Bob Costas Visited “Real Time” to Discuss Taylor Swift and the Super Bowl

A busy news week made for a somewhat hectic episode

February 10, 2024 11:22 am
Bill Maher
The latest "Real Time With Bill Maher" took on a wide variety of subjects.

Last week, in the lead-up to the Grammy Awards, Real Time With Bill Maher featured an appearance from Killer Mike. This week, in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, one of the episode’s panelists was Bob Costas, one of the nation’s best-known sports journalists. A timely choice, to say the least. Though, to be fair, Costas also had plenty to say about the state of contemporary American politics.

If viewers were expecting a lengthy deconstruction of Big Game narratives, though, that wasn’t on the table. The panel didn’t get to the Super Bowl until the second half of their discussion, and even then, the game was addressed largely through the Taylor Swift of it all.

Specifically, both Maher and Costas pointed to Swift’s tremendous cultural cachet right now. “This is a person who could literally swing this election,” Maher said. “I don’t know what that says about this country.” Both Maher and Costas made the point that they saw this as being more about turnout than ideology.

From there, the panel (which also included The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan) talked about another high-profile 2024 sporting event: the Olympics. Maher brought up trans swimmer Lia Thomas’s lawsuit in which she seeks to compete in the Olympics. Costas was a voice of relative moderation, pointing out that Thomas had competed well since coming out as transgender, but was not dominating the sport overall.

“She’s much better, relatively, in competition with women,” he said. “She’s not really at the top across the board.”

Costas seemed to have spent a lot of time thinking about the issue, and also addressed the elephant in the room – namely, that the debate over trans athletes can (and often does) head into places that have very little do with sports themselves. “Some people who use this as an issue actually are hostile towards trans people,” Costas said.

Which isn’t to say that he was entirely supportive of trans athletes’ right to compete. He was of the opinion that creating trans-only categories for sports was a bad idea, but also cited boxing’s different weight categories as a possible template, at least for certain sports.

In other words, he felt that sports’ governing bodies should have some clear rules in place. “I’m not prepared to say exactly what those rules would entail,” Costas said. It’s probably more indicative of the state of televised debates than anything else, but Costas’s admission that he didn’t have all of the answers was, in its own way, refreshing.

Other notable moments from this episode:

  • Referenced in the episode’s opening monologue: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the late Toby Keith and the goldfish you win at a local fair.
  • In the same monologue, Maher alluded to Special Counsel Robert Hur: “He spent 300 pages calling Biden Mr. Magoo, basically.”
  • Panelist Caitlin Flanagan on Hur, who was also her former student: “I taught him 11th grade English, but I don’t hold myself responsible.”
  • The interview that led off the episode paired Maher and Coleman Hughes, author of The End of Race Politics: Arguments for a Colorblind America. Largely, their conversation fell into the “Maher and guest agree on their frustrations with all things woke and the audience applauds” vein.
  • New Rules found Maher wondering if some version of Ozempic might exist that could tempt Timothée Chalamet and his peers into eating more.
  • The bulk of New Rules opened with Maher citing a candidate for local office who’s expressed frustration with the state of the U.S. That the video clip he used featured a Libs of TikTok watermark seems, shall we say, less than ideal. Primary sources matter.
  • The segment was ultimately critical of both left and right, though there was another weird moment when Maher pointed to a list of celebrities who’d talked about leaving the country if a Republican candidate was elected yet had not done so when that came to pass. Specifically, the list included Robert Altman, who died in 2006. If memory serves, Altman was no fan of George W. Bush — but his inclusion felt a little less than topical.

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