08/24/2016

Bob Costas has a terrible golf swing. This is a relieving fact as much as a revealing one, because he’s great at most everything else. At least he sucks at something. There’s a lot of leg movement in his swing, but not a lot of fluidity—like someone dancing in a phone booth. And yet he stripes the one ball he hits on camera.

Suddenly, it starts to make sense. Costas is no athlete. That’s clear. But when he picked up golf at 11, he stumbled upon the most logical stance for himself. If he’s celebrated for anything, it’s sticking to his guns as he delivers essays in front of millions of sports fans at a time. Costas is confident in his abilities, even if he lacks in some.

“I’d rather suck the way I suck,” he tells David Feherty about golf instruction.

Costas’s stop on “Feherty” pits two of the top commentators in sports like some crossover episode on an old cartoon—Scooby Doo, the Flintstones meet the Jetsons. There is immediate chemistry between the two, which shows just how much people in the industry respect Feherty. Costas has 12 Olympics and six Super Bowls to his name, credentials that far outweigh, well, anybody. Still he remains genuinely interested in telling Feherty his life in golf and beyond.

And Costas, though his delivery can be somewhat melodramatic, is a compelling and willing story-teller. His tales about his dad’s gambling are particularly interesting, especially one where a young Bob follows his father to the Brooklyn-based bookie. The elder Costas receives a brown paper bag, removes the $14 thousand in winnings and asks his son if he’d like to go to the ball game. It’s a surreal scene and one that informs Costas’s growth in sports. His love for the genre came mostly from Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankee teams of the 1950’s and early 60’s but also from studying betting lines.

In other words, he’s no phony. Despite being the smartest man in the room a majority of the time, Costas still has his life as a New Yorker to fall back on. He paid his dues in the industry as well. Consider his early broadcasting career in minor league hockey. On one bus trip, Costas irked the team goon. A hacksaw, a threat and a mismatch in size resulted.

Here we get the best of Feherty. So much of what he does well involves drawing out personality from figures who otherwise seem stale. During the rapid fire segment, Feherty asks Costas at what age he lost is virginity. Costas laughs, won’t answer, then says, “In my teens.” Good for Bob.

The episode, however, falls somewhat short in two areas. The timing is a bit off (unsurprising given that this is NBC we’re talking about). The Rio Olympics concluded Sunday, which is why this was chosen as the post-Games launch for “Feherty.”But because it was prerecorded, there is nothing in the hour about Rio other than snippets from Feherty and Costas’s coverage in Brazil. It would have been great to hear Costas reflect on the Olympics—Phelps, Bolt, the gymnasts and yes Ryan Lochte—off the clock so to speak. Although Golf Channel falls under the NBC umbrella, Costas would have more freedom to editorialize on someone else’s show rather primetime coverage.

The other issue is Costas himself. Maybe this isn’t entirely his fault. His stories are good and worth sharing. Feherty’s producers likely had to shave down material rather than stretch it out. Still, Feherty remains in the background more than he has for any other guest. On one hand, it allows Costas to thrive. On the other, we get plenty of Costas as is.

But on the whole, we have another terrific 60 minutes from Feherty. Costas closes by saying someone once described him as reverent and irreverent at the same time. That’s a pretty good description of this duo as well. Let’s hope we see more of them together.