Friday, February 24, 2006
thrill of victory! Daa-daa-duh-DUHHHHH... and the agony of defeat
(see NBC's ski jumper tumbling off the Fluff Mountain Ski Jump).
Do I even need to say it?
We start the night with the Champions Gala. Is the Champions Gala
fluff? Well, is there a medal for being best at the Champions Gala?
So, if it's not an event and it's not an ad, what else could it
be? Do I answer every question with a question? Gala is fluff!
We're off again to the speed skating track, where tonight we get
to see Chad Hedrick try for one more of those five medals he was
supposed to win in the 10,000-meter race. A 10k is a long race
to show on TV. I'm betting a commercial break is going to shorten
this race a lot.
Ding! We have a winner! When we left for commercial,
there were 19 laps left in the first race, and now, when we return,
down to the last 7 laps. NBC did something similar to this in
swimming events back in 2004. It doesn't particularly
bother me. I mean, really, the scenery never changes at the track;
do you want to watch someone go in a circle for 15 minutes? NASCAR
fans, don't answer that.
Incidentally, you know those Home Depot ads that talk about what
a super hero is, referencing Olympic athletes? Out of all the Olympians,
I think speed skaters look most like superheroes. They're wearing
spandex, they have broad shoulders, narrow waists, and unnaturally
Watch them as they stand in the starting position
and they look just like they're in a comic book. If one of
them would just wear
a cape someday the illusion would be complete.
Uh-oh... here's Tom Brokaw again, talking about that story he's
going to tell us during the Closing Ceremonies tomorrow. They're
Dan Jansen analyzes Chad Hedrick's clap skates and finds them...
inconclusive. Well, I can't blame him for trying to be thorough.
I'll count that as events-related.
Shani Davis is here to cheer on Chad. NBC is astounded, given the
skaters' stormy past. I'm not astounded, because I think NBC's
been blowing this whole thing out of proportion for the entirety
of the Olympics.
The Dutch don't like Hedrick because they think they own the sport
of speed skating, and Chad holds the world record in the sport.
They call him "the loud-mouthed Texan." Yeah? Well, I
call the Dutch "orange, tchotchke-wearing freaks." Stick
that in your wooden shoes.
• NBC is still surprised that Davis
is cheering on Hedrick, but it looks like it may do no good, as
Chad is fading towards the end.
But wait! Just as the Netherlands' Carl Verheijen
looks like he's about to pass Hedrick, Chad digs in and leaves
him in his... dust?
In what do you leave someone on an ice skating track? Well, whatever
you call it, it was an impressive display. Hedrick ends up with
Here comes the Italian ice dancer Maurizio Margaglio and... a chair?
Oh, there's his partner Barbara Fusar-Poli. Apparently, they're
still mad at each other, and he's been drinking. Is this going
to turn into A Streetcar Named Desire? I don't know if the Olympic
audience is ready for that. Aahhhh... no, the power of ice dancing
is going to bring them together. Didn't this
happen to them once already during these Games? It must just be something
in that fiery Italian blood.
They're followed by Johnny Weir. Hey!
Isn't this a "Champions
Gala?" He didn't even medal! What's he doing here? I mean,
besides skating to Frank Sinatra's "My Way." An even
bigger question: why did he show up dressed as a swan during competition,
but now that he could completely go nuts he's dressed in a very
conservative fashion? Dick Button makes a good point here, saying
that there was more fire in Johnny's Champions Gala program than
in his actual medal program. Maybe he can ponder all of this between
now and 2010.
Nike still wants me to go to joinbode.com. Where exactly am I going
to join him. In fifth place? I don't think so.
Now Irina Slutskaya skates in non-competition. Here's another interesting
thing about the Champions Gala: NBC's director is allowed to do
more creative camera work. During competition, we see everything
from preset angles. While Slutskaya skated tonight, there was one
camera angle that could only be done from a jib arm over the ice,
and another shot where we panned over from Slutskaya spinning to
the shadow of her spin. Very arty. Not very competition-y, though.
Maybe we could get Tracy Wilson to explain to us how judges will
score that shadow's form.
Tanith and Ben! Tanith, you got robbed on Wednesday! Oh, and you
did, too, Ben. When do all of these skaters have time to put these
extra programs together?
• Back to the bobsled/sleigh, where
we watch to see how the USA-2 sled performs on its second run down
the hill. Nicely! USA-2 finishes
.01 seconds behind, and John Morgan tells us that's the length
of a fingernail. Really? Let's do some math. Let's say the USA-2
sled is going 70 mph across the finish line. 70 mph is 102 feet,
8 inches per second. So, one-one hundreth of that is one foot and
one-third inch. I don't know how big John Morgan is, but I'm guessing
his fingernails aren't a foot wide. Unless, of course, he's a Clydesdale.
Or perhaps if he has gigantism.
I'm betting against either of these cases, however.
And what would the biggest night of fluff be without some fluff
on bobsled/sleigh pilot Todd Hays. Hays was a football player from
Texas, so he's used to Friday night lights. Get it? Tonight's Friday!
Friday night is when Texas high school plays football! See it's
all... oh, whatever.
Anyway, he played college ball at Tulsa, and
finished fourth in the 2-man bobsled/sleigh in Salt Lake City.
Realizing that the
worst place in the world to finish is fourth when the top three
get prizes, he did better in the 4-man bobsled/sleigh and got
silver. So, that all took two-and-a-half minutes. Not for you to
I know, but for the rest of us to watch.
After two runs, Todd Hays and USA-1 are in 7th place, while USA-2
and their fluff-unworthy athletes are one spot ahead of them in
Picabo Street slams Julia Mancuso and the American Women's Alpine
skiing team for being unprofessional. In particular, Street points
tiara-wearing slalom run from last Friday.
She thinks they should be spending more effort trying to win. Gee,
I wonder where I've
heard THAT complaint before?
Thirty seconds of fluff on Julia Mancuso's RV. We got a quick tour,
but I didn't see anywhere onboard for tiara storage.
So will Mancuso respond to Street's challenge? Wow! Yes! Julia
flies down the mountain, and after one run is in first place. Maybe
she'll earn that tiara after all.
Tonight Jimmy Roberts presents us with possibly the blandest Chevrolet
Olympic Moments yet. These Olympics have been full of surprises,
says Jimmy, what with Bode Miller not winning gold in anything,
or Sasha Cohen not winning gold, or with neither Chad Hedrick or
Shani Davis winning gold in the 1,500-meter speed skate. Hmmm...
it seems that only Americans not winning gold is unexpected to
Anyway, to Roberts, the idea of favorites not
winning is inconceivable. To the rest of us, this is emblematic
wrong with Chevrolet
Olympic Moments. It's precisely the unpredictability of the Olympics
that makes them worth watching, but Jimmy will never understand
this because it doesn't conform to the stories he wants to tell.
Jimmy, much like Dick Button, it's not about you.
Back to the bogus Chamipons Gala, where Shen and Zhao of China
are skating, risking Zhao's Achilles tendon once again. And again,
Zhao doesn't give any indication that he's injured. Unlike before,
however, this time Shen keeps her head in the game and lands her
jumps. If she had been as composed in the actual competition, they
might have finished higher than the bronze they received.
Evan Lysacek of the U.S. takes the ice for his bogus performance.
Not even the person operating the CD player can take this seriously,
as he takes two tries to hit "play" correctly. With these
qualifications, I'm betting most of you could be Olympic-class
Pairs gold medalists Tatyana Totmiyanina and Maxim Marinin from
Russia take the ice next. They look pretty and bring in a lot of
ad revenue for NBC.
Back on the hill, Mancuso will finally get her chance to win that
gold. Hopefully, her tiara won't get in the way. Annndd....
does it! And it's not even close. Best of all, since she skied
last, NBC had plenty of time to position their cameras around
her family, teammates, and friends. So often in the Olympics, the
have spent so much time training to keeping their cool that when
they win, their first reactions are more shock than anything
else. The athlete's family, on the other hand, almost never has
problem, and Julia's parents certainly don't, here. Julia's mom
goes from her seat to the rail, back to her seat, then hugs pretty
much everyone around her within a 15 foot radius, all without
her feet ever touching the ground.
Not more than 10 minutes ago, Julia's
fluff piece featured her saying that medals weren't as important
as leaving Turin with a smile.
Well, it's obvious that no one around her feels the same way. The
celebration around Mancuso from her friends is of "Miracle-On-Ice" proportions.
Think the U.S. Women's Alpine Team wanted that "loser" monkey
off their back? After watching their reactions, you know they did.
And after a few minutes, you could tell Mancuso was finally starting
to feel it sink in as well. Everyone there was reacting like it
was the greatest thing in the world to win a gold medal.
knows? Maybe it is. Good job, Julia.
Yevgeny Plushenko takes to the ice, and he's brought props! Specifically,
he's brought a Stradivarius-playing Edvin Marton with him and put
the violinist in the middle of the ice so that Plushenko can
skate around him
he plays. How do I know Marton's name? It was in sequins on the
front of his shirt. Very subtle.
Arakawa is next. Maybe tonight she'll try those jumps that she
passed on to win the gold. Heh. Yeah right. You know, several of
the long shots of Arakawa are not only really beautiful, but they
also show how fast the skaters are moving on the ice. With the
closeup shots skating coverage typically uses, you never get that
sense of speed. Shots like that are something they could consider
in the future.
After her performance, Scott Hamilton says that "in
the blink of her eye" Arakawa's life changed by winning the
gold. Of all people, Scott should realize that all of this isn't
of an eye. Winning the lottery, an act which takes no skill, happens
in the blink of an eye. Training in a specific skill for your entire
life is hardly a blink. I guess "in the blink of twenty years" just
doesn't roll of the tongue, though.
AHHHH!! Tom Brokaw is promoting his fluff piece again! I already
dislike it even though I'm sure it will be well done.
Bob Costas interviews Sasha Cohen. Because he's contractually obligated,
he asks her about her thoughts on the silver, on the competition,
and on her chances on going to Vancouver. Because she's skilled
in dealing with the media, she gives him all of the pat answers.
But then we get to the real meat of this interview, and let me
tell you, I would have been extremely disappointed had Bob missed
Bob pulls up the
Flying Tomato's statement that he'd like to date Cohen. Is there now any remaining doubt that
Costas is the best
interviewer on television? Shut your mouth! Sasha, of course,
hasn't seen the Shaun White interview and now has to answer Bob
being hit on by a gold-medal winning snowboarder. Her reaction?
Well, let's just say the ice in her veins that let her keep her
composure and win the silver medal isn't just there at game time.
She keeps her cool and actually sounds like she would consider
it, never once mentioning that Shaun looks like Carrot Top. Well,
Bob set the wheels are in motion. Somebody call Blind
We close the night with Julia Mancuso's medal ceremony, where she
wears the gold medal AND her tiara. And you know what? If she wins
the gold, she can wear that tiara all she wants. Sing, Julia, sing!
Well, she's not singing, but at least she's smiling.
Tonight was the equivalent of a blown program
for NBC. Here we are, so close to the end and they blew jump after
jump. The worst part is now I fear the two remaining shows. Tom Brokaw
is already promising us fluff for Sunday, what else lies hidden around
the corner? Well, we'll find out tomorrow, won't we? See you then!