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Saturday, August 9, 2008


Let the games begin!

I'm on the road today, so I won't be counting minutes (what? I need a vacation, too!). But as long as I'm sitting in the hotel, I can still makes some comments...

• NBC is lucky I'm not counting fluff, because it's now over 15 minutes into the show and the only event we've seen is gymnastics, and only a couple of competitors in one event for that.

So far we've seen fluff for Michael Phelps --who later will be swimming live-- and Raj Bhavsar, who is only in Beijing because both of the Hamm brothers were unable to attend due to injury.

• Not that I really understood how gymnastics was scored before, but this new system makes no sense to me at all. How you got a 10.0 was a mystery to me, but at least I knew that "10.0" meant "good." Now? 15.3? What does that mean? Tim and Al explain it a little bit, but not enough. They do tell us that, say, "a 15.3 is a good score here," but what is a perfect score? Is there one? Why couldn't some of that 15 minutes of fluff be spent on the rules? Oh... because rules are borrrrring.

• And now... I'm off to eat. You'll have to enjoy the Olympics on your own for a while.

• Back. We saw Michael Phelps win the gold in the 4x100m medley while at the restaurant, and now we're about the watch the medal ceremony. Will Phelps sing? C'mon Michael! Sing! Sing! Hmm... his mother doesn't sing, either. Maybe it's a family thing. NBC does a dramatic zoom, like he's going to tear up, but he doesn't. Mom looks close though. Let's see if he cries at the end.

"Oh say does that..." annnnnnnd silence. What?! The Chinese cut off The Star Spangled Banner! Phelps looks stunned, then starts laughing. NBC's director, who is clearly on the ball, cuts immediately to President Bush, who is also laughing and waving an American flag. Good job by the TV crew here in picking up what was obviously an unplanned moment.

• Have I mentioned how much I love the graphics in the swimming events? Oh, only for the past two summer games.

• Back to gymnastics. NBC is really getting their money's worth right off the bat. Their announcers for both swimming and gymnastics are some of the best ones they have for any sport. Tim Daggett in gymnastics occasionally gets a little screechy, but at least he sounds well informed.

• Over to Bob in the studio with the three American women who swept the individual sabre fencing competition. The gold medal winner, Mariel Zagunis, not only won in 2004, but also had parents who were Olympians. Bob, always on the ball, asks Zagunis if her parents actually MET at the Olympics. She says yes and admits that it actually added more pressure from her parents because they were expecting her to find someone at the Olympics to marry. Bob immediately followed up with, "Well?" She didn't, but she has a boyfriend back at Notre Dame. Bob Costas is awesome.

• After the very next commercial break, Bob interviews famous gymnastics coach, Bela Karolyi. Unfortunately, although NBC has spent a billion dollars on the Olympics, microphones apparently didn't make the budget. It was immediately apparent that Bela wasn't miked, but NBC producers missed that. Honestly, it's funny that they missed that. Part of what makes Costas so good is that he realizes that and he joked his way out of it, taking a situation that could have resulted in a meltdown (we're looking at you, Bill O' Reilly) and making it into an "aw shucks, we goofed" moment. Why is Bob hosting the biggest sporting event on the planet? There's your reason.

• Following Bela, we see the medal ceremony of Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice. Lo and behold, what is she doing on the medal stand? Singing! She's singing the Australian national anthem! Michael Phelps, go take note. You have seven more chances.

It's too bad for NBC that I'm NOT keeping track of fluff, because tonight's programming seemed blessedly short of the up-close-and-personal segments. Admittedly, I didn't see everything, but I still probably saw about half of tonight's coverage, and didn't see any fluff other than right at the beginning. Will that hold up? C'mon... women's gymnastics is still to come. We're not going to get that lucky.


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