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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Kwan resigns, the Flying Tomato wins, and the fluff stays low. Will 2006 be a banner year for low fluff? Keep reading and see!

• We lead with... uh... is this fluff or is this news about Michelle Kwan resigning? Slow motion, sad music, pictures of past Olympics... this indicates fluff. However, there IS actually some new information on Kwan resigning and Emily Hughes taking her place (at least, it's new for anyone who hasn't been watching TV at all on Sunday). I'm going to make an unusual ruling in this case and call it a split decision. This whole segment was four minutes and thirty seconds long, so I'm going to say 2:30 fluff and 2:00 news/events.

• Out to the K95 Ski Jump. We find out that for jumper Matti Hautamaeki ski jumping is his full time job! And then..., ohhhh yes. Ski jump cam! NBC has rigged up a Skycam to fly down the hill parallel to each flying skier. In short, it's awesome. It's a little behind each jumper as he takes off, but then it's like you're flying along right beside him. Color me impressed.

• Men's Halfpipe Qualifying. I like watching the halfpipe competition, but the analysts really need to give me a little more information than just "he gets great air." I can see that, but I don't know how that scores. Is height actually scored? Is speed down the course scored? Does each boarder need to do some preset moves? I don't know because NBC isn't telling me.

• German Georg Hackl makes his last luge run and doesn't medal. How un-Hackl-esque.

• From the good timing department, moments after Tony Benshoof of the U.S. made his last run in the luge, NBC ran the Home Depot ad that features him. Unfortunately for Benshoof, ad appearences don't bring him any luck, and he finishes fourth.

• In his first showing on the medal stand, U.S. speed skater Chad Hedrick sings along with the national anthem. Excellent! The Olympic Watch is always impressed when people sing along.

• Apolo Anton Ohno fluff. I love, love, love short track speed skating, but I don't love, love, love vague flashbacks to previous short track controversies. Really, if they're going to waste a minute telling us what happened in the past, they could at least tell a whole story instead of just showing us some slow-motion editing.

• Fluff on Shaun White, the American favorite for the snowboard competition. Ironically, this fluff piece ended up running after White, a.k.a. The Flying Tomato, failed to qualify for a second-round bye by not finishing in the top six. Anyway, we learned some interesting things about Mr. Tomato, from his two sport status (the other being skateboard) to the fact that he owes some of his skills to his mother telling him to do things that she thought would slow him down. Interesting? Somewhat. Fluff? Yep.

• As Tina Dixon interviews Shaun White about his qualifying run, he talks about landing "nines and tens" where everyone else was trying "twelves." And those are... what? Again, NBC isn't telling me.

• Great sideline reporting on the downhill from Steve Porino. Bode Miller is running on brand new, once-tested skis that are on a design so new that they've never actually been run in competition. Not only that, Miller's choice to use these demo skis influenced his teammate Daron Rahlves to use the other pair of said skis. That's right, there are only two pairs of these skis in the world, and the U.S. team is using them. Untested. How much more convincing do you need to proove that downhill skiers are crazy?

• Both Rahlves and Miller had what I could best describe as mini-fluff pieces about them. They were small segments, just 45 seconds each, but they were there, and they were fluff.

• Steve Porino is reporting from the top of the mountain again. Now that Bode Miller finished fourth, Daron Rahlves is switching back to his original skis, hoping that Miller was done in by the demo skis. Unfortunately, it appears the demo skis actually made Miller FASTER, since Rahlves finishes in seventh place, three spots behind Miller (ultimately, they ended up fifth and tenth). Whoops! Bad choice for Rahlves, but great coverage for NBC.

• How big are the Olympic Games? From experience, I can tell you that a typical college basketball game is broadcast using six cameras. A college football game of the week will use twelve. Super Bowl XL used 36. The downhill skiing competion for the Olympics? I counted at least 22. So production-wise, the downhill skiing event is nearly two-thirds as big as the Super Bowl, and that's just ONE EVENT.

• Simulcam! Yes, NBC used this in 2002, but that doesn't mean it's any less cool. Simply put, it overlays one video over another, giving us the illusion of two racers on the course at the same time. Here NBC used it to show us the crucial point where Antoine Deneriaz of France ran a flawless run while Austria's Michael Walchhofer, who finished second to the Frenchman, made a mistake. The margin of victory in the downhill is small, and this is a great illustration. Good job, NBC!

• Apolo...OH NO! Ohno makes a crucial mistake and a tiny slip costs him in the 1,500 m short track event. Does this really have anything to do with the Olympic Watch? No. I just wanted to write Apolo OH NO!

• Back on the halfpipe, we're informed by the announcers repeatedly that it will all come down to Contestant X's last run. This has been said of almost every contestant. A tip for the announcers: if you can say it about everyone, it's probably not worth saying. Later, Bob Costas informs us that only the better of the boarders' two runs will count toward the medal. See? This is something that the halfpipe commentators could have said an hour ago that would have saved me some confusion.

• Shaun White wins the halfpipe for the second U.S. gold of the Turin Olympics. But will he sing? He's certainly all grins on the medal stand. Annnnnd... no. Well, maybe they don't teach flying tomatoes the words to the Star Spangled Banner in high school.

• Just when you thought we were getting through the night Chevrolet Olympic Moments-free, Jimmy Roberts reports on Michelle Kwan. You might think it's impressive that Jimmy could pull together a fluff piece on Kwan resigning so quickly. Not really. It's clear when you watch the piece that most of the footage was shot as a salute to Kwan's career. But thanks to the miracle of editing, they were able to take most of that footage and use it as... well, as a salute to Kwan's career, the obvious change is that it ended a week or so early.

Galling quote by Jimmy? He said that there was no sadder moment in Utah than Kwan skating in the post-competition exhibition in 2002 holding back tears because she didn't win gold. Really? No sadder moment? She did still win the bronze, after all. Don't you think that maybe the person who finished fourth behind Kwan might have had a sadder moment?

• Bob Costas interviewing Shaun "The Flying Tomato" White is fluff. Nothing but fluff. However, I find a certain sense of glee watching someone as eloquent as Costas trying to interview a snowboarder who is... well, he's 19 and a gold medal winner, so let's be nice and just say "less eloquent." The best part is when Bob calls White out on the Tomato's hope that a gold medal will "bring in the babes." This is a really unfair thing to do to a 19-year-old, but White makes the best of it, even when Costas brings up Shaun's desire to meet Sasha Cohen. What a couple they'd make. The Flying Tomato and the Cute Tomato. Heh.


Well, I have to say I'm pretty impressed so far. NBC's event coverage has been excellent and they've managed to keep the fluff to a minimum. However, single's figure skating is just around the corner, and given that tonight's broadcast featured four-and-a-half minutes of fluff to a skater that's no longer in the Olympics, I think we could all be in for some rough times ahead. We'll see.




©2006 Brian Lundmark, all images and text on this page. All rights reserved.
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