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Sunday, August 17, 2008



A stumble on the landing...

Oh, NBC. You'd been doing so well! And then you had to go and step out on the landing. The judges will be harsh...

• Bob introduces the evening and we go straight to the Bird's Nest. The first shot is... from a blimp? A cable camera? I'm not sure. It tracks over the top of the stadium, and it looks too low to be a blimp, but too high to be from a cable-mounted camera. It's a great shot, I just don't know where it came from. Still, very pretty.

• The first race is a heat in the women's 100-meter hurdles and the winner is... the rolling sideline camera, which crosses the finish line first! I don't remember it being so prominent in the foreground before.

Kim Raver can't lie in bed next to her husband thinking about somebody else any more. And you know who that someone else is, don't you? That's right... it's Jack Bauer. "24" meets "Lipstick Jungle." Now THERE'S a show!

• Bob Neumeier interviews both Lolo Jones and Dawn Harper after their respective heats in the women's 100-meter hurdles, and even though the interviews are only about 15 seconds each, they both contain more content than any interview given by Michael Phelps. And, they both have delightful personalities. Can they BOTH win the gold medal?

• Speaking of a Phelps interview, we get one... a lonnnnng one... joined by his coach Bob Bowman and Rowdy Gaines in the International Broadcast Center. Admittedly, this interview is better than some of his previous attempts, but I'd still rather watch events than Phelps talking. Fluff!

• Hey! After 26 minutes of Michael Phelps fluff, we get an event! It's the Women's Eight rowing, and announcer Tim Ryan must have a thesaurus in the booth he's using so many metaphors. And the camerawork? Skycam! A great shot of the boats as the skycam passes on the cable overhead. And the U.S.A. wins! Their first win since 1984.

So will they sing on the medal stand? Would you look at that! Singing! Singing and crying! Sorry, Natalie Coughlin, I now have new favorite Olympians. All nine women are singing by the end. Okay, except for the one who is so overwhelmed that she's about to cry. Heck, even I'M tearing up now.

Don't believe me? Watch the feed and decide for yourself. Incidentally, I got an email today from Olympic Watch reader Sunflower, who writes...

I think I'd give credit any time an athlete sings even a bit of the national anthem. See, I personally have been known to tear up slightly at the playing of the anthem when I'm just at a baseball game. If I actually won an Olympic medal, I would probably not be able to get through the whole song without completely losing any semblance of composure. So what you'd probably see is me mouthing as many of the words as I could manage, but probably not all, and not actually singing 'cause I'd be too choked up.

Now, if they don't even try, that's different.

Watch that video, Sunflower, and you'll see all of that and more. These women might not quite be this Olympics' Rulon Gardner moment, but they're pretty close.

That's the way it's done, Michael Phelps.

• Swimming is done, so the only way to get your Water Cube fix for Sunday is in the diving pool. NBC does a really good job on all of the events in this building. I've said plenty of good things about the swimming team already, but the diving team is just as good. They use various technologies very well, and Cynthia Potter is very good analyst. By listening to her enough, I almost feel qualified to be a judge by now. That diver's not going to win because her toes aren't pointed in her tuck! See? I'm an Olympic judge!

• Mary Carillo does a five-minute fluff story on acupuncture. Does it work by numbing you to the outside world, Mary? Because that's how I felt after watching five minutes of this. Fluff!

• Did the story on acupuncture leave you feeling relaxed? At peace? Like all is right with the world? Well, NBC has the cure for that. Back to the National Indoor Stadium, where Al Trautwig, Tim Daggett, and Elfi Shlegal can ratchet up your stress levels.

Once again, there are a large number of empty seats here. I guess it's hard to fill an arena when your country only has 1.3 BILLION people.

• Brazilian gymnast Diego Hypolito can, according to Al, "rewrite history" by bringing home Brazil's first gymnastics gold medal with a good performance in the floor exercise. No pressure. His routine is great until the very last move, when he falls after a series of flips.

What is it that grates me about Al, Tim, and Elfi? They seem to linger on Hypolito, like they see this as a good ratings moment as opposed to a very painful moment for Diego.

• An interesting thing about the gymnastics venue: it's impossible to hide the clock, so you can always tell what time it is. Currently, the clock shows 6:17 p.m. and it's 8:17 p.m. Central Time as I watch this, so all of this happened fifteen hours ago. I just like that I know that.

• Chevy Gold Medal Spotlight. Today we get to know Lauryn Williams, the U.S. sprinter who was the silver medalist in the women's 100-meter dash in Athens. She has a great dane named Athena and lives in Miami. See that? One sentence. Ten seconds. It took NBC two-and-a-half minutes to tell you that. Of course they did it using slow-motion replays, wide-angle lens, and backed it with U2's "The Sweetest Thing." Did that make it worth two-and-a-half minutes of YOUR time?

• On to the track, where we watch Lauryn race in the 100-meter semifinal. She qualifies. So do two other Americans and three Jamaicans. Six of the final eight runners are either from Jamaica or the U.S.

• Everyone's favorite soccer dad, Cris Collinsworth, comes in to do an interview with Alicia Sacramone. She says she's okay now, but her voice still sounds like she's going to break up. I don't think she was going to, that's just what her voice sounds like. Cris points out that he knows how she feels because he lost two Super Bowls. Well, I'm pretty sure your TEAM lost two Super Bowls, Cris, and I think Joe Montana might have had something to do with that. But point taken, anyway. The question I would REALLY like to have seen him ask her was, "Have you listened to what Al and Tim said about you? Wouldn't you just like to throttle them?" Four minutes of fluff.

• I've been pretty hard on Tim Daggett, but let's give him some props. He was right that Alicia Sacramone's vaults tonight were good, not great. He did a great analysis of what happened when China's Cheng Fei fell to her knees after her second vault. Then he did a good job of explaining why Russia's Anna Pavlova got a zero for leaving early on her second vault. So, we know he CAN do a good job, he just doesn't do it all the time.

Alicia ends up finishing fourth. Al says it's because she lost tenths of points for missing a landing. I say it's because her starting difficulty wasn't enough. But let's go back to the IBC and see what Bela Karolyi has to say.

Bela says, "Why?! Why it has to be this way?" Karolyi thinks that Chinese gymnast Cheng Fei got a better score than she deserved on the landing-on-her-knees vault. High-ranking Team Rockwood member Sandy feels the same way. Well, who am I to argue with both Sandy AND Bela Karolyi? Alicia got screwed!

• Back to the track. It's the women's 400-meter qualifying heats. Boy, the U.S. didn't look good in those at all.

• And over to the gym, where America's Alexander Artemev gets to try for a pommel horse medal. AAAA!!! He was looking great but fell off right in the middle of his routine.

• And now we're paying the bills. Women's gymnastics. Shawn Johnson goes first on the floor exercise. Hey, look at that! It's 8: 29 p.m. in Beijing and it's 9:56 p.m. here. This routine is twelve-and-a-half hours old. A couple of missteps, but she does a good job. Let's see if she can hold on to her lead.

A few gymnasts later is Russia's Anna Pavlova. Funny, but every time they say her name and ring a bell, I drool. What's up with that? She doesn't do very well, though. Shawn is still in first with only three gymnasts to go.

The first of those last three, Cheng Fei of China. Fei falls. Johnson is guaranteed at least a bronze.

Next up, Nastia Liukin. Let's see if she's in... duh-DAH-duhhhhh.... The Liukin Zone. Wow. That was really good. A few tiny bobbles, but I think that's going to be a good score. And......

Good, but still behind Johnson. One gymnast remaining. Sandra Izbasa of Romania is the only person standing behind another one-two U.S. finish. And she does it! Izbasa comes in first, giving the U.S. a two-three finish. Team Rockwood member Sandy is excited that a Sandra won a gold medal, but she was still hoping for a gold for the U.S.

Bela agrees with the outcome! You know, if Karolyi's accent was a little less thick, I'd say that HE should be in the gymnastics arena. He's fun to listen to.

And without a commercial break, we head back to the track for the women's 100-meter dash final. Three Americans! Three Jamaicans! Two other runners with no chance!

Wow. I take it back. Three Jamaicans, and six other runners with no chance. Jamaica goes one-two-three. Wait a minute. Even THAT'S not right. The Jamaicans go one-two-TWO. A tie for silver means no bronze. And how happy is Shelly-Ann Fraser, the winner? I believe they can probably see her smile from space. Jamaica's sweep is the first time ANY country has swept the women's 100-meter dash.

• And now the men's 1,500-meter semifinal with American-via-Sudan Lopez Lomong. Unfortunately, Lomong just didn't have it tonight, and he finishes dead last. Semifinal two has the other American, this time via Kenya, Bernard Legat. Analyst Ato Bolden tells us exactly what Legat's strategy should be since he's the gold medal favorite. You don't often think about strategy in something like a run, and it's good of Bolden to remind us that there is such a thing. Legat trails late and makes a surge at the end but is two hundreths of a second too slow to qualify for the final.

• That was last night, now we go LIVE where Tom Hammond shows us what happened to Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang. Liu has a problem with his Achilles tendon and is out. Yes, you haven't heard of him, but all of China has. He won the 110-meter hurdles in Athens and was expected to be the big star in these games. Now? Nothing. Timely update points go to NBC.

• Bob tells us we can wake up early for the Today show and watch ANOTHER Phelps interview. How much more can we learn about him?

And if that wasn't enough, and if the 26 minutes we did at the beginning of tonight's coverage wasn't enough, Bob does another two minutes of fluff on Phelps, asking if he's the greatest Olympian ever. Tune in tomorrow night to see how many Michael Phelps will fit on the head of a pin.

And we close the night with, what else? Another minute of fluff about Michael Phelps. Holy Mark Spitz! Is this what we have to look forward to for the rest of the Games?

Michael Phelps fluff-o-rama! I did a little math after all of this was over and here's what I got. Tonight's show had over 28 minutes of Michael Phelps fluff. How bad is that? If you add up the times of all of Michael Phelps' races, it was only 23:59.78. That's right, it would actually take you less time to rewatch all of his races than it would to rewatch all of his fluff. That's just sad, NBC.

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