While the majority of professional American sports commentators, such as Mike Ditka and Terry Bradshaw, inherit that job after retiring from the "field," broadcaster extraordinaire Bob Costas marks something of an exception. Though overwhelmingly well-versed in a myriad of sports -- including baseball, basketball, football, and the Olympics -- Costas (at 5' 7," with a slender frame) -- never played any of those games professionally. Yet, ironically, many regard Costas as far better versed than the game-to-sideline "crossovers." When he arrived on the scene in the early '80s, Costas essentially reinvented sports broadcasting by imparting levels of articulation, intelligence, polish, insight, and wit that were, according to one publication, unseen since the retirement of Howard Cosell. But unlike Cosell, Costas projected a congenial aura and probed effectively, without grating.
Born March 22, 1952, in Queens, NY, Costas attended Long Island's Commack South High and, as an undergraduate, Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Communications. In the late '70s, he announced games for the Spirits of St. Louis, held a position at KMOX radio in St. Louis, and worked -- very briefly -- for CBS, before NBC signed him as a broadcaster in 1980, under the aegis of Don Ohlmeyer. From that position, Costas' assignments included emceeing NFL, NBA, and MLB games, alongside such legends as Tony Kubek, Bob Uecker, Isiah Thomas, and Bob Trumpy. Sports Illustrated summed up the audience appeal of Costas in 1986 by asserting, "[Costas is] able to pull together an audience. He appeals to the Tommy Dorsey crowd because he can talk about the DiMaggios, worships the old ballparks, and knows when to be reverent.... But he also pulls in the baby-boomers because he's one of them, and he knows when to be irreverent."
In late August 1988, Costas expanded his network responsibilities with NBC to include hosting a late-night, Monday-Thursday talk show, Later With Bob Costas. Each 30-minute telecast featured Costas chatting, amiably and casually, with a single guest, usually an actor, actress, sports hero, politician, or newscaster. Memorable bits included conversations with Chevy Chase, Valerie Harper, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mario Cuomo, Steve Allen, Wilt Chamberlain, Dan Rather, Richard Lewis, Wayne Gretzky, and innumerable others. The program debuted on August 22, 1988, and wrapped five and a half years later, on February 25, 1994. Beginning in 2005, Costas signed with HBO to host the sports news magazine program Costas Now.
Alongside Costas' obvious contributions to filmed sporting events, his work in feature films and documentaries (like that of Cosell and Uecker) is somewhat limited, predominantly to cameos in such pictures as The Scout and The Paper (both 1994). Costas lent a voice-only cameo, as Jake, to a 1996 episode of Frasier, cameoed as himself in a 1999 episode of The Drew Carey Show, and -- as a close friend of the late, mythic Mickey Mantle -- participated in an extended interview for the eponymous documentary about that superstar, Mantle (2005). Costas also parodied himself by voicing an automobile, Bob Cutlass, in the Disney-Pixar animated feature Cars (2006).