To continue the serendipitous theme, Costas first came to the attention of the hip late-night audience by doing David Letter-man's now-fabled elevator races only because Marv Albert passed on them. That, of course, led to the legendary New Year's Eve broadcast from Lenox Hill Hospital. When Bob and Randy had a baby of their own in May 1986, they named him Keith Michael Kirby Costas, the second middle name chosen to fulfill a promise he had made to name his child after Puckett if he was hitting .350 at the end of May.
Last but not the least of the happy accidents was Later with Bob Costas. He practically had to be dragged by Dick Ebersol, now the president of NBC Sports, into doing a show that has expanded his and insomniacs' horizons. What other show gives you Elie Wiesel one night and Smokey Robinson the next, not to mention McCartney?
Despite his forays into the real world, Costas remains, above all, a sports fan, the kind of guy who remembers Musial's batting average and carries around a Mickey Mantle baseball card. He still gets genuinely excited about covering big events, as Randy found out on the morning of Super Bowl XX.
(The following paragraph was not written by somebody in publicity at NBC Sports.)
There may be nobody better at walking the fine line between whimsy and journalism than Costas. Under Mike Weisman, who was the executive producer of NBC Sports from 1983 to 1989, Costas was encouraged to show his lighter side but not at the expense of the more serious stuff. Over the years he has become equally adept from both sides of the plate: the Bryant Gumbel side and the David Letterman side, so to speak. While there are plenty of wiseacres on television nowadays, Costas is one of the few broadcasters—Albert at NBC and Al Michaels at ABC also come to mind—who can bring insight and drama, as well as fun, to the games.
That's one man's opinion, of course. Here's another, that of the dean of Olympic hosts, ABC's McKay:
" NBC's Olympic coverage is in very good hands. Anchoring the Olympics sometimes requires you to change course quickly, and Bob does that very well. You have to know so many different sports, and he knows them. You have to have a nice sense of story, which he has. You have to be a good interviewer, and having been the subject of a two-parter on Later, I can tell you he's an excellent interviewer. Audiences are so much more sophisticated than when I started doing the Olympics, and Bob will bring that sophistication to the viewer. I'm sorry I won't be in Barcelona to do the Olympics, but if I have to watch anybody, I'm glad it's Bob Costas."
Because Costas makes it look so easy, he is often accused of being glib or, worse, of being "a TV guy." Costas hates that. He prides himself on his ability to connect with people. That's why he continues to do his radio show, even though he doesn't need the money and can hardly spare the time. His one remaining ambition, in fact, is to be a radio play-by-play baseball announcer, to be Vin Scully telling his listeners, "Pull up a chair...."
The Olympics, though, is a gig Costas never dreamed of on the Blazer bus. In Barcelona he will be connecting with a much wider and much more varied audience than he has ever had before, and that, more than anything else about the assignment, appeals to him.
Costas tells this story, a story with no real point, except that we live in a small and interesting world: