Saturday, February 25, 2006
last full night of competition is a study of contrasts. Well, at
least, everything good contrasted with everything Bode Miller has
done. Let's get started.
• We start the night with the
four-man bobsleigh/sled. I wish they'd make up their mind whether
it's "sleigh" or "sled." Hmm... maybe the "eigh" ending
is PRONOUNCED "sled." Yeah, that's it! So BobSLEIGH is
pronounced BobSLED. And maybe WEIGHING is pronounced WEDDING. Orrrr
Anyway, while Todd Hays is waiting to rush down
the bobsleigh/sled run, we learn that he earned the money to buy
his first sleigh/sled
by winning a kickboxing tournament in Japan. Is this fluff? No!
Because we didn't have to go into a slow-motion retrospective
to find this out. Rather, the announcers just told us because they
thought it was interesting. It WAS interesting. See how much
that is, NBC?
Men's Slalom fluff! It's basically just another intro, like the
one we had at the beginning of the show. But that's the point.
We ALREADY had one at the beginning of the show; having two is
Ingemar Stenmark and Alberto Tomba are standing together at the
bottom of the slalom hill, pointing at something. What? Perhaps
Julie Mancuso had a bet with her tech guy that if she won the gold,
he'd have to ski down the hill in his underwear. NBC has footage
of the pantsless tech. THIS is a network that is thorough. I guess
this is technically fluff, but I'm going to let this one slide,
because it is slightly event-related. Very slightly.
American Ted Ligety heads down the slalom and finishes just .03
seconds behind the leader! BUT he hooked a gate like Bode Miller
in the Alpine Combined and gets disqualified. Bummer. With Ligety
out, we're now reliant on Bode to bring home a medal for the U.S.
You know what? I'm gonna say he does it! I think he's been struck
by nothing but bad luck for all of the Turin Olympics and on this
night, the last full night of competition, he's going to bring
home... well, I'm not going to jinx him by saying gold (even though
this is tape delayed--I can't really jinx the past, can I?), but
I think he'll bring home a medal. Go Bode!
NBC analyst Todd Brooker shows a video comparison of Bode in 2002
and 2006, and says he looks heavier. Todd questions whether that's
because Bode's muscled up or because he's out of shape.
And Bode's off! AHHHHH! Bode's off! Off the course, that is. He
missed a gate near the top of the hill and is done quickly. Again,
don't take my predictions to Vegas.
Bode pulls his usual trick and skis away to avoid the media, but
NBC's Steve Porino hunts him down. Porino asks Bode, given that
he went oh for five, if he's been disappointed in his performance
in the Olympics this year. Bode says... what?! He says no, he's
had a great time and a lot of fun. Bode says his goals weren't
to be the best in the world, they were to make skiing exciting
for him. Bode says he didn't go out and get drunk "VERY OFTEN," and
never the night before a race. Holy Ingemar Stenmark! Did I just
throw my support behind this slacker?
Honestly, Bode not-winning
doesn't bother me at all. The reality of the Olympics is that it's
difficult to win ANY medal, much less
gold. However, it IS disturbing that Bode doesn't even seem disappointed
that he finished only ONE of the five races in which he was entered.
Are four DNFs what "makes skiing exciting" for Bode?
He shouldn't feel bad for not medaling, but it might be nice if
he showed a little disappointment for not even finishing.
happy that Bode was able to squeeze some drinking in, because
Lord knows I wouldn't want him to have to sober up, but
how do you think people who contributed money to the U.S. Ski
Team feel about paying for Bode's Italian vacation?
Another Nike commercial featuring joinbode.com, and in this one
Bode tells us that the one thing he wants us to understand is that
an athlete can do everything right and still not win it all, so
don't get hung up on winning medals. Well, he certainly doesn't
need to be worried about the "winning medals" part. When's
he going to try the "do everything right" part? How do
you think Nike feels about spending all of that money on Bode's Italian
Apolo Anton Ohno has a short fluff piece where he says there's
too much emphasis on medals instead of the Olympic competition.
Apolo, don't you go pulling a Bode on us!
Back to the short track for the 500m semifinals. Go Ohno! OH NO!
Ohno gets pushed to the outside halfway through his race but makes
a frantic comeback to finish third, just four inches behind the
second place skater. Unfortunately, he needs to be second to move
on. Fortunately, Li JiaJun of China, the skater that finished four
inches ahead of him, got DQed. Ohno moves on!
In heat two, Korea's
Ahn Hyun-Soo wins his heat, meaning NBC's dream match of Ahn
and Ohno is a go.
The men clear the ice and the women enter for their 1,000-meter
race. American Kimberly Derrick is in the quarterfinals, but we
find out that her grandfather died of a heart attack the day before
her heat. She tries, but doesn't move on. Clearly, her mind is
on bigger things than this race.
So now we need someone to cheer for in short track skating. Fortunately,
Bob Costas arrives with a well-timed piece of fluff on China's
Yang Yang (A). Does this mean that somewhere in China is a Yang
Yang (B)? Anyway, she took gold in Salt Lake, left China to pursue
a career in international business, then got re-bit by the skating
bug and returned to China to train for Turin. It must have worked,
because here she is!
In the Women's 1,000-meter final, there are two Koreans and two
Chinese women participating. Who are you going for? Yang Yang (A)
had some fluff about her earlier. C'mon... you don't know anyone
else! You know you're pulling for her. Well, she finishes fourth,
but the third place woman got disqualified, so Yang Yang (A) wins
Coming up in tomorrow's Closing Ceremonies, performances from Andrea
Bocelli, Ricky Martin, and Avril Lavigne. Okay, Bocelli I get,
but why are we Livin' la Vida Loca with Canadian and Puerto Rican
pop stars? Couldn't we get some Italian pop stars like... like...
uh... okay. Well, I guess that answers that question.
There are certain things we can always count on, says Jimmy Roberts,
like Chevrolet Olympic Moments grinding NBC's telecast to a halt.
Wait. Maybe he didn't say that.
The thing Jimmy says we CAN count on is
the home field advantage creating upsets during the Olympics.
For the next several minutes, Jimmy
doesn't even read a story, he just reads a list of examples.
Jean-Claude Killy winning in Grenoble. Kathy Freeman in Sydney.
in Lake Placid. Continue for several minutes and you'll get the
Anyway, we endure this list reading so Jimmy
can tell us that THIS Olympics' home field story is Italy's Enrico
Fabris, who beat
favorite non-bickering couple, Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick,
for the gold medal in the Men's 1,500-meter Speed Skating event.
surely this proves there's something magical about the Olympic
Well, except that Killy was the favorite. And
so was Freeman. And so was Heiden. And Fabris himself won
the World Cup in 2005 in
the 1,500M, so he could have been the favorite, too. But hey!
Why let pesky facts get in the way of a good story, right Jimmy?
SINGING!! Canadian Clara Hughes gets the gold, bumping fellow Canadian
Cindy Klassen down to bronze in the Women's 5,000-meter Speed Skating.
During the medal ceremony, as "Oh
Canada" plays, Hughes
invites Klassen up to the top step on the podium where they both
sing the anthem together. They're probably the two happiest athletes
I've seen during all of the Turin Games.
And in a show of Olympic
spirit that Bode Miller probably wouldn't understand from the
back of his RV, even though the Canadian skaters
don't get paid for wins like the Americans, Clara Hughes donates
$10,000 of her own money to Right
To Play because she was inspired
by American Joey Cheek. Honestly, why have we had to spend the
entire Olympics focused on slackers like Bode when there are
good stories like Cheek's out there?
Speaking of which, Joey Cheek has been elected by the U.S. team
to carry the American flag into the Closing Ceremonies. Hmm...
maybe happy news just takes less time to report. Couldn't we somehow
make it longer?
Yeee-haa! The 500-meter short track final! Go Ohno! Two false starts
later and...wow! I mean, WOW! That was probably the fastest short
track race we've seen in Turin. Of course, it IS the sprint event,
so it should be, but even for the sprint event it was fast. And
Ohno wins clean! Awesome!
Does Ohno rest now that he has his individual gold? Oh no! He has
said the perfect ending to the Olympics is to win the chaotic race
that is the 5,000-meter Short Track Relay. Again in the relay event,
we follow one athlete--tonight it's Ohno--through an entire cycle
to show how the relay system works. Ultimately, the 5,000-meters
separates into two races: the Koreans and the Canadians battling
for first, and the Americans and Italians fighting for bronze.
The last leg is Ohno and... OH YES! He passes the Italian with
one lap to go to bring home the bronze for the U.S.!
Now we call out the big guns. Eloquent Tom Brokaw interviewing
slacker Bode Miller. I end up having a little bit of sympathy for
Bode after this, but not much. He seems like a nice enough guy.
He's happy about Ligety and Mancuso winning their golds, for example.
But then he gets off on weird tangents. The Olympics are not about
the medals, but about him experiencing the Olympic experience.
You can do everything right and the results still won't be there.
He likes the movie "Miracle" because his Olympic dream
has always been to win from the underdog position, but now he feels
more like the Russians--the favorites-- in that movie. Great Tomba's
ghost! If I didn't know better, I'd suspect he'd been drinking
before this interview.
Anyone can experience the Olympics without
having a chance for a medal, Bode. I personally have done it
twice. But this whole
line about not being in it for the medals, frankly, is crap.
The Jamaican Bobsled team might not be in it for the medals, but
Miller, on the covers of Time and Newsweek and hosting his own
Nike-sponsored site, should be trying for the medals, and should
at least be disappointed that he didn't do better.
Bode, I sat on
my butt and watched the Olympics on TV for two weeks while you
skied in five events, and you only finished one more
race than I did. While your respect of the Olympics extended to
you "not drinking every day," speed skater Kimberly Derrick
ran her race while crying because she and her late grandfather
wanted her to be in the Olympics so badly. I really want to believe
that you're taking this more seriously than you let on, but if
not, you won't be missed if you're not in Vancouver.
Apolo Anton Ohno gets on the medal stand for his 500-meter victory
and HE'S SINGING! And tearing up! And happy! And briefly overwhelmed!
Someone should send a video of this to Bode to show what the favorite
can look like when he wins. In his post medal ceremony interview,
he's still just as happy, and just as overwhelmed. Maybe the lesson
for Bode here is that there was only ONE "Miracle" story.
Everyone else has to make their own. Ohno certainly seems happy
with his story, is Bode happy with his?
We close with Bob Costas adding his own critical words about Bode
Miller. At this point, any more commentary on him would just be
piling on, so let's just say that Bob wan't positive.
Fluff-wise, this was a pretty good night. The
only real downside was Bode Miller's attitude. And yes, it's easily
possible that I was completely misinterpreting him. It's possible
that he's really disappointed and just doesn't give a good interview.
But Tom Brokaw doesn't think so. And Bob Costas doesn't think so.
And Picabo Street doesn't think so. Hopefully, we're all wrong. See
you tomorrow for what is sure to be a fluff-filled finale to the