Once back in the 1950s, one drunk New York Yankee punched out another drunk New York Yankee at Toots Shor’s iconic Manhattan restaurant, where the walls had no ears. Shor denied all to the press. “We’re lovers, not fighters,” he said. (Wait a minute – was that incident at the Copacabana rather than Toots Shor’s…?)
Your humble blogger is not a fighter, either – not that kind anyway – even if it might appear otherwise in the wake of my titanic war of words with the estimable Bob Costas over his closing “tag” exchange with Brian Williams on Monday following the interview with Jerry Sandusky on NBC’s RockCenter. This has become the talk of millions in the blogosphere and the Twitterverse. Well, OK: the mother of one of my first grader’s classmates did grab me by the arm on the playground at Berkeley Arts Magnet School this morning and ask, “Do you really know Bob Costas?”
In all seriousness, I want to put a positive period on the paragraph begun by the posts “My Twitter Exchange With New York Times Columnist Harvey Araton re Bob Costas and Penn State” (November 15), https://concussioninc.net/?p=4975; “Harvey Araton: New York Times Spiked My Column on Penn State Football” (November 16), https://concussioninc.net/?p=4980; and “Bob Costas Responds to My Criticism of His NBC Segment on Penn State” (November 16), https://concussioninc.net/?p=4984.
Bob was unhappy that I posted his remarks, which he believed were private, and added that if he were to have composed them for publication – which he would never do as a matter of personal policy and practice – he would have vetted, at a minimum, one specific comment about the work of our mutual friend Matt Chaney. That gave birth to a side controversy, regarding whether Matt had ever alleged or suggested that Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle used steroids in 1961. Which turned the Costas-Muchnick kerfuffle into a three-way affair.
The only reason Matt’s name had come up at all is that he had broadcast an offhand email remark that I had made about Costas, in which I said Bob was “slicker than owl shit.” It’s a little late in the game for this explanation, but that particular barnyard vulgarism was intended, in part, as an homage to my dear late friend and mentor Jim Leeson – and, believe it or not, the infelicitous phrase is not entirely uncomplimentary. (Those of you interested in the Jim Leeson Story are directed to “Jim Leeson, 1930-2010” [May 7, 2010], https://concussioninc.net/?p=2269.)
Moving right along here … Matt felt maligned by the charge that he’d gone that far out on the rhetorical limb re Maris and Mantle in the course of his indefatigable research for the excellent book Spiral of Denial, a history of steroids. Without reviewing all the eye-glazing details, Matt had done no such thing, but merely pointed out that the granddaddy of performance-enhancing drugs, Dianabol, has been around since 1959. There’s more to the Costas-Chaney mano a mano than that, but trust me, it’s not worth more of the precious editorial real estate of Concussion Inc. Costas was making the point that Chaney can get way out there in his passion to expose the corruption and denial of the sports world. Chaney was making the point that he doesn’t point fingers at individuals and he doesn’t make statements he can’t back up. They both have points and they both have valuable voices, if different perspectives, on sports issues slightly less trivial than how many consecutive weeks Aaron Rodgers can sustain passer ratings higher than 100.
They both have valuable voices. That is the all’s-well-that-ends-well coda of the kerfuffle.
Chaney: “Irv, you and I disagree with Bob’s editorial take on Penn State, and, overall, how far systemic abuse and culpability carry in football issues, and baseball’s, but he isn’t a sellout. Bob believes what he says in commentary, and kicks ass typically on reporting of issues, such as with Sandusky. Bob is establishment media I respect and appreciate very much. We wanted him to land a heavy punch on Penn State, and public football at-large, but he didn’t see it that way. He called me and listened to my points, and I heard his. I do believe we are all on the same side in the debate on football crisis, recognizing the unstoppable forest fire, and we each want forceful action. We need Bob Costas, in his position, and he needs us out on the edge, bringing our information.”
Costas: “Irv, what transpired was a fundamental disconnect. I believe you are a smart guy who makes many valid points. Keep doing it. I will make my own points on my own.”
Muchnick: “Costas is a hell of a broadcast sports journalist and interviewer, the best in the business. Chaney’s knowledge, insights, and inability to be bland are indispensable.”
(Among assorted other manly-man gestures, including electronic and phone-trunk handshakes, denoting mutual respect and clarified procedures for future communications.)
The Penn State story, in which emotions are running high, belongs to the big boys now, and that is very good news for those of us committed to detoxing football culture, in Paternoville and elsewhere. I expect more from RockCenter and more from Costas than he was able to shoehorn into his two-minute tag three nights ago.
Meanwhile, I invite blog readers to access Matt Chaney’s 2009 interview on Costas on the Radio, at http://www.archive.org/details/AllenSt.JohnAndMattChaneyOncostasOnTheRadio. Uncommonly intelligent conversation at both ends.