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Thursday, August 14, 2008




Winning one for the older teens...

Lip synching? Fake fireworks? Underage athletes? What's happening to the good name of the Olympics? Oh, yeah. China...

• We start the night by looking at a lightning storm over the Forbidden Palace. Bob says the weather is real, not an effect. That's the kind of thing that wouldn't even have to be noted if the Chinese hadn't faked part of the Opening Ceremonies.

• We start the night with Bob interviewing Bela Karolyi about the American gymnasts. Bela gives the edge to Shawn Johnson over Nastia Liukin. Fortunately for international relations, he says nothing about the Chinese gymnasts being underaged. 'Cause, you know, they are.

• Off to men's volleyball, the non-beach variety, tonight featuring the United States versus Bulgaria. Lots of empty seats here tonight.

• Okay, I've never watched "Chuck" before, but the fact that they used "Der Kommissar" in their ads ("Chuck!... Chuck!... Chuck!") just might make me tune in.

• Chevy Gold Medal Spotlight. Shawn Johnson leads a normal life in Des Moines, Iowa. She goes to the Hy-Vee grocery store. She goes to high school. She's just a normal 16-year-old girl. Except for being followed around by TV cameras and having a sculpture of herself at the state fair... made of butter. Oh, and the other little girls at her training gym really hope she wins a medal. Awww... they're so cuuute! Fluff!

• Maybe we need to rename this the 2008 Rockwood Michael Phelps Watch. Back at the pool to watch Phelps swim in the 100-meter butterfly quarterfinal. Shocker! He qualifies!

• Women's beach volleyball LIVE with May and Walsh. It's Kerri Walsh's 30th birthday today! She has a husband, guys, so all of you lining up to give out spankings are going to be disappointed.

• Lots of empty seats here, too. With the men's volleyball, I could understand it, but May and Walsh are the gold medal favorites. Can they really not half-fill a venue in the most populous country in the world?

• Wow! What a first set! May and Walsh come back to beat the Belgians 24-22 after being on the trailing side of five set points. Mouha and Van Breedam had their chances to win it, but Belgium waffled.

I know, I know. But I couldn't help myself.

• At the end of the May-Walsh interview, NBC cuts to the crowd doing the wave. Slowly. Apparently, this is a new experience for a lot of the spectators.

• Mary Carillo gives us five minutes of touching fluff tonight by doing an interview with the artist who created the Beijing Olympic logo and mascots. Or at least, she was touched. Did we really just spend five minutes of prime time programming interviewing a graphic artist? Mary finds the whole thing very sweet. That's because she's not the one watching it. Fluff!

• Swimming LIVE. One of the great things about the technology NBC is using for the swimming is the world record line. It's similar to the first-and-ten line they superimpose in football games, but it moves along with the swimmers to show where the world record pace is.

What's really nice about it is that since there are so many records being set at these Olympics, you can use that line to see who's ahead. Sometimes it's hard to figure that out in swimming races because there aren't many landmarks. But when one swimmer is ahead of world record pace and the other is just behind it, you can tell exactly where they are just by looking at that line.

• American Rebecca Soni races and wins the 200-meter breaststroke. Afterwards, Andrea Kramer interviews her and she's VERY excited. It's fun to watch someone who is just so happy.

• Zimbabwe swimmer Kirsty Coventry fluff. Her winning the gold in Athens briefly united her country. People even named babies after her. Then they all went back to buying bags of rice with their worthless currency.

Oh, and she wins her semifinal today.

• On to some LIVE gymnastics. First, Al, Tim, and Elfi break down Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin. The verdict? It's going to be close, with either Shawn or Nastia finishing ahead. Great analysis.

Al claims that National Indoor Stadium is filling up. The 90-percent-empty seats behind him tell a different story.

• Back at "The Cube" so we can see Michael Phelps race again. But first, some Phelps fluff. He has big feet and big hands! He's tall! With a big torso! And he works out a lot! Well, duh. Look, I'm all for seeing Phelps race, but just before NBC cut to his bit-o-fluff, you could see the medal ceremony for American Rebecca Soni (who won the 200-meter breaststroke, earlier) on the jumbotron in the background. Which is more interesting? The medal ceremony for an excited swimmer, or Michael Phelps having unusually large hands?

• Ahh... after Phelps wins the 200-meter individual medley, we come back to see Rebecca Soni's medal ceremony. At least they came back to it. C'mon, Soni. Sing!!

Oh! She started to sing, then stopped. "...and the home of the brave!" Okay, she at least got the last line in.

Right after that, we get to see Ryan Lochte's medal ceremony. Will HE sing? Or if he won't, will silver medalist Aaron Piersol? Umm... no. What do all of these people dream about when they imagine winning the gold? Wouldn't the medal ceremony be one of those things? Wouldn't you think at some point you might try to learn the national anthem?

• The next race features my new favorite Olympian, Natalie Coughlin. You can bet that if she wins the 100-meter freestyle that she'll be singing.

But no. Coughlin comes up just short, finishing in third.

• And now, LIVE gymnastics!

• Al says that of all of the vaults that Nastia has ever done in her life, this is the only one that matters right now. Uh... that was profound, Al.

After one of the Chinese gymnasts, Tim says that "the deductions are equally more severe." That doesn't even make sense. Are they equal, or are they more severe? They can't be both.

• Back to The Cube to watch another Phelps semifinal. He finishes first, but looks tired. Of course, that is... what... his third race of the day? He's just amazing, really.

• So amazing, he gets another fluff piece. This one tells about four years ago in Athens when Phelps gave up his spot in the relay team so that Ian Crocker could win a gold medal. Now maybe Crocker will have the chance to return the favor. Or something. Once I knew it was fluff I stopped paying attention.

• Her first name ain't baby, it's Miss Liukin if you're Nastia! Nastia gets robbed on the vault, says Tim, but her score on the uneven bars is good. Shawn Johnson's vault score is high even though she stepped out on the landing, but her uneven bars score is lower than Tim thinks it should have been. Still, after two rounds, Liukin is in 2nd and Johnson is in 5th place overall. Not too bad.

• Tim has now referenced "visible errors" two times. What's an invisible error?

• Nastia! A good balance beam score puts Liukin in first, and Johnson is in third. One rotation left to go and it's looking pretty good for the U.S.

• Back in the studio with Bob and Bela, talking strategy. It's fun listening to Bela, even if I only understand half of what he says. He's just so excited! Karolyi says that Johnson has to put a twist back into her floor exercise that she's been leaving out if she wants to score high enough to win. We'll see if she can do it.

• Chinese gymnast Yang Yilin does a good routine on the floor, but all Nastia has to do is not mess up and she should keep her gold medal lead.

Al says, "Oh baby" when Nastia finishes. What did I say earlier, Al? Her first name ain't baby. You can call her Miss Liukin. Or maybe just gold medal winner.

Shawn Johnson can't catch Nastia, but she can still get the silver with a 15.4. BOOM! She nails it. And the judges say....

15.525! Liukin: gold! Johnson: silver! U.S.A. 1-2! Take that underaged Chinese gymnasts!

• More footage of Bela watching gymnastics. Is this fluff? You know, it might be, but it's so fun to watch, I'm not going to count it that way. I'm going to count it as a replay. Bela is shouting out words of encouragement to Nastia as she does her floor routine, and when she finishes, he hugs Bob and declares "Olympic champion!" Well, what can you say? He was right.

• Of course, now we have to ask, will they sing? Both Liukin and Johnson seem like the quiet types, so I'm going to bet they won't, but here's hoping they prove me wrong.

" And now," says Al as the gold medal is presented, "She'll need to only be known by one name." That's Miss Liukin to you, Al.

Yes! YES!! She doesn't get the whole song, but she joins in at the "Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave..." At this point, I'll take part of the song.

A great show, a minimum of fluff, and no last-minute appearance by Jimmy Roberts. Overall, I'd say it was a pretty good night. Keep it up, NBC. You're making a believer out of me.

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