The Better Story

February 17, 2010

Leading up to the Women’s Snowboard Cross final in the Olympics yesterday, all the talk on NBC was about Lindsey Jacobellis and her redemption arc. Telegenic young U.S. athlete making up for the boneheaded hotdog move that caused her to fall and throw away a certain gold in the final in the Torino games four years ago.

But there was a better story right in front of them. A more heartwarming story. Vancouver-area native Maelle Ricker had been in that same final four years ago. And unlike Jacobellis, Ricker didn’t walk away from the hill with egg on her face. Maelle was airlifted off the hill after a scary crash the product of trying too hard to win.

When I finally heard that story last night (belatedly told in midcompetition by NBC talking heads looking for some redemptive quality for the final once their golden girl choice had failed again), I had no trouble cheering for the Canadian snowboarder to take the gold she won with an aggressive but controlled ride.

While Jacobellis post competition was trying to sell herself as having learned a lesson because at least she didn’t just quit in the consolation heat like she normally would (why, how noble of you angelic one!), Ricker was celebrating a home field hard fought victory.

Maybe by the time Jacobellis finds her way to the other side of 30 she’ll have figured out what it means not to take the competition for granted.


Happiest Medalists–All Three–And Other Olympic Sights

August 20, 2008

[For some reason, the images aren’t showing up the way I expected them to. To see the photos I’m referencing, right click on the bold (and no, that isn’t working right, either) phrases/names and select “view image.”]

What you missed last night, because NBC only cares about U.S. medalists and last night they cared only about LoLo Jones losing, even though an American, Dawn Harper, won the 100 meter hurdles, was this, the <b>happiest medal ceremony</b>. We did, rather belatedly, see just a tiny bit of the <b>elated celebrations</b> of both silver-medalist Sally McLellan and bronze-medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. And we saw Harper’s face during the anthem. But with all three young women clearly delighted with the result, the opportunity to show that winning any medal IS winning was lost on NBC. Read the rest of this entry »

Enough Already!

August 13, 2008

I am, of course, an Olympics junkie. And I’ve spend countless hours already glued to NBC’s various outlets’ coverage of sports as diverse as equestrian 3-day eventing, badminton, and the ubiquitous swimming.

I love the swimming. I love tall men with arms long enough to hug the world clad in lycra, or sometimes barely clad in lycra. Do you suppose they half strip those suits off just so we can see exactly how shaved down they are?

And NBC is doing a pretty good job, whether the commentators are at the venue or in New York, they mostly seem awake on all counts and provide the kind of information you need, whether neophyte or afficionado.

I’m particularly happy with Andrea Kremer as the poolside interviewer. First of all, and probably most importantly, she’s a really really good interviewer. She asks good questions, listens to the answers (when the director is yelling in her ear, that has to be hard), and handles the task with appropriate composed excitement.

But there’s one rotten spot in my Olympic apple. Her name is Cynthia Potter. NBC decided to continue to employ as a diving commentator a woman with a dramatic command of the obvious who at the same time has a tenuous command of her facts and, worst of all, has the most annoying, loudest, unmodulated fingernails on a blackboard voice in the history of sports broadcasting. I’d take Dick Vitale over this woman in a heartbeat. And I HATE Dick Vitale. Read the rest of this entry »

Best Since Yesterday

June 3, 2008

So, the ratings for game 5 of the Pens v Red Wings series last night were the best for a Stanley Cup Finals game 5 since 2002.

And I say, “Whoop-dee-doo!”

The best ratings since a series no one watched and no one cared about that was one of the reasons the NHL brass decided they had to get control of the game and make it better and more palatable for a wider audience. The best since they were really bad before. The best since they were so bad the league couldn’t find anyone to pay serious television rights for the next contract.

It isn’t just the NHL. So much lately I’ve been hearing something is “the best since” and the following date is in this century. Which means it isn’t such a big deal, doesn’t it? If it’s the best ever, yes, big deal. If it’s the best in 20 or 30 years, yes, big deal.

Best since yesterday? Nothing special.

For Me in 2003

December 31, 2002

If the world were organized for my happiness, these things will happen in 2003. Read the rest of this entry »

Coverage Picks and Pans

February 24, 2002

Spasibo to the geniuses who realized that cross country is much more compelling when it is athletes racing each other and not the clock. The thrilling finishes in many events would have been missed if they were still staggering starts.

Thank you to whoever invented the scoring illustration for the shooting range in biathalon. With multiple shooters at the stations, it was exciting (I’m writing about BIATHALON) to see who was going to be going all out and who was going to be taking a side trip to the penalty loop. (And isn’t that a great idea? How about a penalty loop for every announcer who can’t learn to pronounce Sikharulidze after a full week of controversy?)

Grazie to the virus that silenced Don Chevrier in the middle of the curling tourney. Chevrier and Don Duguid may be the best curling announcers in the business. (Hmm, in that Home Depot ad, Don Barcome is a curling expert. Is everyone connected with curling named Don?) But when you are broadcasting to a neophyte audience, at least a little guidance is welcome. The two Don’s commentary might as well have been in Chinese. When Bob Pappa was brought in as a replacement for the ailing Chevrier, he asked Dugie the questions I’d been asking the whole first week. Now I understand the scoring and I’m hooked. I even enjoyed the healthy Chevrier when he returned for the medal round.

Merci to NBC for showing some medal ceremonies that didn’t involve U.S. athletes. This may have been a function of the attractive and always rocking medals plaza. But it was still great to see folks not in red, white, and blue in their moment of glory.

Thank you Sandra Bezic and Tracy Wilson for overcoming the early hysteria in pairs and providing solid objective commentary on the subjective mens’ and ladies’ figure skating and ice dance competitions. This is the first competition I can remember for which the commentators concentrated on each of the elements in the short programs and clearly and simply explained what was right or wrong with each skater’s performance. Now if someone could convince Scott Hamilton to stop yelling. Figure skating does not require screaming from the announcers and surely the viewers don’t need to hear a man who isn’t skating grunt through the elements as if he’s personally providing the muscle power.

Apparently I’m segueing to the gripes, so here goes.

Siberian exile is too good for those athletes who still are more interested in the result than the journey. If you can’t win without cheating, don’t show up. Whether you take beta blockers to steady your rifle arm, steroids to build those pushing muscles on the luge run, blood doping for stamina, or stimulants to get you going, if you can’t play clean, don’t show up at the party. Jacques Rogge has it right when he says that if you don’t compete fairly you may win, but you will never be a champion. (Let’s be real. I may have suspected that Johan Muhlegg wasn’t running on normal fuel when he popped up with medal winning performances. There’s a reason this guy wasn’t wanted by Germany, after all. But when I see Larisa Lezutina lose medal number 10 for blood doping, I have to wonder if one through nine were legitimate. It destroys her entire remarkable legacy.)

A week-long, round the clock Jerry Lewis movie marathon to the proponents of short track speed skating who got it included as an Olympic event. It would be exciting if you could tell the winners and losers. But when no race is won by the swift, it might as well be one of those blasted judged sports. If you can’t have a majority of the races with folks playing fair, then stay on the county fair circuit.

Go back to your caves, folks who wish it was still truly amateur. Since it hasn’t been truly amateur since nations began using their military to house, feed, cloth, and train, this is a particularly annoying complaint. And it ignores the fact that without the constant worrying about whether a particular athlete is or isn’t professional, we at least have eliminated one of the main sources of whining. Now if we could get rid of performance enhancing drugs and subjectively judged sports, the only whining left would be the sore losers. We’ll have to put up with them, though. Sore losers are like the poor. They’re always with us.