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Monday, February 20, 2006

Four minutes of fluff! Are you kidding me? Wow! Let's jump right into it...

• After Bob welcomes us, we start the night with Men's Freestyle Skiing Aerials. Analyst Trace Worthington is pretty good about breaking down how the scoring for this event works. Essentially, it's like diving, except instead of jumping down into water, the athletes are launched upwards off of a snowbank. Oh, and no one is wearing a Speedo. At least, no one we can see.

And right before we go to break, Aerial-Ski-Cam! Ooo... now I'm all dizzy. I'm just going to sit down.

• Not to complain, but the fake athletes in the AT&T ads are singing and smiling during their fake medal ceremonies. Would it be too much to ask that our real athletes do the same? That is, of course, assuming any Americans can make it to the top of the medal stand again. Yes, I'm looking at you, Bode.

• We go from the Freestyle Aerials, where it was night, to the Women's Super-G, where it is high noon. Hey! It's tape-delayed! What do you want?

• Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister wins the Women's Super-G. Well of course! She's the master of Dorf!

• Okay, let's see if the U.S. men can pull out a medal-winning-run in the Men's Giant Slalom. First up, the Hermann-ator, Austria's Hermann Maier. This was impressive, especially considering how badly his leg was hurt in a motorcycle wreck he had five years ago. Where did I hear about that? Well, I watched a little of NBC's afternoon Olympics coverage, or, as I like to call it, "Fluff Central." I tuned in to see the gold medal women's hockey game, and was instead treated to story after story of fluff. No wonder the fluff level is so low during NBC's prime-time coverage. They use up all of their stories in the afternoons.

• Ice dancing is all about how Dick Button feels. Just listen to him when he talks. HE likes the oneness of the dancers. HE likes how they make him feel. HE likes the dancers' relationships. Me, me, me! I'm certainly no expert on ice dancing, but I'm betting there's not a "Did It Make Dick Button Happy" button on those electronic scoring screens.

• U.S. ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov are skating to the music of "Romeo and Juliet" but have changed the story to make it a happy ending. I can hardly wait for the Vancouver Olympics, when they'll title their routine "Hearts of Darkness" and do a happy tribute to "Apocalypse Now" while wearing Vietman-era camos and skating to music of The Doors. Only in their version, Colonel Kurtz will break into twizzles! The horror... the horror...

• Jimmy Roberts steps forward into our night to eat up some more time with Chevrolet Olympic Moments. "More than anything else," says Jimmy, "The Olympics is a gathering of people." Really? That's all it is, more than anything else? Couldn't it maybe be a gathering of the best athletes on the planet? After all, an angry mob that's set on, say, burning down a newspaper office that ran an offensive cartoon is a gathering of people, but that's not the Olympics.

Anyway, we get to meet some of the people with unusual backgrounds thanks to Jimmy. Finlay Mickel of Scotland is a skier that likes to play bagpipes. Australian moguls skier Dale Begg-Smith is worth possibly $40 million for developing pop-up software earned him the nickname of "Spam Man" (some might argue that this makes him LESS than human). Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister, who earlier won the gold medal in the Women's Super-G, has pet rats. Ahh... the diversity of human-kind is so... uh... diverse! Yes! Let us all celebrate! Four minutes of fluff.

• Back to the Giant Slalom, where we get to see how Bode Miller will disappoint us this time. Wow! Bode takes the lead! Maybe we all just needed to be more critical of him earlier. Also, he looked exhausted when he finished. Earlier in the Games, I probably would have made some kind of "out all night partying" joke, but at this point, I think it's pretty obvious that Bode is as disappointed with his performance as any of his critics are. He's just pushing extra hard to win something.

But then... Svindal ties Miller, Raich beats both of them, and the Hermann-ator finishes between them for second. Now Bode is tied for bronze, with the fastest skiers left to come down the hill. Will he luck out and get a medal?

Nooo... subsequent skiers knock him down to sixth. Well, you can't say he's not trying.

• From the bright daylight of the Giant Slalom, we again return to the nighttime event of Freestyle Aerials. Only one American qualifies for the finals. One?! But we're extreeeeme!! Shouldn't we be dominating this sport?

• Back to ice dancing, where the Italian couple that fell last night are apparently so mad at each other for the fall that they're not speaking. I'd count this as fluff, but it's more like pregame. Plus, I find it hilarious.

Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio take the ice, still barely making any contact, and then they do their routine. By the end, they're smiling! The power of ice dancing has brought them together! Whatever. Is it just me, or does Margaglio look like Max Headroom?

• How dare Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski dance to "Bolero!" The great Torville and Dean ice danced to that in 1984! It's sacrilege! Wow. Talk about someone too wound up in their sport. IT'S A FREAKIN' SONG! They can skate to whatever they want. At least tonight Chait isn't wearing the poodle dress.

Torville and Dean. Torville and Dean. Torville and Dean. AAAAAUUUGGGHH!! That was 22 YEARS AGO, Dick Button! Some of these competitors aren't even old enough to remember Torville and Dean. I know I'd be happy to forget them, but DICK BUTTON WON'T LET ME.

• The last group of ice dancers goes through their warmups. Apparently, red is the dress color of choice for finals dancing. NBC has promised us no commercials for the first three couples. We'll see if they can make it.

• The first couple on the ice, Yelena Grushina and Ruslan Goncharov, had a program that lost Dick Button's attention. And we've already established it's all about him.

• Tatyana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia are next. They're the current leaders, but Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are right on their heels. Hey! They're dancing to "Carmen!" Haven't all kinds of figure skaters skated to "Carmen" in the past? Why doesn't Dick comment on that? Oh, because Torville and Dean didn't dance to "Carmen," so it doesn't matter. Anyway, they skate a clean program and take over first place.

• After one more couple and 23 minutes of competition, we do indeed go to NBC's promised advertisements.

• Next up, Tanith and Ben. Awesome. Just awesome. I say gold. But for Dick, it's all about how it made him feel. It's all about him! So what do the judges say? Drum roll please...

Second place? Bah! Ice dancing is a sport without justice. What am I saying? Ice dancing doesn't deserve to be a sport! Bah, I say! Bah!

Okay, maybe Tanith had a couple of missteps, but robbed! I say robbed! And I'm not just saying that because I think Tanith is hot.

• The French couple of Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder take the ice to finish out the night. That's a nice outfit Schoenfelder is wearing. Is he supposed to be Flash Gordon?

• And now it's night again. Or, was it night to begin with? I don't remember. Either way, it's dark, and we return to the ski jump hill, where Team Ski Jumping is underway. Despite its name, only one jumper is flying off the hill at a time. Maybe for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 the IOC will REALLY make it into a team event. Team Pursuit Ski Jumping, maybe? Oh! Ski Jumping Cross! Where four jumpers go down the hill at once and the first two to make it to the bottom of the mountain qualify for the next round! Ohhhh... that would be AWESOME!

• Finally, we close the show on a sad note. Long-time announcer Curt Gowdy died at age 86. In this era of extreeeeeme announcers, Gowdy's voice would have been welcome for many sports in these Olympics. And although this is technically a fluff piece, I'm going to add another rule (call it the Gowdy Amendment): If you die during the Olympics, a piece on you won't be considered fluff.

Okay, I obviously could have counted a little more fluff, but I'm not going to fault NBC for the Gowdy piece. Besides, with nearly three hours of event coverage in a four-hour show, it could hardly be any better. Well done, NBC. Well done.




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