Bob Costas is a legendary sportscaster and television personality, calling some of the biggest moments in sports history. Today, Costas calls games for the MLB and has his own HBO show, titled Back on the Record with Bob Costas. And soon, he’ll be honored with an award from the Marist Center for Sports Communication.
Costas’ connection with the world of sports began at a young age. Like many other young kids, Costas loved to watch sports whenever he could. But he found the announcers calling the game to be just as important as the players on the field.
“As most kids, I was a big sports fan. But I felt that the broadcasters were inseparable from the game itself,” Costas said. “I grew up in New York in the 1960s, and a lot of the great sports broadcasters were in New York at the time. Their voices and the way they described the game were inseparable from the experience for me.”
Eventually, as a junior in high school, Costas discovered that legendary sportscasters Marty Glickman and Marv Albert both attended Syracuse University. That, as well as some help from his guidance counselor, was all it took for Costas to decide on Syracuse as his college destination.
At Syracuse, Costas worked on the campus radio station almost immediately. In his senior year, Costas got a position with a local minor league hockey team, working in both radio and television. Things weren’t easy when he began his professional career, as personal fears often affected him. Because he was even younger than he looked in his early twenties, he often worried that he would be seen as childish and wouldn’t be taken seriously.
“I think that at the beginning, if I had a self-critique, it was that I was a little bit too strait-laced. I wasn’t as spontaneous as I became later because I was concerned people weren’t going to take me seriously,” said Costas. “I tried to seem authoritative and mature.”
After holding multiple prominent positions after college, Costas eventually ended up at NBC by the age of 27. Costas learned to find his voice and identity during his time at NBC and after a few appearances on the David Letterman show, he merged his humorous side with the craftsmanship that he had honed in the early years of his career.
Costas’ unique style and voice helped him call some of the best moments in the history of sports. One of the most notable moments was his calling of Muhammed Ali’s torch lighting in the 1996 Olympics.
“When it came to the Ali moment, I couldn’t prepare for it because I didn’t know who it would be. Almost no one knew it was going to be Muhammed Ali until he stepped out of the shadows with the torch,” said Costas. “So, whatever we said in that moment is what occurred to us in that time. And it seems like it still holds up well about 25 years later.”
Now, on April 29th of this year, Bob Costas will be honored by Marist’s Center for Sports Communications for his achievements as a journalist. For Costas, this award is one that is different, and more special, than any other that he has received.
“The Marist award is important, specifically because of the journalism aspect of it,” said Costas. “It’s not exclusively what I do but I like to think it’s always been a part of what I do. To think that people who pay attention to that sort of thing, have taken notice that, even though I’ve been a conventional mainstream broadcaster, I’ve also tried to bring an element of journalism to it. That’s a small point of pride for me.”
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Ricardo Martinez
Photo from Jane McManus