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Gretzky and Costas

Posted by Richard on February 23, 2006

Team Canada’s loss to Russia in the quarterfinals of Olympic ice hockey has to be the most devastating blow to the Canadian psyche since the cancellation of SCTV. I just watched Bob Costas interview Wayne Gretzky, and I want to make a couple of quick points. One, Gretzky looked terrible, and given what he’s faced in the past three months, you can’t help but feel for him. Two, Bob Costas is still the best interviewer on television. Costas had a late-night show from 1988 to 1994 that was nothing but terrific interviewing:

But Costas truly proved his mettle while hosting Later with Bob Costas, a talk show that featured no audience, no house band, no monologue, and no sidekick — only a half-hour conversation between Costas and his sole guest for the night, who could be anyone from Mario Cuomo to Mel Brooks. (This show went on to become Later with Greg Kinnear, which is kind of like replacing Niels Bohr with L. Ron Hubbard.)

He hasn’t lost a step. The interview with Gretzky showcased what makes Costas so good: he treats the guest with respect and, when warranted, sympathy, but without pandering, schmoozing, or lobbing softballs. He asks the tough questions that need to be asked, but he does it without becoming adversarial, confrontational, or hostile. He is never, ever argumentative; his purpose is to reveal things about his guest, not about himself. His questioning is intelligent, civil, informative, revealing, … and adult.

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