A quick note to all the skiers and snowboarders up in arms about Bob Costas’ comments comparing ski and snowboard slopestyle to the Jackass TV series: Relax.
When you started this whole bid to get slopestyle in the Olympics—to Show Our Sport to a Broader Audience—did you seriously expect the 60-something stick-and-ball sect to get it? Did you really think that, in this great, sports-loving country of ours (where the highest paid public official in something like 47 states is a football or basketball coach) that not a single person was going to make fun of you? Just a little? That, after all, is the price of being on The Biggest Stage: a lot more people are going to see you, and there will always be a percentage who don’t appreciate what you do.
I’m not defending Costas. His comments were blatantly ignorant and a horribly failed attempt at humor. At best. But let’s flip the mirror for just a second. Slopestyle features skiers and snowboarders doing tricks on rails and walls that were intentionally put on the side of a snowy mountain for the sole purpose of doing tricks on them. (That, of course, is in addition to hitting big jumps, which most Americans actually do get). Do you honestly expect a grandmother from St. Louis who’s never been to a ski resort to see the definitive difference between that and bombing a hill in a shopping cart? And let’s face it, that’s the “broader audience” you’re reaching by being on NBC during the Olympic telecast.
I know, this is different; Costas is the voice of the Olympic games in America. He should know better. And I’m guessing that off camera—when he’s not trying to be funny for a middle-America audience that will never truly care about skiing—he does. For that reason, I give license to complain to a handful of people, notably Todd Richards, who eloquently retorted on twitter (@btoddrichards). Richards will be on the call for NBC when snowboard slopestyle makes its Olympic debut, so Costas is essentially his co-worker. Richards, as a contemporary, rightly should put Bob in his place.
Here’s what we all need to remember about Costas: he made his name covering grown men wearing pajamas and trying to hit a little leather ball with a club. His stupid comments don’t define you as athletes, or us as fans. For that matter, neither should the opinion of anyone else watching the Olympics. The athleticism, talent, and commitment it takes to be a world-class slopestyle competitor speak for themselves. If some people choose not to listen, that’s their loss.
The truth is, Costas did all the slopestyle athletes a favor. As Nick Goepper told ESPN, “Now it should draw interest and make slopestyle one of the most entertaining sports in the Olympics.”
So enjoy the experience—both you the competitors, and we the fans. Take the jabs with a smile, a shrug, and the rolling eyes they deserve. Because when the games are over, Costas will go back to calling balls and strikes, and we’ll go back to being skiers and snowboarders. Whether or not the Grandma from St. Louis agrees, I call that a win.