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Steve Kornacki and his numbers are back — this time at the Olympics. People are thrilled

MSNBC numbers cruncher Steve Kornacki during the 2020 presidential election.Virginia Sherwood for MSNBC

NBC and MSNBC political correspondent Steve Kornacki and his khaki pants achieved widespread adoration during the tumultuous 2020 presidential election. The Groton native’s frenetic energy and ability to break down election data on live TV last November helped audiences understand the complex results unfolding before them.

Kornacki has had his turn at analyzing other events since then — among them dissecting NFL playoff possibilities and horse races for NBC Sports. But this time around, it’s his appearance at the Tokyo Olympics that is turning heads.

The Boston University graduate is covering the unusual summer games for the network, and it’s his upbeat analysis of Team USA by the numbers that is helping to restore some joy to the worldwide sporting event stripped of its typical fanfare by the pandemic.


The Los Angeles Times revealed in May that Kornacki — who only slept for a few hours during election week coverage — had signed a “multimillion-dollar four-year contract” employing him across NBC Sports and its entertainment division, in addition to NBC News. The move, according to the newspaper, was viewed by executives as a way to both seize on his newfound status as a pop culture icon of sorts and capitalize on his data analysis skills — rather than just relegating him to the role of a standard cable news host.

Part of the new deal, the newspaper reported, was that Kornacki will now serve as a regular analyst on “Football Night in America” and the halftime report on “Sunday Night Football,” along with taking part in the network’s Super Bowl telecast in 2022 and Olympics coverage — though that wasn’t officially announced until June.

But despite the news that he would have a role in analyzing the games, Kornacki’s appearance on television screens in Tokyo still came as a surprise to many.


“Can you believe it, Savannah? The thing fit on the plane,” Kornacki said to NBC’s Savannah Guthrie as he gestured at his screen on the day of the Opening Ceremony. “Let’s put this big board to use here and break down Team USA by the numbers.” He then proceeded to circle the data points that flashed up with the enthusiastic narration many have grown accustomed to hearing — including the total number of members, the gender breakdowns, and athletes who are also military service members.

See some of the reactions people had to the “#chartthrob” and “human calculator” making his long-awaited return as a host.

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.