When death threats from Blue Jays fans made Bob Costas feel checking-in using troubled author's name as alias was safer than his own
Toronto Blue Jays fans took matters too far when they made play-by-play analyst Bob Costas feel as endangered as Salman Rushdie. Rushdie had a fatwa declared against him by Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, calling for his death. Some fans took the same approach to Costas after he declared the Blue Jays had no chance of making a comeback.
The Blue Jays had taken two straight losses to start the American League Championship Series 1989 to the Oakland Athletics. Things were looking bleak for the Blue Jays and Costas pointed that out on commentary, implying they had no chance of making a comeback. This made staying in a Toronto hotel for the remainder of the series a little dicey for the legendary commentator.
Costas was now Public Enemy No. 1 in Toronto. Things had become so terrible that when he checked into his hotel in Toronto, the security guards advised him to use an alias. He came up with the name "Ben Johnson" which was a friendly name
Bob Costas shared this story in a podcast with comedian Bill Maher, which was uploaded to YouTube.
"When you feel safer registering as Salman Rushdie, things have taken an ugly turn" - Bob Costas
Blue Jays fans, and this applies to Toronto Raptors fans as well, often feel like the league has something against them. Whether it be MLB or the NBA. Being the only team in a different country from all the other teams in the league makes fans fear a disconnect. As though the Canadian team is not being set up to succeed. So when those fears were seemingly realized, fans went overboard in their reaction.
At no point should any fan of any team make a visitor who is playing in or working at the game feel unsafe.
What do Toronto Blue Jays fans think about Bob Costas now?
At this moment, 34 years later, it appears like all is forgiven between the city of Toronto and Costas. He was only doing his job, and many fans realized that the handful who made threats was an inaccurate representation of the audience. Sports can be toxic all too often, especially when things aren't going well.
The Blue Jays' back-to-back World Series victories in 1992 and 1993 also contributed significantly to the resolution of this disagreement. After winning two straight championships and being unquestionably the best in the world, it's difficult to care what a commentator says.
Costas commentated many of the iconic moments in team history, including this one featuring Dave Stieb, posted to Twitter.
"Bob Costas is alerting U.S. viewers to #BlueJays Dave Stieb's 6th flirtation in the last 15 months with no-hit/perfection" - Today in Dave Stied History
This was an unfortunate incident back in 1989, but thankfully it seems like all parties have moved on.