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Sunday, February 19, 2006

A record amount of events: good! A record amount of fluff: bad! Still, NBC continues to impresss after a full week of coverage. Let's get started.

• After Bob tells us what's coming up tonight, we head straight over to the Men's 4x10k Cross Country relay, which is in the middle of a white out. Because of the snowy conditions, you can easily tell which cameras are far away with big lenses and which are close up and attached to something mobile (a snowmobile maybe?). The snowmobile cam is pretty nice, because it can get so close that it makes you feel like you're right in the middle of the pack.

Now, had you been watching Olympic coverage Saturday afternoon like I was, you would know that the big rivalry in this event is between Norway and Italy. If you had NOT been watching Saturday afternoon, that's okay, because Al Trautwig told us all about that rivalry again, and then NBC even provided us with 30 seconds of fluff on the matter. I suppose that since this rivalry began with the Italian win in Lillehammer in '94, a Norwegian victory in Turin would be some sort of revenge.

And just a note about the competition itself: a lot of winter events look, well, easy. In curling, you're just pushing a rock. Luge, skeleton, and bobsleigh are all just riding a sled down a hill. I know, I know... all of these people are probably in great shape, I'm just saying they don't LOOK that hard. Cross-country skiers, by comparison, are WORKING. HARD. I'd bet that 90 percent of the population could ride a luge all the way down the track, but probably only one percent could complete a lap of the Italian cross country circuit. And half of that one percent would probably drop dead after crossing the finish line. Cross country skiing is HARD.

• Over at ice dancing, Dick Button lets us know that if "Sally and Joe Front Porch" think they can do that (ice dance), they've got another thing coming. Hey! I know Sally and Joe Front Porch, and they're not deserving of Dick Button's scorn.

• Tonight on ice dancing, we find out what a "twizzle" is, and despite what you'd think, it has nothing to do with Snoop Dogg and his foshizzle. Rather, it's when the individual skaters spin on one skate. Dick Button and Tom Hammond try some Snoop-speak in making a joke about twizzling. Rarely have two people sounded less hip.

• Emily Hughes fluff. Who? Oh yeah, the girl who's replacing Michelle Kwan. And no, I don't mean the "woman" who's replacing Kwan. Hughes is only 16. Oh, and it's not just fluff about Hughes, it's all about all of the female figure skaters. And why are we talking about them two days before their event? Because it's paying the bills. Fine. Let it pay the bills two days from now. Cut out the fluff for now, 'kay? The four minutes we spent TALKING about Tuesday's women's figure skating competition is time we could have spent WATCHING the ice dancing that's going on RIGHT NOW. NBC, why do you think people would rather watch fluff about upcoming skating instead of watching skating that's going on behind you?

• Back on the cross country course, that rivalry that NBC has been touting for two days is officially dead. The Norwegian team is nowhere to be seen from the front of the pack, where the Italians are running away...uh, skiing away?... from the competition. And who is the last Italian skier? Zorro! Or at least, that's Cristian Zorzi's nickname. There's a tiny bit of fluff about him, but it's only about 15 seconds long, and I'm not going to count that. The Italians win easily with the Germans and Swedes right behind them. The Norwegians? Fifth, and more than a minute back. Some rivalry. Heck, Norway even lost to the French! And they call themselves Scandinavian.

• Bob has a little fun with Zorzi's nickname, joking that only Cristian's closest friends refer to him as Don Diego.

• Off to the bobsleigh, where American Todd Hays will try to move up from sixth place into medal contention. He doesn't, but commentator Bob Neumeier takes us behind the scenes of bobsleigh preparation for a minute of bobsled fluff. I might have been willing to count this as events if they would have shown us anything surprising, but mostly it's just racers "visualizing" the course, which means we get lots of footage of guys in helmets and tights dancing around with their eyes closed as they "drive" through an imaginary course. Fluff.

• Back in the ice dancing arena, Galit Chait of Israel is wearing a poodle skirt. No, not a skirt with a picture of a poodle on it, more like a skirt that looks like it's assemble from poodles. Dick Button calls it a big powder puff.

• Enough with the sweet stories, today Jimmy Roberts takes us to the edge on tonight's version of Chevrolet Olympic Moments, as we talk about Shaun Palmer. Some consider him the best snowboarder ever, but Shaun had a bit of a drinking problem. So much so that one day, after having an argument with his girlfriend, he overdosed on alcohol and cocaine. Okay, maybe it was a bit more than just a drinking problem.

Anyway, while in the hospital, he decided to turn his life around, and in a few short months of training, he qualified for the Olympic team at age 37 in the snowboard cross event. Sadly, While training for Turin, he tore his Achilles tendon and never got the chance to compete in Italy. However, Jimmy points out, the Olympic dream saved his life.

Is this all very sad? Yes. But what kind of precedent does this set? Are we now going to run fluff stories not only on every athlete that made the Olympics, but on every athlete that didn't make the Olympics? NBC's going to need to dedicate another channel to coverage if they want to do that.

• Dick's dissing the twizzles! You know, the moves of the ice dancers from Ukraine. He also isn't to fond of the women catching their feet and pulling them over their head. Speak for yourself, Button!

• We take a break from ice dancing to see the Italian cross country team pick up their medals. All four are singing! Excellent! Of course, the entire crowd is singing, too, but leadership starts at the top. They're happy and singing. Now THAT'S what an medal acceptance looks like.

Bob also comments again on Zorzi, saying that he got that nickname in Salt Lake City when he donned a cape and a mask after competition, which Bob says he does after every successful broadcast.

But wait! We're not done with this segment, yet. Now Bob has an interview with... Jerome Bettis? What? Is the NFL in the Winter Olympics now? Perhaps the Ice Bowl is now a permanent part of the Games. But no, it turns out Bettis is here because NBC hired him to be a part of their new Sunday Night Football lineup. Okay, everyone loves The Bus, but four minutes of fluff on him to promote NFL football? Just to provide a timeline, the initial broadcast of Sunday Night Football on NBC is SIX-AND-A-HALF months away. But at least you now know Jerome Bettis will be there. Mark your calendars.

• On to speed skating for the Women's 1,000 meters. And what do we see? Just the competition for about 20 minutes. Imagine that!

• Shani Davis gets his medal and... does this video go with this audio? Shani doesn't even look like he knows the anthem is playing. Shani! You just won the gold! Smile! Joey Cheek only has the silver and he looks like a kid a Christmas.

• Okay, I've heard it again. Shani Davis is either the first African-American to win an individual winter Olympic gold medal OR he's the first black person to win an individual winter Olympic gold medal. Which is it? (And no, they're not the same thing.)

• Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick are having a little spat. Boy, shouldn't that make tomorrow night's 1,500-meter skate exciting? Repeat those sentences for a minute-and-a-half and you have 90 seconds of fluff!

• Several minutes of fluff on Tanith and Ben. Tanith was from Canada and didn't have U.S. citzenship, but she and Ben became dance partners anyway. They made beautiful music together, or... uh... danced to beautiful music together. They missed the Salt Lake Olympics because they were from different countries, but she finally got U.S. citizenship on December 31st, 2005, and suddenly they're the hottest team in the U.S. She thinks bringing a gold back to the United States would be a repayment for everything America has given her. Danith, just seeing you twizzle is payment enough for us. Oh, three minutes of fluff.

• Two ice dancers in a row have fallen. It's like that ice is slippery or something.

• Gah! Now it's three of the last four couples who have hit the ice the hard way. Don't ask me how she'd rig it, but I suspect the French judge.

• Finally Tanith and Ben dance. Wow. They don't make it into first, but only because they were so far behind from the first night of competition. They were certainly the best tonight (I know, the judges say differently, but what do they know?). One more steamy performance like that and they'll have trouble in Turin trying to keep the ice frozen.

• At last, we get back to the final run in the two-man bobsleigh. American Todd Hayes makes a mediocre run and falls out of medal contention. Everyone else makes it down without incident and the Germans win. My NASCAR gene was hoping for a spectacular crash resulting in an unexpected shift in the standings. I guess the ice dancing falls will have to satisfy that craving.

Five hours of coverage! Excellent, but tiring. NBC is doing well so far, but their fluff count keeps creeping up slowly, night by night. And it doesn't reassure me when four minutes of tonight's broadcast were devoted to figure skating events that don't happen for another two days. We'll see what happens. See you tomorrow!




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