Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Today brings the question, does the 2004
Rockwood Olympic Watch give credit for quality fluff? The Russian
judge says "nyet!"
- At this point in NBC's Olympic coverage, I can
only assume that someone on the network's Olympic planning committee
actually read the 2000 Rockwood Olympic Watch and was
intent of fixing most of their problems (I say "most" instead of "all"
Jimmy Roberts is
Today's belief in this theory comes from the coverage of the Women's
years ago, Al Trautwig fluffed-up this event so badly that I actually
called for his head. Today, the same Al Trautwig actually made this event
worth watching. Also, NBC analyst Siri Lindley has apparently even trained
with some of the athletes, giving her first-hand knowledge into their
styles. Who got competent at NBC?
- Whoops. As soon as I get optimistic, NBC brings
me back down to Earth. Triathlon front-runner Loretta Harrop of Australia
is tonight's recipient of the first three minutes of fluff. Loretta's
mother died, and her brother Luke got her into triathlon to give her
something to do to take her mind off of the death. Then Luke died
in a car crash. Again, this is sad and I feel for her, but can I
not cheer on an athlete unless some kind of tragedy has befallen them?
This is the Olympics, not a giant pity party.
Oh, and Al asks Siri, "How often will Loretta think of Luke today?"
Oh, please. Well Al, let me get out my big mind-reader machine and
- Incidentally, just moments after that fluff piece
ended, one of the U.S. triathletes missed a turn on her bike and smashed
head-first into the padded turn barrier. I gasped audibly. During the
Loretta piece I only paid attention because I knew I'd be writing this.
Really, I couldn't have cared less. Why does NBC insist on force-feeding
us fake drama when real drama exists?
- Off to my favorite Olympian, Rulon Gardner. After
qualifying yesterday, today he's wrestling for medals. And in the semifinals
Oh no! Rulon lost! He can't lose! He's America's sweetheart! Uh...well,
that is, if America's sweetheart can be a giant, Pillsbury Doughboy
of a man. Maybe America's sweetheart isn't the right term.
Anyway, NBC's tape-delayed coverage allows us to go right to the later
bronze-medal match, which Rulon does win. And, in
keeping with what he said yesterday, he didn't win the gold, so this
is his last match. To signify this, Rulon takes off his shoes and leaves
them in the center of the ring. Apparently it's some kind of Greco-Roman
wrestling tradition. As he does it, he's obviously very emotional.
Or very sweaty. Or maybe both. With Rulon sometimes it's a little
hard to tell.
But once again, as NBC has tried to force-feed us who we should like
in these games, they've missed out on the genuinely likeable. My mother
called me tonight and said, "Did you see the Rulon Gardner thing? It
was so sad!" My mom is the target demographic for all of NBC's fluff.
She likes gymnastics and figure skating. I'd be willing to bet that
if I asked her what kind of wrestling Rulon Gardner competed in, she
would say something like, "the big, sweaty kind" (actually, I'd probably
say that, too).
But not once did Mom call me after a fluff piece on Carly Patterson,
or Svetlana Khorkina, or any other of dozens of people NBC has tried
to make us care about. Genuine emotion can't be manufactured, no matter
how hard NBC tries. I'll grant that they're doing better this Olympics
than last, but there's still room for improvement.
- "Chevrolet Olympic Moments" with
Jimmy Roberts today featured his best story of the entire games.
Was it because it told us all about the Greek work ethic and their
leisurely life in The
Plaka? No, mainly it was because it was only three-and-a-half
- Back at the triathlon, Loretta Harrop is in the
lead, running far ahead of the pack, but Kate Allen of Austria is gaining
on her, fast. Siri tells us that "Loretta is feeling an unknown presence"
behind her. I didn't realize that mystical powers were part of the
- Proving once again that tragedy doesn't get you
the gold, Kate Allen passes Harrop right at the end of the triathlon
to win the gold. Kate celebrates by running up to the person who got
her started in triathlon in the first place, her boyfriend, Dieter.
is the time on triathlon when we dance!
- Medal ceremony! Joanna Hayes, who won the 100-meter
hurdles last night is just now getting her medal ceremony because the
race results weren't
official until the Russian protest was rejected. But look at her
up there! She's smiling, crying, and singing all at the same time.
I know it's hokey, but I love it when people get all choked up on the
- We bump and set our way over to Men's Volleyball,
where analyst Mike Dodd says that the American team, trailing the
Greeks 20 to 12, has "their backs up against the Aegean." Oooo...geographical
references! Very nice!
- And excellent coverage of the volleyball match,
by the way. Again, NBC uses tape-delay to their advantage by dropping
us into the critical parts of matches four and five in the eventual
U.S. victory. Yes, I would love to see the whole match, too, but cuts
have to be made somewhere.
- Four-and-a-half minutes of fluff on Marion Jones
and the whole BALCO thing. Really? Did we need to see this much
on that? She's only in the long jump. This seems to be overkill to
me, even for fluff.
- NBC starts rapid-firing all over the track-and-field
events. We start at the Women's Long Jump, then go in rapid succession
to the Men's 800-meter race, the Men's Pole Vault, and then over to
the Women's 400-meter hurdles final. Forty minutes of events! Okay,
there were commercials in there, but still, I like it!
- And in the Women's 400-meter hurdles, the home
team wins! Fani Halkia of Greece makes both the home crowd and herself
happy by winning convincingly. It's always fun to see the host country
win something, just because the crowd gets excited.
Later, during her medal ceremony, everybody, and I mean everybody,
sings! And all was good in Athens.
- Off to the pool for Women's Springboard Diving!
Woo-hoo! It's Strobe-Motion! Is it wrong to be more excited by a technical
trick than by the divers themselves? C'mon! It's not even the finals
- We come back from commercial and Bob Costas promises
us over 40 minutes of uninterrupted events. Oh, Bob. You know I've
got a clock on you, don't you? Okay....GO!
- We finish up the Women's Springboard for the
day, where American Kimiko Salduti can't overcome her shoulder injury.
She fails to move on to the finals.
- No ads yet. We move back to the track.
In the Men's 110-meter Hurdles, U.S. runner Allen Johnson takes a
fall and gets a DNF. Afterwards, he declines to talk to trackside
reporter Bob Neumeier. I can't say that I blame him. Bob's been doing
a good job, but what's he going to ask? "What happened, Allen?" "Duh,
I fell down, Bob."
- Hmmm...the spirit of Bob's promise is broken
when we get a minute of fluff on how Shawn Crawford likes the 200-meter
Bob only counts ads as being interruptions. Crawford
wins his heat.
- Grrr....one more minute of fluff on
18-year-old Allyson Felix, part of the "youth movement" that
NBC is choosing to hype this year. She runs in the 200-meter Final
and finishes second to the
mighty-speedy Veronica Campbell of Jamaica. Allyson accepts the silver
graciously, knowing full well that she's probably going to kick butt
in Beijing four years from now.
- Annnnnnnnd STOP! Hmmm....41 minutes. Good
- AIIEEE!! Now Tom Brokaw is getting in on the
fluff! Okay, I'll give Tom this one. Polish prisoners-of-war in
the Nazi Woldenberg camp held their own Olympics starting on July 23,
1944. It involved 6,000 men and took 22 days. They even had their own
homemade Olympic flag, tickets, and programs. I'm not even going to
try to summarize it from memory. I'd just ruin it. It was a really
good story, even though it was ten minutes of fluff.
- Finally, Israel won their first
gold medal ever. Gal
Fridman won the windsurfing event and is dedicating his medal
to the Israeli victims of the Munich Olympics. Oh, and his medal
ceremony? Everybody singing again. It was a good night for singing
along to the national anthem of your choice.
I'm sure NBC had Brokaw's
story scheduled to run tonight for weeks, but it's weird how that
and Fridman coincided, isn't it? I guess sometimes you get lucky.
I really like how NBC has been turning over a large
portion of each night's broadcast to uninterrupted events. Now if they
could just do something about Jimmy Roberts...
See you tomorrow!
2004 Brian Lundmark, all images and text on this page.
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