Bob Costas talked about his love for sports with Dallas Cowboys and NFL Foundation executive Charlotte Jones Anderson in front of 2,000 people Monday night at College Park Center as the part of the Maverick Speakers Series.
He also highlighted some of the memorable moments from his 40-plus years as a broadcaster.
“It’s drama without a script,” he said. “It unifies people, and it’s something that can be shared across generations.”
He got his love for sports from his father, even if he mainly had to listen because his dad was a “compulsive gambler.” And although he believes there’s a place in sports to talk about real-world issues, common sense dictates that it’s not done to overshadow the game.
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“People say politics and sports should never mix,” he said. “Those people have never heard of Jesse Owens in 1936 or Jackie Robinson.
“You don’t do it with 10 seconds to go with the game on the line, but somewhere during those hundreds of hours of coverage, we should talk about these issues in a thoughtful, reasonable way.”
The conversation approached some controversial topics he’s been a part of — including his interview with Jerry Sandusky in 2011 and the 2014 Sochi Olympics. But it never delved into his gun culture comments or domestic violence.
But what did get Costas, whose 26 Emmy Awards are the most by any sports broadcaster in history, the most fired up was a discussion about the current media landscape dominated by alluring headlines and shock tactics.
He didn’t mince words when expressing his distaste of clickbait culture.
“Some tweets are useful, and some bloggers are truly the next great American novelist that just can’t get a publishing contract at the moment,” he said. “But finding those people is like finding a needle in a haystack.”
He encouraged a group of young journalists to move beyond the current state of the industry and toward responsibility.
“There isn’t a public figure who wouldn’t tell you that he or she has had dozens — if not hundreds — of things written about them that are just flatly false,” he said. “I’m not talking about an opinion. I’m talking about false.”
“Do you want to get the most clicks or do you want to be someone who wants to inform and enlighten people? There’s less gratification in that, but you’ll earn long-term respect.”
He told stories of covering the Olympic Games and his relationship with O.J. Simpson, who called Costas’ home phone in 1994 while he was in the back of the infamous white Bronco. He was genuinely surprised to see Muhammad Ali emerge from the shadows to light the Olympic flame in 1996.
But nothing meant more to Costas than Game 3 of the 1995 World Series. Although it’s not a game universally revered through baseball lore, Costas said he’ll never forget a tap on his shoulder in the third inning.
“I turn around and my 9-year-old son is watching me broadcast the World Series,” he said. “When I was 9 years old, I was trying to pick up the radio broadcast for my dad.”
His conversation capped the 2014-15 Maverick Speakers Series, which has run the past seven years.