Another Olympic Legend Retires
Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and now add Bob Costas to the list of Olympic legends who retired after the Rio Games. I can’t say I’m completely surprised that Costas is passing the torch to Mike Tiricio. You knew that was the plan as soon as NBC hired Tirico. I must admit I’m a little surprised by the timing of the announcement, though. I wonder if Costas knew when he signed off in Rio that it would be for the last time as NBC’s Face of the Olympics.
NBC made it abundantly clear that Bob Costas was their Olympic host until he decided he didn’t want to do it anymore, so this decision was mutual, if not entirely his own. He had earned that right. For most people in this country (and some in the Caribbean who watch NBC’s coverage on satellite), Bob Costas IS the Olympics. Baseball will always be his favorite sport. He’s said as much. But Bob Costas will, first and foremost, always be associated with the Olympics before anything else.
While he’s not for everybody, Bob Costas is my favorite sportscaster. That’s mainly because of the Olympics. In fact, that’s probably the case for a lot of people. They love the Olympics because of Bob Costas or like Bob Costas because of the Olympics.
Costas now enters what he’s calling the “Brokaw Phase” of his career. Tom Brokaw retired as the anchor of NBC Nightly News almost a decade ago, but he’s still all over the network’s coverage of major events. It’ll be the same thing for Bob Costas now. He’ll still work for NBC and will still be a part of their major sports coverage. And I’m sure he’ll keep his job at MLB Network doing some play-by-play and studio stuff for them. But now he has a little more freedom. He won’t be the face of everything.
It also means he’ll have to do far less travel. The next three Olympics are all in the Far East. That had to come into his decision, too. That’s a lot of travel for anybody, and I’m sure all the traveling he’s done throughout his career has taken a toll. And while I’m sure we’ll still see Bob in Korea (and certainly in Tokyo), he won’t have to dedicate the hours of Olympic prep or go all over the world shooting features beforehand. Now he can be much more selective with his travel schedule.
When he had to miss a week of the Sochi Games because of an eye infection, it became clear to everyone that NBC needed some sort of succession plan. Matt Lauer did an excellent job filling in (and Meredith Vieira was fine on the days she covered), but that was a strong reality check for NBC. Bob Costas had been such a gamer that they never thought about a replacement. But that made them realize how badly they needed one. Bob Costas wasn’t going to anchor the Olympics forever.
I cannot think of a better person to take over for him than Mike Tirico, either. Tirico has proven time and again that he’s the best broadcaster in the business. And one of the most versatile. We already knew that from his days at ESPN, when he went from Monday Night Football to golf to the US Open to anchoring the Euro 2016 studio show. At NBC, he’s moved seamlessly from hosting Football Night In America to filling in on play-by-play (he’s the eventual replacement for Al Michaels, too) to doing whatever else the network has asked him to do while not really having a definitive “role” for him.
In fact, I’d argue that of all the NBC Olympic hosts in Rio (including Bob Costas), Mike Tirico was the best. It was his first time covering an Olympics, but you never would’ve known it. He wasn’t just reading the teleprompter and throwing it from one event to another, either. He legitimately knew what he was talking about and threw in some additional little tidbits about events that NBC might’ve just been peeking in on while waiting for something else to start. The portion of the daytime block anchored by Mike Tirico was the highlight of NBC’s Olympic coverage in Rio.
After the hot mess that was NBC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony, it was so refreshing to have Tirico host the Closing Ceremony. And NBC’s coverage of the Closing Ceremony was how much better as a result? (The obvious lesson here is: Mike Tirico > Hoda Kotb.)
One of the traditional elements of an Olympic Closing Ceremony is the cauldron being extinguished before a performance by the hosts of the next Games. NBC then sends it back to the studio for a final sign-off. It turns out that when Bob Costas signed off in Rio, it was for the last time.
For the first time since 1998 (when CBS had coverage) and the first time on NBC since 1988, it won’t be Bob Costas that welcomes us to an Olympics next year. When they sign on for the first time in PyeongChang, Mike Tirico’s face will be the first one we see. There’s no sportscaster more qualified or better equipped to take on the role. (It’s like when Matt Lauer took over for Bryant Gumbel on the Today Show.) With Mike Tirico at the helm, NBC Olympics is in good hands.