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Lipsyte weighs in on Costas: ‘Shill becomes a journalist’

I was set to let the furor over Bob Costas’ anti-gun commentary runs it course. However, I have to make note of a Robert Lipsyte column on the subject.

Writing for Slate, the former New York Times columnist discusses their relationship and the impact of Costas’ actions on Sunday night.

First about the part of labeling Costas “a shill”:

Since 1993, Costas and I have been in an uneasy relationship of mutual regard and disagreement, each waiting for the other to fulfill unreasonable expectations. He wants me to be more open to the joy of sports. I want him to take advantage of his pulpit and be more of a journalist.

And to the point:

In our almost 20 years of dialogue, Costas has been most bothered by my use of the word shill to describe how he promotes sporting events. As I’ve written before, be believes that he drops in “enough commentary and insights in games” to be thought of as a journalist, and that he does it “not to throw fire bombs but to help hold the mainstream to account,” separating him from commentators on the Internet.

Calling Costas a shill is a bit extreme. Yes, there is a promotional element for the sports he covers. It comes with the territory. However, Costas has used to platform for frank critiques on many important issues. If only there were more like him.

Which brings us to Sunday’s commentary. Lipsyte writes:

Yet as more evidence piles up that repeated head traumas, however slight, can lead to disorientation and aggressive behavior, not to mention dementia and early death, the possible connection to Belcher becomes one worth exploring. I hope Costas will follow up his quick, bold stroke with such explorations. He has the intelligence and the platform.

Costas is gingerly stretching his reach. Last July, on the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, as the Israeli team marched into the Olympic Stadium, he pointed out that the International Olympic Committee had refused requests for a moment of silence during the parade. He then fell quiet for 12 seconds, a rebuke to an NBC financial partner.

And he concludes:

While by the standards of contemporary journalism, it was distanced and measured, by the ground-floor bar of sports broadcasting, it was Murrow during the blitz.

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