Had a cool chat with broadcasting legend Bob Costas on Monday after he delivered this year’s Frank Deford Lecture in Sports Journalism at the Belo Center for New Media.
Costas, as polished as a Rolls-Royce off the showroom floor, was equal parts humorous, informative and educational in a room packed with students, faculty and followers of his work. He encouraged those in attendance to research the works of the late Deford, who’s on the short list of best long-form sportswriters in the game. It was a nod from one great to another.
Costas, an eight-time national sportscaster of the year, never hid from a controversial topic, from steroids in Major League Baseball to brain injuries in football to President Trump’s comments on Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have taken a knee in protest during the national anthem.
The sports-and-politics intersection struck a chord because anyone who has been part of the sports media has heard those words, “Stick to sports,” at one time or another.
“It’s inevitable that sports and politics intersect,” said Costas, who’s hosting NBC’s coverage of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. “Wh0 made (Kaepernick) and players kneeling a bigger story than it was? Trump did.”
The Prez’s takes on sports notwithstanding, the coolest part of the afternoon came when someone asked if Costas still carried his 1958 Mickey Mantle Topps baseball card in his wallet. Costas got his first Mantle card 60 years ago from one of those cool Topps packs with that piece of bubble gum that crushed many a molar back in the day. The pack of cards cost a whole nickel, by the way.
“I don’t carry it much in my wallet anymore,” he said. He then pulled it out of his breast pocket and held it up to plenty of oohs and aahs. He told us he has several Mantles, having received them through the mail from fans across the country who are familiar with his long-time love affair with the Yankees.
Up until recently, Texas ex Tristan Thompson was getting more headlines for being the father of Khloe Kardashian’s new baby than he was for anything he’s done as the center for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
He just saved Cleveland’s season, though. Thompson did not play in three games of the series against Indiana and combined for only 23 minutes in the three that he did before he earned the start in Game 7. He played 35 minutes Sunday and came up huge — 15 points and 10 rebounds and a huge block in the final couple of minutes of the Cavs’ 105-101 win. Thompson hasn’t played much lately but is showing the type of professionalism that’s sometimes lacking in players who sometimes fall out of favor with the head coach.
“I just want to say Tristan Thompson, all series long, we just told him to be ready,” coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. “Come into Game 7, to start and perform the way he did was huge. ”
Thompson disappeared from the regular rotation soon after the Cavs retooled their roster with the additions of Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance, Jr. but was ready when his number was called.
“It’s nothing like a Game 7,” Thompson said in the postgame presser. “I was telling the young guys, ‘This is what the playoffs are all about. It separates the men from the boys.’”
If anything, Thompson should have fresh legs for the Toronto series.
Of all the Texas players picked in the NFL draft, the one that most intrigues is linebacker Malik Jefferson, who went to the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round with the 78th overall pick.
The Bengals have always had at least one elite ‘backer and in recent years, it’s been Vontaze Burfict, who has made more headlines for the numerous cheap shots he has delivered to the opposition than for great plays. It will be interesting to see how this new dynamic plays out with Jefferson — one of the nicest guys to come out of UT — and Burfict, who has earned a reputation as this generation’s Conrad Dobler.
Don’t go to the dark side, Malik.
Former Horn Holton Hill was not one of the 256 names called over the weekend but he has a good chance to stick on with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent. The Vikes need help in the secondary, particularly at the nickel corner position that was occupied by 39-year-old Terence Newman last season.
Hill’s issues off the field in college were the reason he went undrafted because he was arguably best defensive back in the Big 12 before he got suspended. At 6-2 with long arms and sub-4.5 speed, he could make an immediate impact on special teams if he makes the team.
Minnesota took Central Florida corner Mike Hughes in the first round, but in a division like the NFC Central — where Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford reside — you can never have enough DBs.