Bob Costas' eye infection has developed into a nightly social-media talking point during NBC's broadcast of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Now it's forced the prime-time host to take at least one night off as he tries to work through the issue.
Updates From Friday, Feb. 14
According to NBC Sports PR's official Twitter feed, Costas is still sidelined due to his eye:
Meredith Vieira to host tonight's Olympic primetime and late night shows on NBC. Bob Costas continues to heal. Matt Lauer gets the night off— NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) February 14, 2014
NBC's official site gave more info:
NBC News and TODAY correspondent Meredith Vieira will fill in for Bob Costas as host of the NBC Olympics primetime show on Friday night, making history as the first time a woman has ever solo hosted Olympics primetime coverage.
The longtime Olympic staple called in to the Today show on Tuesday to talk with Matt Lauer, who will take over the spot for the time being. In typical Costas fashion, he used a sports example to explain the switch, comparing Lauer to Mariano Rivera, as noted by Today's official site:
Reluctantly, I was trying to throw a complete game here, but we're going to have to go to the bullpen, and I don't know if you're aware of this tonight, but you're Mariano Rivera, at least tonight. Let's hope it's only tonight. I'm walking around, I might as well be playing "Marco Polo." I have no idea where I am.
On Wednesday, Richard Deitsch of SI.com reported that Costas remained unable to work:
Matt Lauer will fill in for Bob Costas again tonight on NBC's primetime coverage.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 12, 2014
Buzzer on Fox captured a close-up image of Costas working with the infection:
Costas' eye has garnered more attention than some of the early events at the Games. Will Brinson of CBS Sports even joked he was looking for a station similar to the NFL's Red Zone, which would always have one available camera on the host's eyeballs:
Would definitely watch a camera that focused only on Bob Costas eyeballs. Could even call it Olympic Red Zone.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) February 11, 2014
While the 61-year-old sportscaster was trying to fight through the ailment, it seemingly got progressively worse with each passing night. It doesn't come as a surprise that he's taking a night off to see if he can work back toward full strength.
NBC Sports PR notes that Costas was on quite a streak before the eye infection stopped him in his tracks. Nobody else had hosted Olympic prime-time coverage in nearly two decades, dating back to the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan:
With @MLauer hosting primetime tonight, it marks 1st time since 1998 that someone other than Bob Costas has hosted an Olympic primetime show— NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) February 11, 2014
Whether Costas will be ready to roll tomorrow is unclear. It's a decision that will probably get made on a daily basis until he gets clearance. Until then, Lauer certainly has some pretty big shoes to fill at the prime-time host desk.
Will you miss Costas?
The good news for NBC is that Lauer is a straightforward, professional host. He shouldn't have any major issues keeping the seat warm for a while, although he probably won't bring the same level of opinion to the set.
As for Costas, stepping aside is the right move in order to get healthy. When it reaches a point where an eye infection is attracting more attention than the events, it's time to take a step back until at least some progress is being made.
Once Costas does return, he'll set his (renewed) sights on starting a new Olympic hosting streak.