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October 30, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Bob Costas: 2012 Cronkite Award Winner

  |   Video
  • A discussion with Bob Costas, the recipient of the 2012 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism presented by ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Bob Costas
Category: Community   |   Keywords: cronkite, award, journalism, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Bob Costas is one of the most familiar voices and faces in broadcasting. He's also the 2012 recipient of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite Award for excellence in journalism. Earlier I spoke with Bob Costas about his career. Thank you so much for joining us on "Arizona Horizon." It's great to have you here. Cronkite award. What are your thoughts?

Bob Costas: Obviously it's both thrilling and humbling. I was lucky enough to know Mr. Cronkite. There cottonwood to be a late night interview program and if the guest was substantial and interesting enough, we would tape two and sometimes three programs. We did a double with Walter Cronkite. That was the first time I met him. Must have been around 1990. For whatever reason, luckily for me, he seemed to take a liking to me. He was very supportive and kind in his comments. Our paths crossed several times subsequent to that. So I think it's something nice for any broadcaster to be able to say that they actually knew Walter Cronkite, there's a Mount Rushmore of broadcast journalism, he's on it.

Ted Simons: When you were younger, go back as far as you want, when you were a kid, did you aspire to be Walter Cronkite?

Bob Costas: No.

Ted Simons: Did you --

Bob Costas: I aspired to be Vince Skully or Marty Glickman. To be a radio announcer, primarily a baseball announcer but I was interested in all sports. Even hosting, let alone doing anything -- I always thought of myself as a play-by-play man. That's how I arrived at NBC in the early 1980s. But then when Bryant Gumbel went to the Today Show they really didn't have anybody who they thought of as a likely successor. They asked me to take a swing at it, and one thing led to another, not just in hosting sports event but doing nonsports type assignments, appeared I'm glad because I was still able to stick with play-by-play. It filled the spectrum out for me.

Ted Simons: Did you want to be play-by-play, was there a point that you decided, well, I want to be Mickey Mantle, was there a point you realized, this is what I'm going to do, and I'm good at this?

Bob Costas: Well, the first part I think that I consciously realized when I was about nine or ten even though I had the same dream every other kid in the neighborhood had to be Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, if I was going to get into a game without buy ago ticket it was to sit where Red Allen was, not to be where Mickey Mantle was. The notion that I was good at it, that takes a while. I knew I was a little bit better than some of the kids at Syracuse University, but I knew there was a big gap between that and the very best people that I aspired to one day join. That took a while.

Ted Simons: So you got to sports casting, Syracuse university, St. Louis, you've done so much. When you get out of sports -- you said the opportunity presented itself. Was that something you were looking for?

Bob Costas: No. I really have never had a master plan except that I wanted to wind up doing big league baseball somewhere. Preferably in a city where they had a team with a history and tradition. The Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs. Something like that. Then one thing just led to another. These positions were offered to me, and in some, in most cases I said I'll take a crack at it and things worked out okay. But I never pushed for it or never had a specific plan.

Ted Simons: Do you still see yourself as a play-by-play guy more than an interview host or have you grown into that role?

Bob Costas: I think most people see me as a host, interviewer, even a commentator. The one area where I still really enjoy it is baseball. I do think that some portion of the audience still thinks of me as a baseball announcer. Maybe not exclusively, but in addition to the other things.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the state of sports in the United States. Start with baseball. First of all, the Giants winning the world series.

Bob Costas: Right.

Ted Simons: The concept of a bunch of guys not -- a bumbling of guys who just play -- I found that encouraging.

Bob Costas: You know, and there were some imperfect body types out there. You had Sandoval and Fielder on the other team. Even Lincecum, whip thin, they didn't look like a prototypical team and they didn't win like one. A group bipartisan and large of contact hitters, good defense, very strong pitching. The way baseball has evolved now, it's just the way it is, the best teams don't necessarily wind up in the World Series. Neither the Giants or the Tigers were the best over the course of the season, but you've now got a ten-team tournament. In baseball especially different from other sports any team good enough to be in that tournament could beat any other team in the best of five or seven.

Ted Simons: Is that a good thing?

Bob Costas: I think on balance it's a good thing. Will you ever have epic pennant races like the giants overtaking the Dodgers in 1951? No. The World Series will only infrequently match the two best teams in all of baseball, but this system gives more teams than ever and fans something to aspire to. You don't have to be the team with the biggest payroll if you can get in the tournament with 87, 88 wins, anything can happen.

Ted Simons: You got a bunch of guys looking like the Giants running around you can sweep a team of arguably more talented players.

Bob Costas: They just swept the Yankees, then they turn around and get swept by the Giants.

Ted Simons: Football undoubtedly is America's passion. How did that happen?

Bob Costas: The game televises extremely well. The way it's set up they play once a week so every game seems important. 16 games seems like the right number. You get into the playoffs, every game in football is the equivalents of a seventh game in baseball, basketball, or hockey. Every game is win or go home in the post-season and their post-season comes in January when people are home watching TV. It just works out perfectly. These games are played for the most part on Sundays. It's a good TV day there are so many baseball games that it's become a regional sport. People still passionately follow their own team, but they don't follow games on a national level the way they used to. Forgive me if this goes on too long, but a couple of us were reminiscing just last night as we looked at the ratings. Lowest ever even though it's two fairly large market teams. We recalled the World Series between Cleveland and Ohio. Don Olmeyer publicly said I hope the World Series is a sweep so we can get back to Seinfeld and E.R., Friends, everything that NBC was the number one network at that time. The ratings, that World Series got a 15. The seventh game got a 25. When it went into extra innings and pushed past 11:00 it was pushing past 30.

Ted Simons: With that in mind is baseball in danger of becoming a niche sport?

Bob Costas: No, because its revenues continue to grow from all the aggregate sources. ML, all the local telecasts and radio broadcasts. They are online. Overseas marketing. Ticket sales are generally strong. When you and I were kids a team would brag about breaking the million Mark in attendance. Now almost every team breaks 2 million, many break three and approach 4 million. It's strong at that level, it's just lost some of its national appeal. If the Dodgers played the Yankees, if the Cubs got in the world series it becomes for that brief period of time a national story.

Ted Simons: Back to football, the issue of concussions in football. Again, is that something that could change the nature of the sport to where it could become like boxing, so violent the public turns away?

Bob Costas: No, that's an important question. Even as popular and profitable as football is they realize they have a major issue on their hands because as a generation of parents becomes better and better informed about the fundamental dangers of the game -- almost every sport has some danger but in football it's so brutal that danger is fundamental and we know the consequences rust just aching joints and broken bones. It's often Dementia, disorientation. You're going to have a generation of parents at least some of whom will say I like football and I'm not going to let my little boy play football.

Ted Simons: Since I was a kid I have been hearing how soccer was going to take over America.

Bob Costas: Not going to happen. As a participant sport it's great. More and more boys and girls are playing soccer, but there are too many other sports entrenched in the United States. It's not going to overtake the big three or the big four. No one ever goes to Brazil and says, what's wrong with you that you don't care about the NBA or baseball as much as you care about soccer but people wag a finger at Americans and say it's the most popular sport in the world, what's wrong with wow? There's nothing wrong with us. We grew up on baseball, football and basketball.

Ted Simons: Quit pointing at us.

Ted Simons: Before we let you go, I don't want to ask your best interview or worst interview. I want to ask you, the broadcasting moment that you remember the most. It may be mundane, it may not be. Is there something that you look back on and just even in the recesses of your mind it sticks with you?

Bob Costas: I walked into Yankee stadium, October 1 or 2, 1980, and I had done two baseball games for NBC. I was not yet part of their regular rotation of baseball announcers. They had this game scheduled between the Yankees and the Tigers as the backup game in case it rained at the other game. And it did. And it turned out that the Yankees, who should have clinched earlier in the week, had gone on a short losing streak and their magic number was still one. It rained all day in Montreal. Suddenly, I, unknown outside St. Louis, was addressing the entire country but more importantly, I walked into Yankee stadium where only a short few years before I would have walked in clutching a ticket. I walked in and stood at the batting cage and acted the role of network announcer, whatever that meant to me then, and I called this game in which the Yankees clinched the American league east. That wasn't necessarily the most important but it was the one that gave me goosebumps.

Ted Simons: Isn't that something. Real quickly, it felt right? Did something feel right about you being there?

Bob Costas: I knew that I loved it. I wasn't as good as I later became. I hope. I was okay. But it was just the tremendous thrill.

Ted Simons: Bob, great to have you here. Congratulations on all your success. Thank you for joining us.

Bob Costas: Thanks a lot

VOTE 2012: Glendale Prop 457 Debate

  |   Video
  • The Glendale City Council passed a 5-year $125 million sales tax increase this summer to address budget shortfalls. Prop 457 is a citizen initiative that would eliminate that temporary tax increase. Glendale City Councilperson Yvonne Knaack speaks in opposition to the proposition. Pat Quinn, former president of Qwest Arizona, speaks in favor of Prop 457.
  • Yvonne Knaack - City Councilperson, Glendale
  • Pat Quinn - Former President, Qwest Arizona
Category: Vote 2012   |   Keywords: vote, 2012, vote 2012, prop 457, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Glendale's proposition 457 would repeal a sales tax increase approved by the city council in June. It would also require future tax increases to be approved by voters. Here to discuss the measure is Pat Quinn of save Glendale now, supporting prop 457. He's a former president of Qwest Arizona. Here to speak against the proposition is Yvonne Knaack, a member of Glendale's city council. Thanks for joining us. Pat, why reverse this five-year $125 million tax hike?

Pat Quinn: It's very simple. A lot of people are confused great summary of what it does. It restores it back to 2.2% instead of 2.9 and requires the citizens vote on any future sales tax increases. With that sales tax increase the council put in, Glendale became the highest sales tax of any in the country at this size at 10.2%. We decided we needed to look at a way to get that back so businesses weren't hurt, it wasn't an undue burden on residents in Glendale. That's one reason we did the initiative.

Ted Simons: Why is the tax hike necessary?

Yvonne Knaack: After about four years of tightening our belts by eliminating 25% of the employees, 22% of our budget, employee furloughs of about 5.5 million, two years, 5%, consolidating departments, we even had a program called innovate which staff came up with ideas how to save money. It came down to this year we had eight budget meetings and we saw there's no way we were going to be able to make the June 30 deadline for a balanced budget required by state law. That is when we made the decision to do the temporary sales tax.

Ted Simons: 35 cents more on a $50 purchase. First tax hike, city sales tax like in Glendale in 20-some-odd years. Is it not time to maybe look at this and consider what the city council has done?

Pat Quinn: First if what you said was true that would be all right. It's not the first. There's been three city sales tax increases since 1993. All were initiated by citizens. They were to help public safety, fire and police, or to do transportation things. The tax has went up. It's gone to 2.2% over time. Secondly, it sounds really nice, 35 cents on $50. Well, the problem is what is that over the five years of this tax, the average family of four people is going to spend about $2300 on this tax increase. That's significant to me.

Ted Simons: Sounds significant. Do you agree?

Yvonne Knaack: It is significant but I think the citizens of Glendale who appreciate the quality of life in Glendale will gladly pay that. I think most of the citizens I talked to believe. That we're also just one ever the last of 30 cities who has raised taxes. We were fortunate to have a very large rainy day funds which was sound financial planning on our part. When it came down to the recession lasting so long and being so hard, it came to the point where our rainy day fund was depleted and we were put in a position to raise the temporary sales tax or let a lot of employees go, close a couple libraries, pools. It's down to the bare necessities now.

Ted Simons: For those who say the city doesn't necessarily have a revenue problem, it still has a spending problem. You say.

Yvonne Knaack: Well, I say in the past were made when the money was there. Now we are stuck with decisions that we made which were good decisions at the time but because of the recession has caused the problem that we're in such as Camelback Ranch. I know Mr. Quinn will probable bring that up. At that time it was part of a much larger development. There was to be a five-star hotel, a golf course, offices, residential. Then the recession hit and the developer went bankrupt.

Ted Simons: The idea that city parks would close, libraries would see lesser services, police, firefighters fewer, getting laid off, services over all would be affected. Again, for this kind of a tax hike is it worth it?

Pat Quinn: First I don't follow your premise. Let me give you an example. Talk about the new Jameson arena management deal. The city of Glendale and a majority of the council have said publicly have said they would vote for giving Jameson $320 million over 20 years to run the arena. An alternative put out by the city manager but only cost 120 million over 20 years, a savings of $200 million over 20 years. That's $10 million a year. That would not necessarily they wouldn't have to necessarily lower or get rid of police, fire, they can have all the festivals for that 10. The city council has decisions to make in the past we think they have not always made the best decisions. We want the citizens back involved so if there's a tax increase the citizens vote on it.

Ted Simons: Sounds maybe police and fire, parks, libraries are not threatened.

Yvonne Knaack: Well, they are. Regardless of whether the coyotes are there or not we have to have this tax increase. It's a temporary and it's to get us through the next few years so we can make more cuts and we can't just jump off a cliff because it definitely will affect the citizens very negatively. I just think that we as a council made a decision, and as an emergency, that's why we're elected by the citizens, to make those type of decisions. I know Mr. Quinn's group is trying to take away that decision making process from the city council.

Ted Simons: Respond, please.

Pat Quinn: First of all, it's interesting, all these meetings they had and things, they really never started looking at the budget in earnest, looking for alternatives until after initiatives made T. once our initiative made it the city said, police and fire are going away, we're going to close libraries. We said all along if you think you have a $20 million problem we just found 10 of it if you don't do the coyotes deal. Today I heard they will pick up about $7 million over five years, that's another seven, so you're really close. Maybe some of them should be closed and you go look at them like the festivals. Some probably make money, some don't make money.

Ted Simons: It sounds first of all as far as the coyotes are concerned you see that as a major factor.

Pat Quinn: The arena agreement is a major factor.

Ted Simons: So once again, we're back to the coyotes. Is it time for the city to say we simply can't afford this. If police appeared fire are going to be threatened, if this tax increase doesn't go through, we have to look at this thing again?

Yvonne Knaack: We built the arena for the coyotes. They bring in $500 -- they bring in 500,000 people a year to the Westgate area. The offices around there, Cabela's, Herald that was part of the bonds election that voters approved in 1999. It's unfortunate that the coyotes went bankrupt. No one ever expected that to happen. So we got stuck with this problem. It is still our problem. We still own the arena. We have the debt to pay on it. Maintenance. I still believe if we can get the owner in there that that would be the best solution. We had Mr. Birenbaum, an attorney that did the study onto the gift clause, who said over the long run we would come out okay on that. We would make money. He didn't even include the revenue from the Westgate area.

Ted Simons: Can you afford to have that place out there, not have a hockey team?

Pat Quinn: Well, if it costs you $15 million a year to have it going with a hockey team, it only costs you $6 million to not have it going, that seems like a $9 million a year savings to me.

Ted Simons: So you're saying if it sits empty it will save the city money?

Pat Quinn: First of all if you got a more traditional management agreement, that manager would come in and try to fill it with different things, a tractor pull, ICE skating venue, whatever it is. The right now the owner of the coyotes is the manager of the arena. What incentive do they have to bring any shows there besides the coyotes?

Yvonne Knaack: Actually with the agreement we're crafting with Mr. Jameson he has obligations to bring other events there.

Pat Quinn: Let me respond to that. That here's the deal. There going to give him on average 15 million a year. The deal they have with Jameson, if the coyotes don't play a game he has to pay the city $60,000 for every game they don't play. That's $2.4 million. If he doesn't have any of the 30 events he's required to have he has to give the city $30,000 for every event he doesn't have up to 30. He gives the city basically $3.3 million and they give him 15.

Ted Simons: I don't want to get too bogged down in the details. Obviously this is a major factor, however, another major factor of this proposition is all future sales tax hikes would have to be approved by voters. Is that wise?

Pat Quinn: Yes.

Ted Simons: Why?

Pat Quinn: It's wise where Glendale is now. One of the things while they talk about a temporary sales tax, there's no way this taxis temporary. Traditionally what they have done with their bonds and with this arena deal if it goes through in the first five years you have low payments. After five years they start increasing. Some of these bonds and things have been around since 2002, 2003. They have had the years when the payments are down. If you look at what's going to happen after five years starting in the years six and the seven you'll see payments go up for bonds, for the coyotes.

Ted Simons: The idea that voters get a say on all future tax hikes, why not?

Yvonne Knaack: Well, I would hope that they would. However, to take that authority away from the city council who are elected to represent those citizens I don't think is right. That's why we are there. That's why we have the ability to raise that tax because had we not, we would not have been able to balance our budget this year. Just plain and simple. Do I think it should go to the voters? I would hope so. But in an emergency situation a council needs that ability to make that decision.

Ted Simons: What about a council elected by the people doing what it's supposed to be doing?

Pat Quinn: People gave them the ability to set sales tax. The people can take it away from them. It shows to me that the citizens are fairly savvy. If in three times since 1993 they have went in and said we need more help with fire, police or transportation we're willing to raise sales tax to do that. The city council can put it on the agenda, you can vote fairly quickly.

Ted Simons: But as far as being savvy they have also voted this particular city council into office. The deals with The Coyotes and Camelback Ranch have come from this council.

Pat Quinn: The savvy voters weren't seeing the ramifications of this until now.

Ted Simons: The idea of lower sales taxes in Glendale. The idea that it would attract shoppers from other cities, a higher sales tax would make Glendale shoppers go somewhere else. Valid?

Yvonne Knaack: To a point because since the sales tax went in in August we haven't seen a lot of push-back, especially from small businesses, people that I ask, Arrowhead Malis packed. Cabela's is packed. All the places I have been. Our sales tax revenues are up.

Ted Simons: We have to stop it there. Good discussion. Good to have you.