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Saturday, February 11, 2006

The fluff count is low! Is this proof that NBC has been reading the previous episodes of the Rockwood Olympic Watch? Well, probably not, but you never know! Let's give them something to think about for next time.

• Just for future reference, I will never consider the opening title sequence fluff, even though it's not an event. I happen to love the Olympic theme song, and every show needs a beginning, so this is the one fluff exception I'll make.

• Michelle Kwan injured? A breaking story. At least, as breaking as it can be considering all of this happened seven or more hours ago.

• First event tonight, the Women's Moguls: Qualifying. I loooove the SkyCam that's following the skiers down the hill. It allows for a much better perception of the speed these athletes achieve than the normal camera angles. Also, the announcers for this event are doing a good job of explaining the techniques involved in the jumps without resorting to the constant yelling that a lot of extreme sports analysts end up using.

• Stro-motion! NBC pulls out a technical trick to demonstrate some technical points of the mogul jumping. This particular example might not have been the best one to use, but it's still impressive when used well. I'm sure they'll get a chance later.

• Back to the studio, where Bob Costas kicks us over to the Men's Singles Luge. I'll be honest. I love the luge. But I'll fully admit that there's that NASCAR part of me that loves it just for the possiblity of seeing a rider crash.

• The analyst describes previous champion Georg Hackl's first luge run as "not Hackl-esque." I'm going to use this phrase at random times just to confuse people.

• Chevrolet Olympic Moments with Jimmy Roberts. Tonight we recap the scandal covering the 2002 Ice Skating scandal. You remember... Canadian skaters, French judges, vote trading... all resulting in an extra set of gold medals awarded. Anyway, Jimmy does a serviceable job on this one. Keeping his distance from the story.

Think I'm just rehashing previous grudges here on the Olympic Watch? Well, here's something you haven't heard before: I don't think Jimmy did a bad job on this story. Now, this isn't to say I'm all aboard the Jimmy train fan club, but I will say this: keep it up Jimmy, and you might have one less person in this world that hates you.

• Pairs Short Program Figure Skating. Dick Button! I'm not going to discuss whether or not figure skating is a sport (just by bringing it up I think you can figure out which side I'm on), but I will say that Dick Button's commentary elevates the presentation of this event by several points. His willingness to praise and criticize (bad announcers do one or the other, good annnouncers do both) is what has been sorely lacking ever since NBC grabbed the Games away from ABC, where Button used to work.

• A short fluff piece on the Chinese ice skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo on Zhao's overcoming of his torn achilles tendon injury from August 2005. Having recovered from an ACL tear recently, I can attest that trying to overcome that magnitude of injury in that short amount of time is impressive. Especially if you're trying to reach Olympic-class athlete status. This, however, doesn't mean that this story doesn't count as fluff.

• As Shen and Zhao skate, that NASCAR-crash bit of me comes out again as the analysts talk up Zhao's injury. Here comes their jump, ANNNND... he lands it! And she bobbles. That's kinda funny.

• Back in the studio, Bob sends us back over to the Women's Moguls Finals, which is happening at night. See? There are some advantages to being tape-delayed.

• The camera zooms out from a shot of Saturn--yes, Saturn! The planet!-- to bring us out of the break back to the Women's Moguls Finals. Why? Beats me, but I appreciate the fact that the announcer knew it was 750 million miles away. I couldn't have pulled that stat out of a hat.

• It is Day Three of the Men's Downhill Training... and? I'll admit, I like watching downhill skiing (I'm addicted to the watching of speed), but there are dozens of Olympic events. Isn't there something else we could be watching other than practice? I'm even more torn today than I was yesterday as to whether this should count as fluff. I'm not going to today, but one more day of this or something like it and I might reconsider.

• Back at the figure skating arena, the Chinese couple of Zhang and Zhang is skating to "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin. The day someone skates to "Black Dog" is the day I become an figure skating fan. Dick Button isn't that impressed by their routine, but the audience responds well. I think it's 'cause they love the Zep. Their score ends up putting them in first place.

• You know, in high definition, figure skating almost looks like a sport. Whoops! I said I wasn't going to say anything about that, didn't I? Look at this Polish team. He's a huge Tim Robbins wannabe and she's a pixie. Dick Button thinks they'd be nice neighbors that wouldn't own pit bulls. I think that might be the oddest commentary I've ever heard.

• On to a different event! Men's 5000 m Speed Skating. The first race? Sven and Carl! Yeah, there might be some Scandinavian influence in this sport. Ooo... NBC has the lane flags I liked so much in the 2004 swimming competitions. Nice effect. Of course, since both Sven and Carl are from the Netherlands, showing the flags doesn't do me much good. In fact, without constant reminders, I can't even tell the two apart. They have similar builds and identical uniforms, plus one of the quirks of long-track speed skating is that they switch lanes every lap. It's sort of like a speed skating shell game. Mix up the skaters. Which is which? Sven wins! I think.

• Fluff on U.S. speed skater Chad Hedrick, who decided to switch from roller blades to ice skating while gambling in Las Vegas as he watched Derek Parra win the gold for the U.S. just up the road in Salt Lake City. Because he's been racing on ice for such a short time and uses an unorthodox style, he's known as "The Exception." Melissa Stark adds that today is the anniversary of his grandmother's death, so he feels destined to win. It's fluff, but it's short, and it transitions immediately into his race that puts him in first place. You know, this was actually well done for fluff.

• Is it just me, or does everyone think it's fun to yell out Scandinavian names? Eskil Ervik! Oynstein Grodum! Sven Kramer! Try it at home!

• Oooo... NBC breaks out the speed-skater cam with four laps to go on the last race. Tracking along with the skaters shows you just how fast they're moving. I don't think they use this shot enough.

• Chad Hedrick is so happy to have won! You know, that's actually pretty refreshing in an age when so many athletes look like they're put out to talk to reporters.

• Dick Button points out the German couple of Savchenko and Szolkowy doing something called "mirror skating," where the skaters move down the ice mirroring each others' moves. The camera shoots down the ice showing a wide shot (extra nice on widescreen HD) that shows the technique well. Observations like these are why Button is worth his weight in Olympic gold.

• After three hours of waiting we finally get more on Michelle Kwan and her fall. You know, that thing they teased us with over three hours ago at the beginning of the broadcast? Anyway, they showed her trying and missing at several of her moves, and her disappointment at not being able to have a good practice. Scott Hamilton tries to reassure NBC's figure skating viewing audience that everything will be all right, but honestly, it doesn't look good. I hope Kwan pulls through, but she's going to lose the mental game if she can't start hitting things pretty soon.

• Finally, we close with Bob telling us about Chad Hedrick's superstitious fortune cookie fortunes. Both shown could be interpreted as signs from above that he should win gold medals, but neither made much sense when you added "in bed" at the end. Interesting? Yes. Fluff? Definitely.


Much like the 2004 games, NBC seems insistent on getting my hopes up. I mean, really... nine minutes of fluff? Maybe I'm slacking off and actually enjoying the fluff and not counting it or something. I don't know. All I do know is that so far I'm really enjoying the coverage.

Of course, that being said, figure skating hasn't really started yet. And that is where the real fluff begins. See you tomorrow!




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