Costas, Robert Quinlan ("Bob")

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COSTAS, Robert Quinlan ("Bob")

(b. 22 March 1952 in Queens, New York), highly respected television and radio sports journalist and analyst.

First known as a play-by-play announcer for football, basketball, and baseball, Costas became NBC-TV's leading sports personality, hosting the network's seasonal coverage of the National Football League (NFL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB). He also anchors the network's presentation of prestige events, including the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the Olympic Games. His broadcast activities outside the sports arena have included his own daily interview series, appearances on entertainment shows, and regular contributions to NBC News programs.

A native New Yorker who grew up in suburban Long Island, Costas, the son of John George Costas, an electrical engineer, and Jayne Quinlan Costas, often went to baseball games at Yankee Stadium with his father. But listening to sports on the radio seemed to make a more lasting impression on him than a trip to the ballpark. "To me, a game wasn't a game unless an announcer was describing it," he told a reporter for Inside Sports. He recalls that even while playing ball as a child he would narrate games aloud, imitating such childhood idols as New York sportscasters Red Barber, Mel Allen, and Marty Glickman. "There was a mystique to radio broadcasting," he explained to a reporter. "I wanted to be one of those voices."

Following his graduation from Commack South High School in 1970, Costas enrolled at Syracuse University, where he studied communications and worked at WAER, the student-run radio station, in hopes of making his childhood dream real. His career progress gradually outstripped his progress toward a degree. By his junior year he had won a job in commercial broadcasting as play-by-play announcer at WSYR for the Syracuse Blazers of the American Hockey League. During the middle of his senior year Costas left college altogether to join the broadcast crew at KMOX, the CBS affiliate in St. Louis, the city he still calls home.

The busy sports lineup at KMOX put Costas at the microphone for University of Missouri Big Eight college basketball as well as for the pro games of the Spirit of St. Louis of the old American Basketball Association. Though still shy of his twenty-fifth birthday, his free-flowing mastery of the game and its vocabulary won the notice of CBS Sports bigwigs, who began to use him in spot assignments for network television coverage of NBA and NFL games.

In 1980 Costas signed on as a network regular with NBC Sports. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful association that would lead him to media stardom. He became familiar to midwestern NFL fans as a member of the pool of regional announcing teams covering American Football Conference (AFC) games for NBC-TV. Costas advanced to the national spotlight in 1984 as anchor of the network's coast-to-coast wraparound program (known after various name changes as NFL Live). The show included predictions, interviews, highlights, and analysis each Sunday in pregame, halftime, and postgame segments.

A lover of baseball above all else in sports, Costas got his dream assignment in 1983 when he was named primary play-by-play announcer for NBC's Game of the Week. Teamed in the booth with former Yankee shortstop Tony Kubek, Costas redefined the art of the baseball broadcast during a six-season run. An acute student of the game with a photographic memory for faces and statistics, he cultivated an ability to deliver trenchant analytic commentary in a conversational, personable tone. His ability and willingness to break the smiley-face proscenium of broadcast sports for the well-deserved glib or even sarcastic remark made him a favorite of millions of viewers. A picture of Costas that appeared in the New York Times was appropriately captioned "Reverent and irreverent at the same time."

Working the World Series, the Super Bowl, the NBA playoffs, and whatever other major events the network won during the bidding wars of the 1980s, Costas became, in effect, the voice and face of NBC Sports. That status was affirmed when he was chosen to anchor NBC's coverage of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Working more than twelve hours a day during the seventeen-day event, he oversaw what many critics agree was the most comprehensive broadcast coverage ever of the Olympics. He won an Emmy Award and apparently a lock on the Olympic anchor position at NBC, hosting the Summer Games in 1996 (Atlanta) and 2000 (Sydney) and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In an unusual move for a television network that had invested so much in promoting the image of Costas as the persona of its sports division, NBC granted him a general-interest Monday-through-Friday late-night talk show in 1988, Later with Bob Costas. Over the next six years Costas proved himself an able and eclectic raconteur, engaging the likes of such figures as Barry Goldwater, Little Richard, Oliver Stone, Paul McCartney, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. The success of the show prompted speculation that he might pursue any number of lucrative opportunities, including the all-consuming anchor spot on NBC's Today Show. But while he has expanded his role at the network to become a contributor of sports stories to NBC News programs, Costas would not hear of leaving the sports beat. "Ten years from now," he told Sport magazine, "I don't know what I'll be doing, except one of the things will be baseball." Costas has similarly remained loyal to his first media romance, radio, continuing to broadcast his weekly syndicated program, Costas Coast to Coast, as a labor of love.

Bob Costas married Carol Randall "Randi" Krummenacher in 1983. The couple has two children, a son and a daughter, and they make their home in St. Louis, though Costas maintains an apartment in New York, the headquarters for most of his national television work. Asked about the unusual long-distance commuting arrangement, he replied, "I love St. Louis. It's a good place to raise a family." Costas has won a dozen Emmy Awards and been voted Broadcaster of the Year seven times by his professional colleagues. Recent projects include On the Record with Bob Costas, a wide-ranging sports interview program for HBO.

Costas received a great deal of media attention when he was first chosen to anchor NBC-TV's Olympic coverage, including the following useful print items: David Ellis, "America's Host," in Time (3 Aug. 1992); an interview with the sportswriter Bill Carter in the New York Times (22 July 1992); and a major article in Current Biography Yearbook 1993. William Taafe profiled Costas at an earlier stage of his career in "A Fun Guy, No Kidding," Sports Illustrated (12 May 1986). Costas wrote Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball (2000), which addresses the present and future of the major leagues in the age of television.

David Marc