Cool Your Jets: Dealing With Bob Costas

And the side effects of being on the biggest stage

Tom Wallisch at the U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado last month. PHOTO: Sarah Brunson/U.S. Freeskiing

Tom Wallisch at the U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado last month. PHOTO: Sarah Brunson/U.S. Freeskiing

A quick note to all the skiers and snowboarders up in arms about Bob Costas’ comments comparing ski and snowboard slopestyle to the Jackass TV series: Relax.

When you started this whole bid to get slopestyle in the Olympics—to Show Our Sport to a Broader Audience—did you seriously expect the 60-something stick-and-ball sect to get it? Did you really think that, in this great, sports-loving country of ours (where the highest paid public official in something like 47 states is a football or basketball coach) that not a single person was going to make fun of you? Just a little? That, after all, is the price of being on The Biggest Stage: a lot more people are going to see you, and there will always be a percentage who don’t appreciate what you do.

I’m not defending Costas. His comments were blatantly ignorant and a horribly failed attempt at humor. At best. But let’s flip the mirror for just a second. Slopestyle features skiers and snowboarders doing tricks on rails and walls that were intentionally put on the side of a snowy mountain for the sole purpose of doing tricks on them. (That, of course, is in addition to hitting big jumps, which most Americans actually do get). Do you honestly expect a grandmother from St. Louis who’s never been to a ski resort to see the definitive difference between that and bombing a hill in a shopping cart? And let’s face it, that’s the “broader audience” you’re reaching by being on NBC during the Olympic telecast.

I know, this is different; Costas is the voice of the Olympic games in America. He should know better. And I’m guessing that off camera—when he’s not trying to be funny for a middle-America audience that will never truly care about skiing—he does. For that reason, I give license to complain to a handful of people, notably Todd Richards, who eloquently retorted on twitter (@btoddrichards). Richards will be on the call for NBC when snowboard slopestyle makes its Olympic debut, so Costas is essentially his co-worker. Richards, as a contemporary, rightly should put Bob in his place.

Here’s what we all need to remember about Costas: he made his name covering grown men wearing pajamas and trying to hit a little leather ball with a club. His stupid comments don’t define you as athletes, or us as fans. For that matter, neither should the opinion of anyone else watching the Olympics. The athleticism, talent, and commitment it takes to be a world-class slopestyle competitor speak for themselves. If some people choose not to listen, that’s their loss.

The truth is, Costas did all the slopestyle athletes a favor. As Nick Goepper told ESPN, “Now it should draw interest and make slopestyle one of the most entertaining sports in the Olympics.”

So enjoy the experience—both you the competitors, and we the fans. Take the jabs with a smile, a shrug, and the rolling eyes they deserve. Because when the games are over, Costas will go back to calling balls and strikes, and we’ll go back to being skiers and snowboarders. Whether or not the Grandma from St. Louis agrees, I call that a win.

The Jaded Local has some things to say about Lindsey Vonn stepping out of the 2014 Olympics.

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  • Gimmearaise

    great write up!

  • rustled

    Once that smug-fucker actually acknowledges what he said was offensive and incredibly mis-informed, I could consider not being so rustled by what he said. Without any response from NBC or Costas on what he said, you’re arguing that he’s an old and semi-famous and can do what he wants… that’s bull-shit… where’s the accountability for being a tactless ass-clown on national television? If this is okay, can I call myself a freeskiing expert and go make fun of baseball on national tv?

  • Mike

    Its just the progression of aerials and skiing with implements aka terrain featured to gain style points from, as kong as there is someone to judge it, it must be a sport…otherwise the whole gymnastics part of the summer olympics is merle just the “girls gone wild” type stuff as Bob would probably put it! , funny how freestyle moguls must look to the mother of 3 in St Louis…wonder of he ever thought that about donna weinbrect and hannah hardaway when freestyle skiing was new

  • Christopher Mixson

    I think he must be forgiven as his comments were obviously based on hot having anything intelligent to say. He’s not an athlete…he’s an entertainer and is probably fed most of the “intelligence” he provides on-air through a communication ear-plug, i.e., if his producers have little in the way of good information to feed him, he has little to say and so attempts to cover his ignorance with humor. And guess what, he’s not known as a comedian. That’s why entertainers’ POV’s on most subjects, politics, etc., should be taken with a grain of sand. They spend more time with makeup artists and agents then with athletes or intellectuals.

  • Scott Abraham

    rustled, I gotta admit you are even more hilarious than Costas. OFFENDED? Oh, please. I get offended every time one of you arrogant young punks cut me off,or wear those incredibly offensive outfits, or hit some air and blow into a groomed run. Costas is smarter than you will ever be, and you will never know it. Not to mention your false equivalency: you are free to insult basketball all you want, but you’re not smart enough to go on national TV.
    Personally, having dealt with the behavior of so called “freeskiers” on the hill, and the clueless arrogance in this magazine, I thought Costas was spot on, and very funny. Chill, dewd.

  • http://twitter.com/kaufmanwithak AK

    Yup.

  • Scott Abraham

    Mixson: Costas has an impeccable reputation as one of the smartest, most perceptive commentators on the tube. Razor sharp sense of humor. From my point of view, a trenchant and hilarious comment on slopestyle, consistent with forty some years of covering every sport imaginable. For somebody who, in all likelihood, gets his sag on to call Costas stupid is stupid. Engage on the issues instead of ad hominems, and realize that there are plenty of skiers (in my case, over forty years) who also think the parks are Jackass on skis. Don’t take yourself so seriously: the demand that you get respect is earned, and you just lost respect.

    • matt wood

      Scott, your arguing about something that quite frankly doesn’t matter on the internet with people you don’t even associate yourself with…my suggestion is that you let it go and concede the point that these athletes work damn hard to succeed in their sport and the reduction of all of their work to a simple stunt show (jackass) could possibly offend them

      • Scott Abraham

        Matt, you are wrong. I’m leaving to go skiing in five minutes, so I will have to associate with arrogant, privileged, spoiled young punks on the hill and deal with their absurd sense of entitlement and deliberate rudeness. My suggestion is that you get a sense of humor and perspective. I could care less if you or they are offended, and I am delighted I have done so.
        Here’s a clue. Most skiers don’t give a flying fuck about slopestyle. Most avoid the parks like the plague. Most think the whole notion is stupid at best and dangerous at the worst. No respect. Get used to it.
        Costas was right.

        • Happy Hardon

          It’s going to be fun watching all the American snowboarders win all the gold medals! Who’s Bob Costas???

  • James

    Wow Scott, are you actually being serious with your response? I have no idea who this Costas is. I live in the UK. But after reading this short write up, his comments, whilst I’m sure were intended to be tongue in cheek, showed this he has a total lack of respect for the amount of time and dedication to the sport that these athletes have put in, and the amount of talent needed to pull some of these moves off. Someone with a ounce of intelligence would be able to form this thought process. You have just waded in and given your opinion, but backed it up with nothing but the same ignorance that Mr Costas has shown. “I get offended every time one of you arrogant young punks cut me off,or wear those incredibly offensive outfits”. This is brilliant. I mean really, where do you want me to start?! According to the law of Scott, people can only ski in the way that you deem acceptable, in the outfits that you deem to be non-offensive, and if you don’t like it, it’s wrong. Well heck, why don’t you just go the whole hog and put your white hood up and take the flame to the cross! (oh I’m sorry, has my intention at humour offended you here) How incredibly narrow minded of you. The beauty of skiing is that it allows people to be free and ski in whatever way that they want. It’s like art or music. There is no right and wrong. Just what you as an individual enjoy doing. “Dewd”, don’t start a debate until you can open your mind to other people’s views. Like Costas, your ignorance may offend someone.

    • Guest

      But James, if skiing is like music, don’t both of these men have to right to judge what they do and do not like? Park rats are kind like members of Jackass, and yes, people who know the “music” know that it takes an insane amount of time to learn these tricks, it also takes an insane mind. So realistically, Scott, and Bob, have a small point about how the rest of the world sees the “jibber” earning his keep. I have never seen so many young people who “don’t care what people think about me” care what how people view them. Ironic, don’t you think?

    • Shredthegnarpow

      James, if skiing is akin to art and music, don’t both of these men have the right to judge what they like? I’m amazed that the generation that “doesn’t care what other people think about me” are upset over “what other people think about me”. Ironic, don’t you think?

  • Scott Abraham

    Yes, I am dead serious. Once again, you are demanding respect and being all pissy when you don’t get it, not to mention calling anyone who is not impressed “stupid”. Not to mention ignorant. Not ignorant. Just not impressed.
    You can ski any way you want to ski, but like most young punks full of themselves, you are devoid of any sense of irony or sarcasm unless you are directing it at someone who does not buy into your egotistical definition of reality.
    Holy shit, are you so stupid you compare me to the KKK because I think you are a clown? Now THAT is some serious stupidity. Incredibly offensive. Jackass offensive, jackass.
    I howl with laughter at the pretentious, arrogant, ridiculous attitudes of the dewds. Clue time. I could give a shit about how much time slopestylers put in on the hill, you don’t get respect for playtime. You get respect by respecting others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in a lodge and listened to the park rats disparage other skiers.
    Another clue. They, and you, keep using terms like “free” and claim to be creative individuals. Then you dress alike, talk alike, and whine alike when people who have seen it all make fun of you.
    This thread is Jackass about snow, for sure. KKK “jokes”.
    You get respect when you stop demanding respect and earn it. But since my experience of slopestyler culture is that it does not respect anyone else on the hill that is older than they are, no respect from me.
    BTW, I know and ski with former Olympians. Who never play victim and never demand respect. They get it because they earned it and acted with class. You really don’t understand.

    • James

      Scott, you seem to have made some rather large assumptions about me. I have demanded nothing. Nor am I offended by Costas’ remark. I don’t partake in park skiing. I was merely raising a point that you seem keen to claim that a culture that is different to your own is in some way inferior. You clearly don’t like anyone who challenges your views – as per your response.

      • Scott Abraham

        Didn’t make any “assumptions” at all. Responded directly to your manipulative, dishonest, and truly strange post.
        Clue time. You have demanded respect. You keep losing it. Indeed, you project your own issues onto me, and you assume that I claim some sort of ski “culture”. I don’t, and never have.. Dumb assumption. Nor did I ever use the word inferior. Dumb assumption. I simply don’t like dishonest assholes who mak rather large assumptions. Got no problem with anyone who wants to argue the points without dumb personal attacks-as per your response.
        Another clue. I am vastly amused by the supposed “culture” movement in skiing. They keep on turning over with the generational shifts, and they keep acting the same way, with a false sense of creativity and superiority. Ain’t ME whose is arrogant and looking down at anyone else on the hill, except for anyone who thinks what and how he skis makes him superior to the rest.. It’s those who proclaim their membership in a supposed culture, which is just the same attitudes and delusions packaged in uglier clothes.
        In short, I do not like assholes who make up false allegations and duck the issues. Must be your culture, eh? Go to Wiki and look up “projection”.

  • Wyatt

    Costas is a reptilian with 0 personality. Who cares what he has to say? That is spoken from someone who only loves the park because it keeps more people away from the powder.

    • Scott Abraham

      Pretty lame ad hom attack, but it proves my point. Costas is one of the brightest, most creative, and courageously honest talking head I’ve ever heard, who regularly skewers the sacred cows of sports, as he just did with the Dewds of the Park. This spoken from an old fart who has been skiing longer than the dewds have been alive, and is regularly both irritated and amused by the pretentious, reptilian arrogance of Powder readers. Gonna have to chat with Jake Moe the next time I see him about this dynamic, since that has been my opinion since he started this rag. Which raises a question: since I have not been a paper subscriber for years and years and only read Powder on the net, can I still call it a rag?

  • TeeCee656

    I have skied since the days of lace-up boots, long thongs, and “explode-o-mat” bindings. I remember when my brother-in-law got the first ever, swallow-tail Burton all wood board (no edges or P-Tex). As a Boomer, I saw both technique, equipment, and ski areas boom. “Slopestyle” has been both positive and negative in the alpine arena. It has brought a younger generation to the mountains that infused more capital and expansion as well as upgrading to high speed lifts. Conversely, what appeared to be lost was sense of etiquette, similar to golf (most courses require collared shirts). The “rules” of quickly moving away from the lift were thrown to the wind as boarders sat line abreast blocking people while tightening their rear foot, or stopped in the center of a run, rather than off to the side of the trail. The perceived lack of etiquette along with oversized jackets and sagging pants, were held in contempt by skiers wearing their Bogner, Desente or Obermeyer jump suits.

    The original and still king of extreme sports is alpine downhill. Many slopestyle events, such as half-pipe, appear to many, as skateboarding or BMX trick riding on snow. As someone that tunes and waxes my own skis, the idea of trying to slide them along or over a metal rail seems obscure.

    I love skiing and the mountains and anything that encourages people to enjoy the same. On the other hand, I’m an Olympic purest, and hold track and field in awe, …. BMX racing not so much.

    I’m guessing many readers never skied in the era when “NO INVERTED ARIELS” signs were plastered all over the mountains, or only a few areas even allowed boards. To many skiing is a sport of tradition, where names like Stein Eriksen, Stenmark, Klammer, Killy, Sailer, Russi and Bode Miller are revered. As someone who has skied for over 40 years, what was once looked at as “hotdogging” is now slopestyle. Back then it was seen as an alternative for those who had no chance of ever racing competitively. To purists, it still is.

    • Scott Abraham

      Couldn’t agree with ya more, though i would question the notion that park skiing caused expansion and upgrades of lifts: that would have happened anyway. Parks tend to be stuck in out of the way places, and frequently get put where there is an old, short lift to service the area. Indeed, skied today and talk with a couple of mountain folks about a plan to replace an old double on the edge of the area. Told them it would be a great place to put the park features, with minimal disruption and irritation for geezers since they younguns would be out of the way, and I was not surprised to learn that’s exactly what they were thinking.

  • haroldburbank

    at best costas is irrelevant to skiing. why give him any credibility at all by complaining about him? my contempt for his abject arrogance goes back decades to baseball. today i turn the volume off when he covers ANY sport.

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