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Bob Costas Pinkeye Straight Out Of Greek Tragedy About Smugness

In Greek myth, lack of insight leads to literal loss of sight. Bob Costas should take heed.

Everyone’s least favorite political pundit (and sometimes sportscaster) Bob Costas took the night off from Olympics coverage because of a growing problem with his eyes.

Americans were first troubled by the sight of the pink, oozing eye on Thursday of last week. At the time, Costas told viewers the problem should “resolve itself” by the weekend. Instead, the infection worsened and by Monday it had spread to the other eye.

We don’t know for sure what’s plaguing Costas, but it appears to be pinkeye. If so, it’s extremely painful and uncomfortable. Here’s to his speedy return to health.

But doesn’t it kind of seem like it’s straight out of a Greek tragedy on the dangers of hubris? Or at least on the dangers of smugness? That’s what I argued here:

Costas used to be one of the best sportscasters in the world. Arguably one of the most skilled baseball color men, he exuded passion for the game and filled his broadcasts with perfect trivia from his vast storehouse of baseball knowledge. I have no idea what Present Day Bob Costas did with Awesome Bob Costas, but the old guy is definitely no more.

Smugness has always been an issue for the man, but lately it’s just gotten completely out of control. While other newscasters might have a warm, even friendly, presence, Costas’ vibe is more “you’re lucky to be listening to me.” A stationery strutter, he spews information at the viewer in a manner that mostly calls attention to himself. Every interview by Costas is ultimately about Costas, each story ultimately about him. Someone should do a word count of questions and answers.

Talk of his smugness heated up during the last Olympics. Here’s a sample discussion regarding a listener email from “Mike” received by sports radio hosts “Kevin & Bean”:

That same year some folks wrote a story headlined “How to Ruin Any Sporting Event: Add a Little Bob Costas, Mr. Bandwagon’s Two-Week Olympic Celebration of His Own Greatness.”

Will Leitch, in his write-up of his interactions with Costas (including that amazing panel discussion with Buzz Bissinger on how vile internet discussion of sports has gotten), noted:

In recent years, he’s annoyed viewers with his smug pontifications during the half-time of NFL games. He went off here, for instance, on how football players celebrating football things showed how they had no class.

He joined the weird, and wildly uninformed, bandwagon campaign against the Washington Redskins. (And if you’re similarly uninformed, I commend for your reading “The Real History of the Word Redskin. It’s Not What You Think.” It’s probably something closer to the opposite of what you think.)

The smug is still strong with Costas. As Kennedy noted:

Perhaps the best example of how the great Costas has become the not-so-great Costas was when he used the death of an NFL player to call for handgun control. It wasn’t just that he came out against the Second Amendment on the same day an NFL player shot his girlfriend and killed himself. It was that he did it in such an unbelievably ideological and uninformed manner.

During his half-time rant, he said:

As a commenter at Ricochet put it:

Which brings us back to Greek tragedy. A drug-addled Sigmund Freud might have thought the central point of the Oedipus story was something about sexy-time with your mom. Yes, Oedipus is about a man who becomes king of Thebes who was destined from birth to kill his father and sleep with his mother. Despite various attempts to keep this from happening, on the part of his biological parents, adopted parents and himself, he (spoiler alert!) ends up doing both of those things.

After his wife-mom kills herself, he plunges the pins of her dress into his eyes. Blinded, he begs for exile and comes to have limited prophetic ability. OK, so he’s blind to truth when he has clear vision. The blind prophet Tiresias is full of insight. And when Oedipus is blind, some insight returns to him.

There’s a line in the play where Tiresias says to Oedipus:

In Greek myth, hubris — an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities by those in power — is always followed by nemesis — divine retribution.

I could be wrong but I think that Costas is just living out a Greek tragedy before us. Let’s hope those eyes clear up and he can return, ever-so-slightly chastened, with clearer vision.

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