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Sunday, February 26, 2006

This is how the Olympics ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper. Let's take a look.

• Bob Costas gives us a short introduction as to what to expect tonight (fluff!), and kicks the coverage straight over to Dan Hicks and Mary Carillo, who are just waiting for the Closing Ceremonies (or, from here on out, The CC).

• Bob says he bets Andrea Bocelli never dreamed he'd end up on the same bill as Avril Lavigne and Ricky Martin. I'm betting Avril Lavigne never thought she'd end up on the same bill as Ricky Martin. In fact, the "Latin explosion" is almost seven years old. Avril Lavigne is so young she might not even REMEMBER Ricky Martin. If she does it might be along the lines of, "Ricky Martin? Oh, he is SO sixth grade!"

• And here it comes, Tom Brokaw's fluff piece that he's been promoting for the past two days. The title of this segment is "Lasting Valor." You know you're in trouble when fluff has its own title and graphic.

The story has to do with Vernon Baker, a black man from Cheyenne, Wyoming, who was a soldier in World War II. Baker and 25 other black soldiers almost completely destroyed the Nazi defenses at the Aghinolfi Castle, a key stronghold for the Germans if they were to hold onto the manufacturing centers of Turin and Milan. That tale is really quite amazing, so amazing in fact that Baker ended up winning the Congresssional Medal of Honor for it. You can read all about it here.

Unfortunately, because of the racism of the time, the Army didn't give Baker his much-deserved MOH until 1997. And thus, the meat of the story is that Baker and his fellow members of the Buffalo Soldiers were fighting two wars: one against the Nazis and the other against the racism of their fellow Americans.

Anyway, Baker and his fellow soldiers were welcomed as liberators by the Italian people, and were remembered fondly even decades later, as shown by a 1997 video where Baker met one of the Italians that had helped him over 50 years earlier. It was a very touching reunion where...

AAAAAA!!! Enough already! What in the name of Mike Eruzione does this have to do with the Olympics? N.O.T.H.I.N.G. NOTHING! Aghinolfi Castle is a three hour drive from Turin. The only mention in this story of anything related to the Olympics was the fact that this castle was somehow a key to liberating Turin. Even that seems a little doubtful. It was 180 miles away! No, it seems this story exists only for three reasons:

1. It features a member of The Greatest Generation, and we all know Tom Brokaw loves them.
2. It shows that Nazis are bad.
3. It shows that racism is bad.

Well, thanks for the newsflash, Tom. Honestly, this was a complete waste of 38 minutes of broadcast time. At least the stupid fluff story at the end of the 2004 Athens Games featured someone who had actually been in the Olympics. Turin has almost two million people in it's metro area, couldn't Tom have found ONE of them who could have been featured in a story about the Olympics? It's a good thing that THIS segment wasn't running up against "Dancing With The Stars," or NBC might have lost all of their audience.

• For all of you gamblers out there, what do you think the over/under was on how many posts I would have to make in the 2006 Olympic Watch before I made a comment on all of those annoying "Las Vegas" ads that NBC has been running for the past two weeks? Well, since this is the last day and this is the first time I've mentioned them, I hope you took the "over."

• Al Trautwig leads us through *gasp* an event! The Men's 50 km Cross-Country ski. Fifty kilometers! For the metric-challenged, that's over 30 miles. Al says that you want to be near the front of the pack to avoid traffic jams, pointing out that a mass of skiers looks like the 405. For the California-challenged, that's a Los Angeles freeway that's frequently bumper-to-bumper.

• And finally, the last time I have to put up with Jimmy Roberts for at least two more years. In tonight's Chevrolet Olympic Moments, Jimmy tells us of Vancouver's mayor, Sam Sullivan. Normally during The CC, the mayor of the current Olympic city passes the Olympic flag to the mayor of the future Olympic city, who then waves said flag eight times. Well, that's going to be a little tougher this year because Sullivan is a quadriplegic. He, too, has an inspiring story, but unlike all of the rest of Jimmy's inspiring stories, Sullivan doesn't have a chance to medal. Anyway, we're assured that there will be something novel regarding this previously routine procedure. You know, this whole thing could have easily been explained during The CC, which almost always has plenty of dead time. But then, we've only wasted most of this broadcast on fluff so far. We wouldn't want to give the events a chance to possibly catch up.

• And in the last event of the Games, Giorgio Di Centa becomes the first Italian to ever win the 50 km Cross-Country race. Yay for the home team! And yay for NBC for showing us almost 30 minutes of an event. Don't get too optimistic. I'm not anticipating this will happen much for the rest of the night.

• The medal ceremony for the 50 km race comes in the Stadia Olympica, and naturally, the Italian gets a rousing reception. And now, the Italian national anthem: "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore." No? Well, at least Giorgio is singing along with the actual anthem. And so is the rest of the crowd.

• Hey! The flaming skaters are back! No, not Johnny Weir, the ones from The OC.

• Next up, the marching clown band. Around 200 instrument-laden clowns come out playing "Games People Play" and then "YMCA." Meanwhile, thousands of people around the world with coulrophobia are declaring this the worst Closing Ceremonies EVER.

• And now as we celebrate the origin of the modern Olympics, we raise the Greek flag while we play Greece's national anthem: "Greece is the time, is the place, is the motion. Greece is the way we are feeling."

• Apparently, dressing everyone up with clown noses is some kind of theme here at The CC. Do the Italians think we're all clowns? Do we amuse them? Do we make them laugh? Do they think we're here to @#$%@ amuse them?! Hmmm... maybe these ceremonies are getting a little TOO Italian.

• Now, given that almost anything at The CC could be considered fluff (after all, nothing here is an event) where do I draw the line? Here's how I'm judging: if it's live (or as live as tape-delayed can be), then it's an event. But if we're flashing back to show highlights from previous nights, as we've already done for Arakawa's and Ohno's gold medals, then it's fluff.

• Two minutes of fluff with Shaun White. A short interview with him reveals that his life has changed completely since winning the gold, with people stopping him in airports, restaurants, and everywhere else. But where, you ask, is his blind-date-to-be, Sasha Cohen?

Well! She's with Andrea Joyce! Andrea, unfortunately, doesn't have the courage of Costas, and doesn't ask Sasha anything about The Flying Tomato. Too bad. Now we'll never know how it turns out!

• AAA!!! More clowns! Can't go to the Olympics, clowns will eat me. Can't go to the Olympics, clowns will eat me.

• In a very cool effect, a pair of skydivers float up from the middle of the stage, lifted by a giant wind machine blowing straight up. It's very cool the way they used this in the show, and I just want to add that I've actually been on one of those wind machines. It's not as easy as these guys make it look. It's also not as quiet as it sounds on your TV. Imagine sticking your head out of the window of your car when it's going 100 mph. It's a lot like that.

• And now we take a break from weird Fellini-esque visuals to listen to boring speeches. But wait! Some excitement as some jackass with a gol de npala ce dot com shirt tries to interrupt the Italian's speech with some sort of protest. He's quickly shot. Ha ha! No, no... he is taken quickly off the stage, however. By the way, I told you it was g olden pa lac e so you won't have to search around the web and figure out what that guy's shirt said, and I broke it up like that so I won't somehow end up referencing them. I highly recommend you don't go to their site, as it would only encourage them to do other stupid things.

• And now, the passing of the flag. Canadian Mounties! They always get their flag! Heh. In keeping with Italian tradition, an opera singer belts out "Oh Canada" as they raise the maple leaf flag. This is immediately followed by the passing of the Olympic flag to the Canadians. Of course, thanks to Jimmy Roberts, we're all on edge to see how Vancouver's mayor will wave the flag. And how does he do it? He spins his electric wheelchair in a circle a couple of times. That's it?! Jimmy got us all worked up for a guy spinning in a circle? Count me as one of surely many who is disappointed.

• The Vancouver Olympic Committee now gets their chance to wow us with some weird thing representing Canada. Well, I don't pretend to understand nor even care why all of these Canadian performance artists are carrying giant styrofoam "ice blocks" around, but the projection technology they're using to create the art on the floor is wicked cool.

Ohhhhhh....THIS is why Avril Lavigne is here! Duh! She's singing for the 2010 Canadian Olympics. I guess I should have figured that out. Avril's all glammed up for the Olympics. Avril, take off all your preppy clothes! You know you're not fooling anyone when you become somebody else 'round everyone else. Why do you have to go and make things so complicated? She does look nice, though. Maybe she's hoping that in Vancouver she'll meet a nice Ice Sk8er Boi.

And the ice blocks have been assembled into the Vancouver Olympic logo. Gentlemen, start your merchandising engines!

• We move immediately to a tribute to the the Olympic flag. And by tribute, I mean, it's taken down and walked across the stadium by men in funny hats. Funny hats equals respect!

• Andrea Bocelli offically brings the Turin games to a close while a bunch of dancers in wedding dresses form the shape of a dove on the stage. Then they rearrange themselves to form the Torino logo. And then, the flame goes out. Well, that was sort of anti-climactic.

• Ricky Martin! We're Livin' La Vida Loca here in Turin! Oh, except we're not. Instead we're listening to him sing his new song. At least, I'm assuming it's his new song. Does anyone actually pay attention to Ricky anymore?

A quick Google search proves it IS a new song, called "I Don't Care!" Hey! It's the Bode Miller theme song! I'm betting five bucks that he plays Livin' La Vida Loca after this song.

Bah! He doesn't! Once again, we prove that no one should bet with Brian.

• Whoops, maybe it's not too late! Ricky is back, with one of his other songs. It's "The Cup of Life," which if I'm not mistaken, was written for the 1998 World Cup. Uh... wrong sporting event, Ricky. So, maybe after THIS he'll play Livin' La Vida Loca.

Ugh. No again. Hope you didn't double down. Don't bet with Brian!

• Andrea Joyce has another brief interview with Joey Cheek, and asks him about carrying the American flag for The CC. He says once he walked into the stadium, he was overwhelmed with the thought that he was holding a flag to represent 300 million people. See, if only Bode Miller thought like that, maybe everybody wouldn't be so upset with him.

• Medalists Tony Dawson, Apolo Ohno, and Cindy Klassen are all having a great time at The CC. Glad to hear it. Is it just me, or do these Closing Ceremonies seem more sedate than previous Olympics' CCs? You know what would spice it up? Livin' La Vida Loca! Stupid Ricky Martin.

• And now it's time to say goodbye to all our company. Bob takes this final moment to recognize the good example set by Joey Cheek over the bad behavior, overhyped or not, of athletes like Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick, and Bode Miller. He even challenges the admission department at Harvard, which had previously rejected Cheek, to now accept Joey as a student. Getting plugged by the number one sports anchor in America is a pretty good reference, eh?

• Finally, the credits. And no, this won't count as fluff because I believe all the little people should get some credit. Although realistically, the credits probably won't include the truly little people. That's okay, the medium people deserve credit, too.

I wish I could say I expected more on the final day of the Olympics, but I was dreading Tom Brokaw's piece and he delivered on that dread. Still, the Olympics seemed pretty good this time. Allow me a day to ruminate on them and I'll give you my final results. See you one last time tomorrow!




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