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Sports Authority

Zuba: Accepting the end of eras (Feb. 19)

| Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Once every two years, NBC breaks Bob Costas out of liquid nitrogen so he can anchor the network’s Olympic coverage. They must store him in liquid nitrogen — he never ages and his hair never changes.

Costas has hosted in primetime for nine Olympics, but this year, due to a pink-eye infection, Costas temporarily turned over his hosting duties to Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira.

I freaked out because it is just not the Olympics without Bob Costas. Costas’ Olympic broadcasting career started with the 1992 Games in Barcelona, so for as long as I have been alive, Costas has been the face of the Olympics.

Thankfully, Costas has returned to his post, but his absence spurred reporters to ask NBC executives about succession plans for when their primetime host retires.
Succession plans? For Bob Costas?

I freaked out again.

Even people who are not fans of Costas’ reporting style have probably grown accustomed to hearing his Olympic broadcasts because they don’t remember or have never known anything else. It’s comfortable and familiar to see Costas interviewing athletes in the NBC Olympic studio, and it will always be that way — right?

Right, just like Derek Jeter will always be the captain of the New York Yankees.

The most recent wave of sports retirements marks the first time I have been acutely aware that my favorite athletes growing up won’t actually play forever.

I grew up in Chicago, so it was hard to wrap my mind around Brian Urlacher’s retirement from the Bears. Urlacher debuted for the Bears when I was eight, so when he announced his retirement after the 2012 season, I could hardly remember a time when the Bears had played a game without him.

It was even hard to imagine a world without Brett Favre when he announced his retirement from the dreaded Packers.

His retirement, in fact, does still hold, at least at the time of this printing.

I had always thought only parents talked about “the end of an era.”

“Yeah, okay, Dad, I wish Hank Aaron was still playing baseball, too,” I would say.
No one would complain if we could continue watching Aaron play ball, but my dad’s wish didn’t mean as much to me because I had never seen him play. This ongoing “end of an era” business, though, belongs to me and my generation.

I would really not like to own it, but it didn’t come with a receipt.

A good bit of sadness comes with watching one’s childhood heroes retire. It’s a quiet reminder — especially to college students observing such a transition probably for the first time — that growing up happens in all aspects of life, including sports.

Time to call Peter Pan, because I am not on board for that.

But maybe the process isn’t entirely a bad thing. Maybe the way I watch sports just needs to evolve.

As a kid, a lot of my favorite athletes were my favorites because I wanted to grow up and be just like them. Well, sports can’t really serve that purpose for me anymore.

But I will keep watching sports so I can cheer on my Chicago teams, and, during the Olympics, my country. I will keep watching because it’s fun to cheer with friends and get wrapped up in the excitement of a game. I will keep watching so I can see historic and courageous moments.

The transition might not be pleasant, but I think I can adjust to being a grown-up sports fan.

Alternatively, I will petition Costas and NBC to share their liquid nitrogen with my favorite athletes so they can play forever.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • DJ

    You must not watch MLB Network, where — far from being “stored in liquid nitrogen — Costas is a regular play-by-play announcer and studio host.