Longtime NBC sportscaster Bob Costas appeared on Wednesday's edition of the network's hour-long Late Night program, which is hosted by Seth Myers. The former member of the Saturday Night Live cast threw softball questions at his guest regarding “minor controversies” he caused by inserting liberal political commentary into his sports coverage.
After a discussion that included the TV broadcaster's views on the “gun culture” within the National Football League, his fawning description of Vladmir Putin at the beginning of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and his strong dislike of the name of the Washington Redskins NFL team, Costas was praised by Myers for “making sports a lot more interesting.” Costas suggested mostly "angry" people on "extreme" venues were upset, not so much the average American on the street.
Myers began the segment by stating that his guest has been “sort of criticized” for “talking about politics when you should be talking sports.”
Costas responded: “I think we live in a culture where people who are angry are more apt to weigh in, or people who have an extreme view are more apt to weigh in, and they have more ways than ever to do it, and people who approve of it or like it say 'Hey, that was good' when they see you on the street.”
The only thing I would emphasize, and it seems to me that this is obvious: I'm not talking about Syria or the national debt. I'm talking about whatever may occasionally come up that is directly connected to sports.
How the name of the Washington Redskins isn't a football issue, I have no idea. You know, who should be talking about that? Lou Dobbs?
The sportscaster then declared “that there is, in fact, a gun culture” in sports and told his critics: “No matter how you feel about the Second Amendment or gun control, leave that aside.”
“Since I made that commentary in December of 2012, just since then, forget about the dozens if not hundreds of sorry incidents prior to, just since then, you've got Aaron Hernandez [a former tight end for the New England Patriots football team] sitting in jail on a homicide charge,” and “[linebacker] Aldon Smith of the 49ers arrested for illegal possession of an assault weapon.”
He then slammed Raymond Felton, a point guard with the New York Knicks basketball team, for becoming involved in a domestic dispute. “He happens to have not just a handgun, but one that shoots armor-piercing bullets, which every private citizen needs, as we know,” Costas added sarcastically.
The sportscaster then criticized “anybody who, anytime they hear the word ‘guns,’ automatically goes off like: ‘Oh, they’re going to repeal the Second Amendment!'” In an effort to prove his point, he told Myers:
Let's make a bet, you and me. Let's say over the next five years, we'll do a Google search, we'll have an independent party monitor it.
You keep track of how many good and constructive things are associated with athletes having a gun, and I'll keep track of all the tragedies and criminality and folly, and let's see who comes out ahead or behind, as the case may be.
Costas then defended his swooning report about the Russian president by stating: “If the Olympics were in Paris, you wouldn't talk about Vladimir Putin, and it's unlikely you'd talk about controversies surrounding the French because they're not that overwhelming internationally.”
“I don't know how you could do an Olympics in Sochi and not talk about the specter of Vladmir Putin,” he added.
Myers agreed and pointed to Russia's invasion of Crimea: “Certainly, the timing of that has turned out to be incredible as far as where he went politically as soon as the Olympics were over. It was supposed to be this sort of a facelift for the Russian identity worldwide, so I'm glad you talked about it.”
“So am I,” Costas replied.
“I'm glad we both are,” Myers responded, which led to laughter and applause from the audience. “And I hope you keep doing it. It makes it very interesting. It makes the sports a lot more interesting.”
“I feel good about it,” Costas replied.
Sadly for the sportscaster, the “gun culture” he criticized in the NFL is still in place (if it ever truly existed), his praise of Putin has been lost in the ether since Russia invaded nearby Crimea, and Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has shown no desire to change his team's name.
And of course, his "bet" with Myers will not include the athletes who use a gun to protect himself or herself and others from criminals and murderers. Ater all, the important thing is that Costas "feels good" about his stance on such issues, so much so that he is occasionally compelled to lecture people trying to watch professional sports regarding his favorite sports-related political topics.