The Issue Is: Return of Bob Costas

This week on The Issue Is, politics takes a backseat, and sports reigns supreme, as Elex Michaelson is joined in-studio by legendary broadcaster Bob Costas.

This, on a history-making week in sports: Tom Brady announced his plans for the start of his post-QB broadcasting career on FOX, Lebron James made history as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, and on Sunday, the Chiefs and Eagles are set to face off in Super Bowl LVII.

Costas breaks it all down, as well as changes to the upcoming MLB season, the growing impact of sports betting, and, of course, stories from his own career, spanning some 50 years.


COSTAS’ CENTRAL TAKE: "I think it's a heck of a matchup. The Eagles have a better team overall, but as good as Jalen Hurts is, Mahomes has the advantage there. So it would seem to me, lots of things can happen in a single game, but it would seem to me that if the Chiefs win this game, then Mahomes has to have a terrific game for that to happen…"


COSTAS’ CENTRAL TAKE: "Football televises very well - if you can put the essential brutality of the game aside, and I think many people who cover it, many people who watch it, make some kind of deal in their own mind with it. They know the nature of it. They know what's happening, not just the specific things that happen on the field, but the attrition, and the people who at age 50 won't remember where they left their keys or how to drive home or what their kids names are, and that's not an exaggeration. Even the NFL now, itself, acknowledges that between 25 and 30% of those who play football for any period of time will have some sort of neurological or mental acuity difficulties down the road. As a group, football players are healthier than other people of comparable age because of their general level of fitness, because of their relative wealth and access to good health care, but when it comes to brain trauma and neurological damage, not the case…."


COSTAS’ CENTRAL TAKE: "I'm very surprised that this Sunday Fox is not using him on the Super Bowl. They can say to him, 'hey, Tom, you want to take a gap year, you want to start in 24? That's fine. But we have the Super Bowl and you played in ten of them and you're fresh off the field.’…

"If he's intent. And I think that Tom's nature is, if he's going to do something, he's not going to do it without full commitment, I would say that he has to do some version of what he and Peyton Manning and the best at his position have done: they've got to study tape. They've got to look at it. They've got to figure out not just the points they want to make, but what's the pace and rhythm? Where do you get in and where do you get out? Watch the guys that are the best at it and see if this is what you really want to do…"


COSTAS’ CENTRAL TAKE: "It's a goldmine that the various leagues could not ignore. You couldn't have expected them to ignore it. But I think it changes, over time, it'll change the relationship between fans and the teams they follow. It becomes more transactional and less sentimental. But I don't know what you can do to stop it. And even though every sports league and its commissioners testified in the relatively recent past before Congress that, 'no, we don't want any legalized gambling, it'll be the death of sports as we know it,' as soon as it became legal, they jumped right on board because, you know, the money train was just too much to ignore…."


COSTAS’ CENTRAL TAKE: "I think it's another notch on the resume for LeBron - and he was already on the very short list of the greatest players who ever played in any era. I've always said this, though, and this has nothing to do with a statistical comparison... If we're just talking about basketball in a vacuum, you've got a LeBron-Jordan argument and cases can be made for either. But if you're talking about the overall impact, through no fault of LeBron's, that's Jordan in a runaway. Michael Jordan's impact on the game and on its popularity has something to do, not only with his excellence, but his presence. He was an incredibly pleasing and compelling player to watch, not that LeBron isn't, but there are degrees of things and Jordan was at the highest level, occupied by only a very few in the history of sports, any sport. And I've taken to saying it this way. No little old lady in Omaha ever said, 'I'm sorry, Mildred, I can't play bridge with you tonight because I have to watch LeBron.' A million little old ladies in Omaha said that about Michael Jordan, even though they didn't know, you know, a three pointer from a pick and roll…"


COSTAS’ CENTRAL TAKE: "Baseball is supposed to have a pleasing, leisurely pace. That's always been part of its appeal... It's not supposed to have a plodding, lethargic pace, and that has too often been the case. So the pitch clock will help with that. The minors give us an idea - it won't be exactly the same in the majors, but what they put it in place in the minors, it sped games up by an average of like 25 minutes a game. The length of game matters, but also the pace matters. Outlawing shifts - the reason why teams shift, and the Dodgers, by the way, were among the very best at that, their analytics were elite - the reason why teams did it was because it worked, but it worked to thwart offense. You want action. You want that base hit through the hole, creates maybe a guy going from first to third or a guy who can run can steal a base

"You know, it seems crazy that they're enlarging the size of bases, but if it increases even by a small fraction, the percentage that the analytics people take a look at to say whether it's worth it to trade the possibility of a base for the possibility of an out. Well, if the base is that much closer, first is that much closer, and second is that much closer on the other side, then the split second that is the difference between an out and safe may be changed and it may lead teams to take more chances. You want the ball in play. You don't want as many strikeouts…."

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