget that chilling interview with Jerry Sandusky that truly Bob Costas is the only person who could have possibly pulled that off, and for NBC Entertainment, hundreds of memorable late-night interviews on Later. And then, of course, the Olympics, where at every Games and in every telecast, Bob was there for all of us to take an idea, a script or a feature, and just make it that much smarter, that much more creative, that much more incisive, and as a result over the years, he’s made all of us that much better.
Roll the tape.
JIM BELL: Replacing Bob and life after Bob – Fred and I were so thrilled that Mike was willing to come on board. He combines his natural gifts as a communicator, a broadcaster, with a relentless and formidable work ethic that he is famous for. And knowing that going in, incredible body of work, then we saw it up close and personal, right out of the chute, golf at the Open, Rio at the Olympics, and the NFL season, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that the next host for the Olympics is Mike Tirico.
MIKE TIRICO: Thank you, Jim. I haven’t really ordered what I really want to say, but I will tell you this: Just watching the retrospective of Bob’s career in the chair, I got emotional and got a lump in my throat. That in large part speaks to the person who has been the face of NBC Sports for over a quarter century. It’s really awesome when the people you look up to and admire, you get to meet them, and they’re better than you could have imagined, and Bob is all of that, and he has been — as he mentioned, 30 years ago, when we first met, when I received the Bob Costas scholarship, which did not financially take care of the entire year I should point out (laughter), but just a side point —
BOB COSTAS: I was a little short on funds at that point.
MIKE TIRICO: You’ve done okay since. So have I. Bob wanted to make sure that he met the person who was going to receive the scholarship just to ensure that I wasn’t a complete knucklehead. Hopefully I’ve done him proud over the last 30 years and will in the future, and when these things happen in our business or in any business, you don’t often have the all-time best as a resource to ask, how do I handle this, what do I do, what’s the best way to deal with this situation.
And not only is Bob still part of our NBC family, but he is also as a friend been willing to answer any question and share all of that knowledge with me, so hopefully for the viewers that will make the transition as smooth as possible, and for me as an individual I can’t tell you how much that means, Bob.
The line always goes, ‘following in the footsteps of.’ You don’t fill those shoes. No one will. There is no next Bob Costas. He’s one of a kind, and thankfully he is part of the family and a friend who we can rely on, as I try to follow the path that he has carved out with such aplomb and such great class. So thank you for being a friend, and thanks for all of this. This is a day about Bob and his unbelievable run here. I’ll be around for the next year or so, so you can talk about me at some point.
Thank you, Steve, Mark, Sam, Jim, everyone in the room. Bob mentioned everyone in the room so I don’t have to name check everyone. But thank you all for the support, for trusting me with doing this.
I’m thinking of my mom, who was a single mom before a single mom was an okay thing to be, and sacrificed to make sure that the kid came to see the tree at Rockefeller Center every year with my grandparents, and I walked into 30 Rock today for the first time and walked in the building, and it’s so great to know that this is now home.
This job is awesome because America comes to you for 17, 18 straight nights and says, come on in our house. We’re not going to sit here like the entire society does on our phones, we’re going to look up and share this experience with our kids, and the last few Olympic Games I’ve sat on a couch with my family and enjoyed the Olympics, and now know that a lot of families will be doing that with us is humbling and exciting, and the last thing I’ll say before we turn it back to Greg is the seven months here have felt like seven years. I’ve been welcomed into this family so quickly, and because it’s full of incredible, enriching, quality, talented people, and to know that I have that experience and those type of people behind me, I can’t screw it up, and I’m blessed to have that support and really humbled by this opportunity.
So I look forward to it, look forward to taking questions, but most importantly in the headline of this day for me is, on behalf of all of us sports fans who have loved sports and watched sports and the Olympic Games for all of these years, thank you to Bob for making this an American tradition that is unmatched. So thank you, and I’ll bring up Greg to continue the program. Thanks.
For Bob, why now? Why did you feel that this was the time for you to make this change?
BOB COSTAS: You know, as Mark alluded to, as far back as 2012, just looking down the road, it seemed to me like that would be, or this would be a good line of demarcation.
I wanted to step aside when I was still able to do it, and if they were in a situation where they needed me to continue, I would have continued out of longtime loyalty to NBC. But luckily, they have a more than capable successor in place, and I would say a year or more ago, I communicated to Sam and to Jim and to Mark that this was pretty much my intention. And we had already discussed in 2012 what they’d been kind enough to call, and it’s an honor to be in the same sentence, they’ve been kind enough to call the Brokaw phase of my career, so I’ll be to sports roughly what Tom is to news, and when the circumstance calls for it, I’ll still show up, and that could mean on future Olympics, as well, as long as it’s something where my presence would make a difference. And it just felt like this was the right time to do that, not to retire but to transition, and it will also leave me an opportunity to do some other things.
Not everything is under one umbrella anymore, and I’d like to do long form programming, and maybe I’ll find a place to do that at some point, certainly not immediately but at some point, and then I can focus even more on baseball without taking anything away from my NBC responsibilities. I can give all of October over to baseball, be it playoffs or World Series, the MLB network or whatever. So those are among the reasons, and before I forget, we did scan around the room — Gary Zenkel back there, and that’s another — Gary Zenkel runs so much of the Olympics, puts so much of the Olympics together. There’s so much to be done prior to the Olympics and the relationship with the organizing committees, with the governments of the host nations, some of which can be very, very difficult. Without Gary Zenkel and his team, without those sorts of people behind the scenes, the hotel rooms would be all screwed up, the transportation would be all screwed up, the stuff we need to do what we do wouldn’t be in place. So a tip of the cap there, as well, and something else, and forgive me for taking the time, it’ll just take a few seconds here, this went by unremarked upon, but it’s important. Jim Bell is in effect the executive producer of the Olympics, but the moment-to-moment producer, what we call the line producer of the Olympics in Rio was Becky Chatman. It’s historic; a woman who had been at NBC for a long time, had been associated with the Olympics for a long time, she produced the Olympics, and there will be more that she’ll produce, and she earned it, and I think it’s noteworthy.
Mike, what do you see as the greatest challenge in taking on this new role as the Olympics primetime host?
MIKE TIRICO: I’d say the greatest challenge is how do I do the job as me and not try to do what Bob did, because Bob is different. Bob is unique. He is special, as I said before, and I mean it. He is one of a kind.
Over 25 years at ESPN, 30 years in the business overall, I’ve developed whatever style or approach to things, and you always try to take a little bit from the people who you admire and appreciate and filter through your personality, your mind, and try to get that out on the air and just be a comfortable listen for the viewers at home.
So I think the challenge will be, don’t sit there and try to do it the way Bob did it, do it the right way for this moment and for you, sitting in the chair, not Bob. So hopefully I’ll find that sweet spot. I don’t think it’ll be perfect night one. Hopefully by nights 17 and 18 I’ll have it figured out a little more, and then I’ll be 138 consecutive nights behind Bob. So I’ll try to keep going, be invited back for the next one.
Bob, you mentioned you want to spend more time on long form programming and baseball. Can you be a little more specific? Do you have anything in the works in terms of long form programming?
BOB COSTAS: Not in the works, it’s just something that when the right circumstance comes along, if it comes along, NBC has been so great with me. I would never do anything that would take away from something that NBC needed me front and center for. So NBC always has first call. But obviously there will be less inventory, so that opens it up to do a little bit more baseball, and if and when the perfect circumstance came along, I’m not going to go back and do a show like Later as much as I enjoyed it and it’s gratifying that people who are old enough still remember and say, I remember the interview with Robert Duval or Martin Scorsese or Mary Tyler Moore or Ray Charles. That’s gratifying, but that’s 200 shows a year. I’m talking about something a good deal less taxing than that, if and when it were to come along.
And baseball-wise, just being as honest as I can, I try to review, and I’m sure Mike does, most of what I do, and I’m still a good baseball announcer, but you’d be amazed at what you can find on YouTube, and I went back and found World Series and LCS games from the ’90s. I was better back then because I was in rhythm then, you know, and I was doing the games more regularly. I was doing a series of games, a whole LCS, a whole World Series with the same production crew, with the same partners, and given my affection for baseball, I’d like to get back to whatever is my highest level. I’d like to get back to whatever my lifetime batting average is, and this will give me a chance to do it.
And then if you have one piece of advice for Mike?
BOB COSTAS: I think he got it exactly right. Jim McKay was very kind to me when I started. We had been acquainted but not that well acquainted, and he called me the night before the opening ceremony in Barcelona and had some very supportive and kind things to say, and Mike and I are a little bit closer in age and we’ve known each other better longer, but whatever questions he might have, I’m there for him, but the thing is you can respect what someone else has done, but if you try to copy them, you’re only going to be a very pale imitation. Every baseball announcer who tried to sound like Vin Scully didn’t sound anywhere near as good as Vin Scully. Forget about it. There’s only one. So he’s got that part.
And the other thing that I’ve — just be the best Mike Tirico you can be, and that’s going to be damned good.
The other thing I think we’ve already discussed, and I think I’ve mentioned it up here, you don’t need to know every one of the 10,000 plus athletes at a summer games. You don’t. That’s what some of these geniuses are for, just because somebody hops onto the radar screen that you didn’t expect — an example I can think of is Rulon Gardner in 2000 in Sydney somehow wins the wrestling gold medal over the guy from Siberia, Aleksandr Karelin. Aleksandr Karelin was not only undefeated, he was so feared that guys would give up rather than be body-slammed by him, and it was astonishing how frightening this guy was. And somehow Rulon Gardner from Wyoming defeats Aleksandr Karelin.
And even though those Olympics were on tape, a lot of what you do is live to tape so it can all be seamless, so you’ve got a couple of minutes to figure out who the hell this guy is, and you’ve got to be able to take that briefing. That’s what these people, what Aaron Cohen and his predecessors, that’s what they’re there for, and bing, they got it to me, and I figured it out and made some kind of narrative out of it, and Mike knows how to do that. So he’ll be fine.
Mike, you mentioned to me the other day that you also worked with Jim McKay.
MIKE TIRICO: It’s neat because as Jim alluded to earlier, or Mark, there are only two faces on the Mount Rushmore of primetime Olympic hosts, with all due respect to the three Olympics in the ’90s and the one in 1960 that were on CBS, all different primetime hosts for those, it’s Jim McKay and Bob Costas, and obviously I detailed my friendship and relationship with Bob, so during my ABC days, those were the last year that Jim McKay was working at ABC, and in 1997, 1999 and 2000, Jim was the host of the British Open, the Open Championship, and I was the rookie in the tower in ’97 at the 18th hole. So I had the opportunity to work with Jim, and on the flight back from one of those Opens, lucky for me, the nerd TV sportscasting lover, I was seated next to Jim across the Atlantic to come back to the U.S., and I said, I hope he doesn’t take a nap, and he napped, and then he woke up and we spoke for about three hours about the Olympics. To hear Munich from Jim McKay’s mind and beyond the book that he had written and how he had discussed it along the years. So to have that connection with those two men and to know that I’ve worked with both of them, it gives me an understanding of how important the job is but also the type of people that they are and what is needed and necessary to do the job the right way.
I’m very fortunate that when we talk about those men, I know them and I’ve talked to them about — talked with them about the Olympic experience.
Bob, let me get this straight: So you told your wife you want to step back from the Olympics because you want to watch more baseball? How did that go over?
BOB COSTAS: I didn’t say that. I said I wanted to broadcast more baseball. I still watch a lot of baseball. We’ll work that part out.
And are there — of those 157 or 183 nights, are there certain nights you wish you could have back? You mentioned going through YouTube clips of yourself —
BOB COSTAS: Mostly those were baseball games.
Any Olympic nights where you look back and you say, I wish I had done that, I wish I had asked that president or head of state or head of this or that something else?
BOB COSTAS: Well, for sure I wish I hadn’t gotten viral conjunctivitis in Sochi. I’m trying to — sometimes things you say, especially in the social media age, minor things that aren’t even — they aren’t mistakes necessarily, they just rub someone the wrong way, you know, those things can get blown out of proportion or someone decides that it’s the world’s greatest offense, and I’ve always felt that the opening ceremony of the Olympics is one of the trickiest assignments – good luck – in all of television because it’s partially sort of United Nations Security Council meeting and part Cirque du Soleil. But it has moments generally that are moving and poignant and other moments that are serious, but it has to be leavened — especially in the summer games with some 200 nations, it has to be leavened by some sort of flippancy, at least I think so. But there’s always going to be somebody who says, well, why was he flippant over the country of my origin. You know? In 2004 I was doing the opening ceremony with Katie Couric in Athens, and they did a segment that was dedicated to Greek mythology, and there was a part about Oedipus, and I think I said something like, Katie, Oedipus, as you’ll recall, is the figure from Greek mythology who killed his father and married his mother, a sequence of events that seldom turns out well. (Laughter.) No matter what anybody said on then-emerging social media, I stand by that.
Bob, you’ve probably asked this question to Phelps and Bolt, maybe even Lochte. How will you define your own Olympics legacy?
BOB COSTAS: I hope I enhanced people’s enjoyment and understanding of the events, and I hope that I projected a sense of the drama, the theater, the excitement, but also, where appropriate and where the circumstances allowed, I was able to acknowledge the issues — and they aren’t always the same and they aren’t always to the same extent, but there are always some issues involved in each Olympics, and I hope I’ve been able to meld those things in in a reasonable proportion.
But the thing that, again, as trite as it may sound, when people ask me what I’ll miss the most, my colleagues. It’s an experience no matter how wonderful doing a World Series is or even doing a Super Bowl is, the Olympics is unlike anything else in sports as competition but also in sports as broadcasting. It’s like you’ve gone away to camp to spend a month or more together. You know, you’re all kind of sequestered someplace and you’re sharing this experience that no one else understands, and a lot of you are running on adrenaline and you feel as a primetime host that you’re representing the efforts of so many people, many of whom I grew up with, but others I was already there and established and I’ve seen them come along, and I know that they’ll shine long after I’m gone, and that’s the part, more so than being on camera and on the air, it’s being with those people who are lifelong friends and people that I respect so much. That’s the part that I’ll miss the most.