Howard Cosell was a legendary sports announcer—but anyone familiar with his career knows that he always felt limited by covering sports. Mr. Cosell viewed himself as a Voice of Social Conscience. He believed athletics was generally too trivial for his attention. His ambition was to become the anchor of ABC’s “World News Tonight”—and he contemplated a run for the Senate. By the end of his life, Cosell turned on sports and became a bitter man.
I thought about Cosell after listening to NBC’s Bob Costas deliver his anti-handgun commentary at halftime of Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys game.
Mr. Costas could have set aside a moment of silence during the broadcast to remember those who died (as Costas did during the London Olympics, as a way to honor the Israeli coaches and athletes who were killed in the Munich Olympics 40 years ago). Instead Mr. Costas, in addressing the apparent murder-suicide by the Kansas City Chief’s Jovan Belcher (Belcher killed the mother of his young daughter before killing himself), blasted those who used “that most mindless of sports clichés … Something like this really puts it all in perspective.” Costas went on to say that “those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective.”
In spite of the growing calls for a moment of silence in honor of the 11 Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the head of the International Olympic Committee said yesterday that he would not alter his determination to refuse to allow the issue to intrude upon the opening ceremonies of the London Games this Friday. Jacques Rogge said yesterday that it “was not fit” for a commemoration of Munich to be included in the gala start to the global athletic extravaganza.
This week, President Obama added his voice to those already calling for a moment of silence at the ceremony. Perhaps even more importantly, Bob Costas, NBC television’s Olympic host, has said that he will impose his own moment of silence on the coverage of the event when the Israeli team enters the stadium:
“I intend to note that the IOC denied the request,” Costas said. “Many people find that denial more than puzzling but insensitive. Here’s a minute of silence right now.”
Costas deserves great deal of credit for not allowing the IOC’s desire to keep the memory of Munich out of sight during the games (Rogge said he will attend a ceremony honoring the Munich victims in Germany next week). But while he finds the refusal to simply devote one minute to remembrance “puzzling,” there is no mystery about it. Rogge has called requests for such a memorial “political.” While there is nothing political about recalling the terrorist attack, by that he means that many of the participating nations are not comfortable highlighting a crime committed by Palestinians or honoring the memory of Israeli Jews. As historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote this past week, the controversy is more proof that in the eyes of the world, spilled Jewish blood remains a cheap commodity.