Defining the Bob Costas effect

Every now and then it’s good to challenge your views. If nothing else, it gives us the chance to grow. As we mature, our insights become more in depth, our tastes tend to be more nuanced, and our goals have us reaching higher and farther than a younger, less experienced version of ourselves might have thought possible. All of that tends to make our thought processes shift a bit.

As an example, when I was a kid I thought Ranger Andy could see me from the floor of the production studio at the CBS affiliate broadcasting out of Hartford, Connecticut. Every afternoon he’d do his program, and every afternoon he’d talk to the kids of the greater Hartford viewing area as if the television was a two-way communication device. If memory serves, I believe I may have answered some of his questions out loud occasionally, too. Of course back then I thought Bosco was the greatest drink ever, and seriously considered being a superhero when I grew up.

Things change. And that’s a good thing. The alternative is not pleasant to think about. I ask you, what kind of a world would we live in if everybody picked a set of tastes and goals and stuck with them for a lifetime without ever revisiting their choices?

This brings me to my latest theory. I have creatively named it The Bob Costas Effect, because I think that’s an apt label to hang on my premise. Now, stick with me here and everything will become clear in a moment. But first, a word or two about the actual Bob Costas.

BobcostasBorn in Queens, New York, Bob Costas is an American institution. Yet, among the many things Bob is not famous for are the following. To the best of my knowledge he has never hit a baseball into the bleachers, or thrown a perfect spiral to win a game in the final seconds, dunked a basketball, or put a slap shot into the net a millisecond before the buzzer sounds. But Bob Costas is undeniably at the top of his game – and he’s been at the top of the heap for a good long time.

Bob is all about sports. He’s called football and baseball and hockey and basketball. He’s anchored the Olympics and has hosted talk shows where he has spelunked into the deepest, darkest recesses of our sports heroes’ brains to bring their innermost thoughts to light.

No, Bob doesn’t play the game. But he is absolutely, undeniably, 100%, dyed in the wool, a sporting man.

When you hear the name, Bob Costas, you don’t think about waffles. You don’t flash back to images of the Berlin Wall coming down, astronauts landing on the moon, or a river breaching its banks. Very few of us would attempt to imagine him in a Speedo, and it is virtually inconceivable to think of Bob playing anyone but himself in a movie. Nope, when we think of Bob Costas we think of sports.

He’s loved, he’s loathed, he’s well known, and he’s successful almost beyond imagination in an industry that’s known for being ruthlessly competitive. Bob Costas — a man who possesses no special physical abilities, is of less than average height, and as far as I know runs no faster and jumps no higher than the average 60 year old man — is undeniably, deeply involved in sports. And he has been professionally engaged in that activity for nearly 40 years.

With all that being true, I wonder why it is we aviation nuts have been so reluctant as a group to embrace the Bob Costas Effect. If the Effect is true, and every indication is that it is, there is no need to be a pilot to be an ardent aviation enthusiast. It should be possible for anyone to be a flag-waving proponent of the wonders of aviation, regardless of whether they’d ever sat in the left seat, installed an engine, replaced the fabric on a classic, or even done something as pedestrian as pulling the chocks so someone else can go flying.

That being the case, just imagine how large the pool of aviation enthusiasts could be if we threw open the doors of opportunity and welcomed anyone in. Heck, what if we went out and recruited them?

Is there a public high school in America that doesn’t have at least one kid who is interested in aviation, but doesn’t know how to get involved? Is there a Chamber of Commerce in your state that is completely devoid of businessmen and women who might benefit from having a better understanding of how general aviation could help them professionally? I doubt it. In fact, I suspect there are people in every walk of life who would like to have at least a fleeting affair with general aviation — and would be inclined to make the leap if they only had a friendly hand to hold throughout the process.

Wouldn’t you love to be Bob Costas in that situation? Well, you can be. Just step up, speak out, and share your enthusiasm for the activities you love the way Bob does. Don’t try to convince the customer how cool you are. Bob would never do that. Tell them how cool aviation is. That’s the real story.

Explain what the pilot is thinking and doing as he (or she) taxis out to the runway. Tell them what’s going on in the cockpit as they make that base to final turn. Tell a story of triumph. Let them know how it feels on the day you do your first solo, or when you leave the examiner’s office with your temporary private pilot ticket in hand. Share the drama and the excitement of aviation the way Bob would. Even without cameras and microphones, you’d be a star to at least the person you’re sharing you’re sharing your enthusiasm with.

I suspect that would lead to a larger population of aviation enthusiasts — and that would be welcome change — thanks to you, and Bob Costas, of course.


  1. Maria Zulick Nucci says

    So true! Aviation, especially GA, probably has more supporters among “outsiders” than it knows; it needs to get out and find them, by getting its many positive messages out.

    Jamie’s as-usual right-on comments reminded me of my aviation career’s start at PIT. Wise minds thought my experience as an attorney in eminent domain, contracts and government liability would benefit the federally funded soundproofing program in the Planning Department; not long after, I was promoted to something in the Properties Department. Alas, someone in Planning – not involved in my hire – kept at me about how I did not have a pilot’s license and did not have any aviation background. Um, like, uh, a person cannot learn?

    I see more & more articles on programs getting youngsters interested in aviation, not just as potential pilots but as fans who appreciate its history and importance. (Yes, especially happy to see the focus on getting girls and young women interested: I have experienced tremendous support from “the guys” over the years, but we can always strive to do more and better.)

    “A” Bob Costas for GA would be great, but who says we cannot have multiple ones at the grass roots level – meaning all of us? Let’s get to work!

    PS – agree with Michael Dean on subdivisions and PR – and on Costas!

  2. Anthony Hebert says

    Thank you for that inspirational advice! Aviation desperately needs a Bob Costas to bring back the romance and excitement it once generated. I honestly believe that our youth will be the ones who re invigorate the General Aviation community and it will be a win win situation. Our youth will win because it will give them the much needed inspiration to embrace literature, science and math. General Aviation will win because it will be infused with thousands of new Pilots and Aviation Enthusiast. But they need a thousand people like Bob Costas to introduce them to this fascinating world above our heads. And you are correct……Pilots are the tip of the spear in a much larger community that embraces the sky.

  3. Roy Fassel says

    Flying, and promoting flying is the greatest gift I have been given in my lifetime. The limitless experience of hanging in space, 10,000 feet above earth, looking down at the prairies of Kansas, the Rockies, or looking up at night, the romance of the monent can only be felt by a pilot, or a pilot that can paint the picture for those not able to reach that goal. We all, brothers & sisters in giving the experience to others is what its all about.
    Fair winds and clear skys to all.

  4. Michael Dean says

    You can put me in the “loathed” catagory when it comes to Bob. But I get your point, Jamie. And it’s a good one. Here’s another “positive” reason to build that population of aviation enthusiasts.

    You know that new subdivision across the road from the airport? The one that used to be a bean field just a couple short years ago? You know the residents of those new homes might be less likely to complain, a few years hence, about the airport noise if they, themselves, have caught the “enthusiasm”. A little goodwill PR now, could pay off loads someday.

  5. says

    Good points as usual. But, being from New York City originally, I would have called it the Marv Albert effect. “The hoop, and the hack!”
    Sharing with AAP staff right now.

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