NBC's Bob Costas has anchored the network's Olympics coverage for several decades, to the point where many American viewers of the event consider him a feature of the competition along with those five (or sometimes four) iconic rings. However, as Costas struggles with a very apparent eye infection during the Sochi Games, he's not quite the same presence in the studio.
On Thursday, Costas welcomed viewers to NBC's opening night of Sochi coverage by drawing attention to his very, very red left eye. His infection quickly became the talk of pre-Opening Ceremony coverage, although the hope was that things would clear up relatively soon.
[Photos: Best of #SochiProblems]
When Costas opened up NBC's Monday night primetime coverage, it immediately became clear that no such thing has occurred. In fact, Costas looks quite a bit worse, with the infection now glaringly evident in both eyes. Check out the image (via @stvnmacias) for his current state, and look below for a comparison between Costas' healthy eye, his state on Thursday, and the utter terror of Monday's look.
Unlike Thursday, Costas did not immediately reference his condition on air. It appears that he'd prefer to focus on the Olympic action, even if his eyes are sure to remain a topic of conversation for as long as they continue to look this way.
Social media reaction was swift. After days of jokes, including the suggestion (and image) that Costas wear an NBC-branded eyepatch, Monday's comments ranged from jokes that Congress had banned his beloved sport of baseball to a mockup of the broadcaster in a visor a la LeVar Burton in "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
Despite the sorry state of Costas' eyes, chances are he's not in serious medical danger. Typical recovery times for pinkeye — if that's indeed what he has — run from a couple days to two weeks. Given his status at the network and the importance of the Sochi Olympics to NBC's ratings and bottom line, it figures that Costas will continue to anchor coverage for as long as he's medically able. He essentially owns Olympic coverage at NBC, and it would take a lot to keep him out of the studio.
[Related: Step inside Bob Costas' Fortress of Solitude]
However, it's worth considering whether continued problems for Costas and his eyes will eventually negate the positives of having him in studio. Costas can be a divisive figure, but the mere fact that he has anchored Olympics coverage for so long provides measures of continuity and familiarity despite viewers often not knowing anything about Olympic athletes ahead of their events. But this Costas does not look like the anchor we know. With this infection, he only adds to the widespread, maybe unfair impression that the Sochi Games are a bizarre, dystopian entity. It's all a little disorienting and confusing. Presumably, that's not what NBC wants to communicate to viewers.
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