SBD/February 12, 2014/Olympics

Sight For Sore Eyes: Bob Costas To Miss A Second Night Of Olympic Coverage

Costas said his eyes' condition makes it impossible to be in the studio
Bob Costas this morning announced he will miss a second straight night hosting NBC’s primetime Olympic coverage as he continues to battle an eye infection. Costas said, “My eyes are so blurry and watery and it becomes so light-sensitive that even in dim light they're constantly tearing up. So I can't possibly be in the studio. It's not a case of just saying, 'What the heck, I'll go in not feeling well.' It's just not possible to be in the studio.” Matt Lauer will again host the coverage in Costas’ absence (“Today,” NBC, 2/12). Lauer last night addressed Costas' absence at the top of the broadcast, saying, "If you have been following along over the last several days you know Bob's ... been playing hurt at these Olympic Games with an eye infection that's travelled a little bit. I saw him in the hotel this morning. He looked a little like the loser in a prize fight. So if anyone deserves a night off, it’s Bob." About an hour into the broadcast, Lauer said, "I keep expecting Costas to follow in the footsteps of Willis Reed and hobble heroically in and take us through the second half. But so far no action in the wings, so we will move forward" ("XXII Winter Olympics," NBC, 2/11). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports Costas while on the air "has treated his eyes with cold compresses in the breaks between taping his segments." He now will "spend 24 hours in a darkened room, taking antibiotics and using eye drops, while still using the compresses." NBC Olympics Exec Producer Jim Bell said of Costas' condition, "It’s day to day. We hope and expect that it will just be one day, but we are prepared in case he needs a little more time" (NYTIMES.com, 2/11).

GETTING THE CALL: It was about 5:00pm in Sochi yesterday when Costas called Bell and told him he could not host that night’s broadcast. Bell immediately texted Lauer, who was on the air on "Today." Bell wrote, “Congratulations. You’re on today.” Lauer finished the “Today” show and spent the evening preparing to host his first primetime Olympics broadcast by watching video of old primetime shows. “He hadn’t been able to watch them and wanted to get a sense of it,” Bell said. “He kind of poured himself into it for the next couple of hours and then we put on the show. He was great last night. He was incredible.” "Matt’s the ultimate team player and consummate professional,” said NBC Sports Chair Mark Lazarus. “He’s filled in more than ably. And any number of people could have filled in -- Dan (Patrick) or Al Michaels, Brian Williams -- any of the Mount Rushmore of broadcasters at the company. Matt did an excellent job and will do it again tonight” (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).

NOT SETTING THE WORLD ON FIRE: The Birmingham News' Jon Solomon addressed Lauer's performance on his Twitter feed last night and wrote, "Serviceable. Didn't really notice him so that was a positive. Better than how he did at opening ceremony." But Sports Media Watch's Paulsen wrote, "Boy, Matt Lauer is not nearly as good as Costas when it comes to narration." The Washington Post's Cindy Boren wrote, "More Matt Lauer isn't going to please everyone."

WHAT ABOUT BOB? The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Tim Goodman wrote hosting the Games is "not an easy gig -- especially when the prepackaged primetime coverage has so many detractors to begin with" -- and high-profile announcing assignments "come with all kinds of built-in criticism." But Costas "always has been supremely good at what he does -- he's quick on his feet, he can ask the tough questions, he can be funny without seeming like he's pulling a muscle to make a joke, and he's self-deprecating." He also is "extremely knowledgeable" about the Games and "loves much of the arcane tidbits that come out of these competitive events." Goodman: "I can't imagine going through an Olympics without him" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/11). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Costas has been "roundly praised (by us included) for his early self-deprecating take on how he looked wearing his 'Sherman and Peabody' spectacles." Yet when he "brought it up a couple of more times, we wondered if he was more concerned about the infection or how he looked?" Costas had "made his point, humorously.'" Raissman: "Why not just let it go and move on?" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/12).

LATE-NIGHT LAUGHS: Costas' eye infection was talked about on several late-night talk shows last night. Comedy Central's Jon Stewart said, "We wanted to wish good health to young Bob Costas. Young Bob Costas dropped out of tonight's Olympics coverage due to a nasty eye infection, and I told him before he left, I said, 'Bob, do not wash your face with the water.' But Bob's all like, 'I'm eight-time Sportscaster of the Year Bob Costas. Surely my eyes are impervious to Russian toxins.' Look at the poor eye. He's a good man, we're going to help him out. So to lift some of the burden from Bob's pink, goopy shoulders, here is tonight's 'The Daily Show' Olympics moment." A video was aired of the five Olympic rings, with the bottom two featuring extremely red eyeballs, to which Stewart said, "That doesn't seem very sensitive" ("The Daily Show," Comedy Central, 2/11). ABC's Jimmy Kimmel said, "When the Games started he had an infection in his eye. It spread to his other eye. Turned out to be a serious case of pink eye, which is a problem because Vladimir Putin now thinks his eyes are gay and wants them removed. But the infection got so bad Matt Lauer had to fill in for him tonight. Also, there were signs all over the Olympic Village that say, 'Don't Touch Bob Costas,' which is embarrassing. This is the first time since 1988 that Bob Costas has not hosted the primetime Olympic telecast, but the good news is his hair is still perfect" ("Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC, 2/11).
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