By Jason Keidel
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Bob Costas is often evangelical at odd times. His recent ill-timed (if not illogical) remarks about gun control felt like something reserved for the Huffington Post — not the goal post — where he was broadcasting a football game. Now his increasingly throaty, theatrical bent led him to say that the Mets’ celebration after Sunday’s victory was a sign of the “end of Western Civilization.”
But this time Costas got only half a wingtip in his mouth. His remarks were a direct commentary on a sporting event and the celebration thereof. The embellishment was certainly unwarranted, but there’s some merit to the notion that a team 14 games under .500 with a new park, no fans and a recent relationship with Bernie Madoff is probably doing things wrong.
And Mets fans should recall better than anyone that excessive, spastic rejoicing got them thigh-deep in muck before. Indeed, just a few years ago the bottom-feeding Florida Marlins came to Shea Stadium at the end of the season and whipped the Mets when New York’s playoff life depended on the final game. After the deed was done, one Marlin said that they would have crawled across broken glass to beat the Mets because, yes, they celebrate the mundane.
In some regards, we are so duplicitous. We bemoan exorbitant gyration and specious genuflection, celebrating a home run in a game you lose by 10 runs or thanking God while siring nine kids from eight women. Unless our team does it and we’re rump-shaking with them. The problem, in this case, could be the source, not the source matter.
There’s a difference between saying something dumb and something mean. Dan Quayle reminding a child that “potato” is spelled with an “e” at the end, or Joe Biden telling a paraplegic to stand up and acknowledge the crowd, are the former. Rex Reed’s remarks about Melissa McCarthy, or Kanye West lunging in front of Taylor Swift while she accepted an award to say that she didn’t deserve it, are the latter.
Costas falls in the Biden/Quayle camp. And perhaps the reason that it stings Mets fans so much is because there is at least a modicum of truth to it. Teams in the bowels of baseball’s standings should probably celebrate wins in more muted tones until they do more of it. The Western Civilization hyperbole is attempt at humor, which should be left to Lorne Michaels and his NBC colleagues at Saturday Night Live.
This isn’t a new cultural paradigm. The idea that many folks find that celebrity magically imbues them with political and philosophical superiority is as old as fame itself. Sadly, too many anchors, actors and athletes morph into pseudo-Socratic blowhards because their paychecks suddenly swell a few digits. And there isn’t much we can do about it.
And if you consider that Costas — whose mental and semantic alacrity once made him the exemplar of sports broadcasting — is deep into the back-nine of his career, perhaps his fits of shock-jock rhetoric are somewhat expected.
There was a time when Curt Gowdy, Howard Cosell and Pat Summerall were faces and voices of American sports, synonymous with monolithic events that had America spellbound around a radio or television for three hours. And Costas was once among them, or at least near them.
Perhaps Costas is just trying to remain relevant or witty –or both — even if his comments were not especially so.
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