Saturday, August 26, 2006

They Should Have Paid Him in Bratwurst

I have seen one of the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by indolence. Well, I guess "destroyed" is a harsh word, but I can't help but think of Bob Costas as a tragic figure. This may seem like a stunning pronouncement, since Bob Costas has had nothing but success in his chosen venue of sports broadcasting. Yet it occurred to me recently that if there is any one figure in America today who has wasted his potential, it is Bob Costas.

Costas has achieved enough status that he can get by with doing very little work. He's got an HBO show, but other than that the only place you could have counted on to see him consistently over the last several years has been on NBC Olympic coverage. What should he have been doing?

For one, he should be hosting network primetime interview shows. Talking to newsmakers would give him the ability to share his often brilliant cultural observations. All too often, even the highest regarded interviewers, the Barbara Walters's and the Diane Sawyers, offer nothing but vapid parroting of vapid responses to vapid questions by vapid people. Costas has the ability to take the mundane discussion and offer something compellingly intellectual. Consider this "question" about Bob Dylan to concert promoter Bill Graham from a 1991 Interview:

"I get the feeling that given the body of the work, and the transcendent brilliance of his best stuff...dozens and dozens of songs, and then given that mysterious personality, that sometimes he can go out there and deliver a performance that if we really analyze it would be subpar for him, but people can't tell the difference anymore because they figure 'Hey its Dylan. I'm supposed to like it'. And his every quirkish mannerism I'm supposed to perceive as some sort of off-center brilliance. And maybe it is! Its just too puzzling for everybody out there, so they figure just to be in his presence it must be a five-star thing."

To which Bill Graham sat in silence for several seconds before following up with a non-sequitor about a Dylan performance in Italy he saw several years ago. There are a couple aspects to the above interview that are just amazing to me. For one, it is the only time I've ever seen an interview about rock music in a mainstream setting that had any degree of substantiative analysis. For exhibit "A", check out the ploddingly mundane questions Ed Bradley asked on 60 minutes when given the rare opportunity to interview Dylan himself. One wonders what Costas, the sports guy, would have been able to accomplish given the opportunity.

The other remarkable thing is the degree of articulation. I'm not sure how much Costas rehearsed his lines, but to inject terms like "transcendent brilliance" and "quirkish mannerism" into spoken venacular is pretty impressive. It makes one wonder how much Costas could contribute to society if he would pursue the written word in addition to the spoken word. Too bad he's only been motivated to write one book about a very narrow topic, an (excellent) analysis of major league baseball's labor situation.

I'm sure Bob Costas is really enjoying his life. He doesn't have to work that much, and when he does, he gets to talk about sports. Unfortunately, while he sits back in luxury, the medium of television continues to be the vast wasteland it was accused of being in its infancy, and one guy who has the ability to raise the level of the discourse shirks his responsibility. An ironic foil for Costas is Dylan himself. If Dylan wanted to, he could sit home and watch his royalty checks keep coming in. Instead, he has toured non-stop for almost twenty years, he just recorded an album, he hosts a weekly radio show, he recently wrote a book, and he produced a movie a few years ago.

On a bright note, it was announced this week that Costas would be starting a new syndicated radio show, his first foray into radio in ten years. Just like Dylan started a creative renaissance shortly after the interview with Bill Graham, perhaps it is not too late for Bob Costas to experience a creative rebirth.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

very interesting.




12:59 PM  
Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

Direct Heidi quote to brighten your day:
"The camp camp is very camplike."

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whatever i say can brighten your day.


12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

azor. what's with the lack of entries. i don't like posting on one all the time. gets boring.


12:09 PM  
Blogger Azor said...

I'm pretty busy these days. I'm scaling back to about one a week.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you could consider writing about something interesting, it wouldn't waste space and time.

-H to the H

12:59 PM  
Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

that's kind of mean.

7:01 PM  

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