Why NBC Dumped Bob Costas


It has to do with his outspoken criticism of the NFL in relation to the league’s concussion crisis.  Here is a taste of some great long-form sports journalism from Mark Fainaru-Wada at ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”:

By this point, Costas’ line at Maryland — This game destroys people’s brains — had gone viral, raising hackles in the NBC offices. The New York Daily News asked NBC for comment, and a spokesman responded, “Bob’s opinions are his own, and they do not represent those of the NBC Sports Group” — prompting a story from Raissman under the headline, “NBC throws Bob Costas under the bus and in the process sends warning to rest of its talent.”

Sensing a budding problem with his employer, Costas says he decided to appear on CNN on Saturday morning to make it clear he wasn’t being critical of NBC. So, for the third time in a week, Costas was talking publicly about football and brain damage. He didn’t soften any of his comments — in fact, he reiterated them — but he did attempt to defend the network.

“I’ve been saying these things for the better part of a decade, and often on NBC, in front of the biggest audience not just in all of sports, but in all of television — ‘Sunday Night Football,'” Costas told host Michael Smerconish. “And I think NBC Sports deserves credit for this.”

Within an hour, Costas says he received a text from Flood, who oversees sports production for NBC.

“I think the words were, ‘You’ve crossed the line,'” says Costas, who says he no longer has the text.

“My thought was, ‘What line have I crossed?'”

Later, Costas says he pointed out that he had been saying these things about football for years — often on NBC. That didn’t matter; it seemed this was one time too many.

Costas was told he was off the Super Bowl LII broadcast.

“I recall the phrase, ‘It’s a six-hour, daylong celebration of football, and you’re not the right person to celebrate football,'” Costas says. “To which my response was not, ‘Oh please, please, change your mind.’ My response was, ‘Yeah, I guess you’re right.'”

Read the entire piece here.

NBC’s Decision to Hire David Remnick for the Sochi Olympics Was a Great Move

I don’t how many of you watched the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics last night, but I sat through the entire thing.  Opening ceremonies have become a Fea family ritual. In fact, I even wrote briefly about the opening ceremonies of the London games in Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.

I can’t remember being more engaged with an opening ceremony than I was last night.  As a historian, I was eager to see how the Russians would interpret their past.  I was also fascinated by the way the folks on my Twitter and Facebook feeds responded to the Russian past as portrayed in the ceremony, especially those old enough to have lived through the Cold War.

David Remnick‘s contribution to the NBC coverage of the ceremonies was excellent.  The editor of The New Yorker and a former Washington Post correspondent in the Soviet Union brought some historical and intellectual depth to the broadcast. At one point Remnick mentioned how Putin and his people were searching for a “useable past” (you don’t hear that phrase used very often on network television. Remnick even explained what it meant!).  His historical musings about the way Russia has always been isolated from the West were on the mark. He even convinced me that I need to add a trip to St. Petersburg to my bucket list.  Remnick’s comment on how some Russians still looked back nostalgically on their Soviet past was great.  Finally, I thought I would impress all of my Twitter followers by noting that torch-lighter and Soviet Red Army goalie Vladislav Tretiak was yanked during the famed 1980 U.S. hockey victory over the USSR, but before I could type out the tweet Remnick had already mentioned it on the air.

Much of what Remnick had to say was old news to historically-minded Americans and scholars of Russian history, but most Americans watching last night were not historically-minded or scholars. Very nice work.