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Tuesday, August 19, 2008



With fluff, less is better...

Running! Diving! Gymnastics! We cover all the major venues tonight...

• After Bob's intro we go straight to the Bird's Nest, which once again has that great tracking shot over the top of the stadium. This time it starts further out, which makes it obvious it must be a helicopter shot. I have no way of knowing when they shot it, though. Heck, for all I know, they might be using the same shot every day.

• The first event, the women's 200m quarterfinal. In the first three races, three Americans and three Jamaicans advance to the semifinals. Rematch!

• Liu Xiang fluff! You remember, the Chinese hurdler? Tom Hammond says his withdrawal prompted national mourning. And then they proceed to show us proof by playing some sad Chinese music while showing still pictures of Chinese people looking sad. It's all so sad. Sad. Sad. Sad. Or so I determined from looking at pictures of eight out of a billion Chinese citizens. I'm sure the rest are just as sad. At least we didn't have to listen to Jimmy Roberts talk about it. Fluff!

• Great tracking shot of Dayron Robles of Cuba as he wins his heat in the 110m hurdles. The rolling track camera is perfectly timed with him and because he was so far in front, he was the only person in the slow-motion shot. It looked like a training video. Good job, NBC.

• David Oliver, U.S. hurdler, gets some fluffette. Turns out he wants to win. Shocker!

• Chevy Gold Medal Spotlight. Now we're talking some fluff. U.S. 400m runner Sanya Richards was dating Aaron Ross, now a football player on the New York Giants. He proposed to her right before a Sunday night football game. Awww.... Can you get any more fluffy than a wedding proposal?

Anyway, they both claim to be fast, and he's challenging her to a race. Actually, this could be interesting. Ross ran a 4.44 40-yard-dash in the NFL Combine, so he's no slouch, but she's still the favorite to get gold, so she's no pushover either. Let's see what happens.

Psh! They wimp out! Instead of a real race we get a fake fire trail and Ross left behind in the dust. As if fluff wasn't bad enough, now we had to inject some kind of battle-of-the-sexes thing into it. Oh well, what did I expect? Fluff!

• American Troy Dumais likes diving in China because the Chinese are so good, and if you're going to beat them, this would be the place. Fluffette!

• Sure enough, the Chinese are good, and He Chong of China wins. Troy Dumais finishes sixth. I guess he spent too much time admiring the Chinese.

• NBC has sort of a fluff/ad hybrid. A "flad," maybe? It consists of clips from previous events while a voiceover talks about events yet to come. I don't know what exactly that was, but as far as I'm concerned, flad equals fluff.

• Math time! Shots of Usain Bolt running PLUS quotes about his 100m race EQUALS Bolt fluffette.

Bolt and the United States' Shawn Crawford finish one-two in the 200m semifinal. That race ought to be good.

• Mary Carillo reports today about kite flying in the windy city of Weifang, the self-described center of kiting universe. She has a simple diamond kite, and is intrigued by the other people in the park doing kite fighting. She wants to fight but the locals tell her that her kite wouldn't stand a chance. Back in the studio she shows Bob the string that fighting kites use and it's covered with crushed glass and glue. A Dutch man had told Mary that he knew someone that had lost an ear. Costas says, "They Van Goghed him?"

Okay, that was a good line at the end, but really this whole thing was pretty boring. In fact, almost all of Mary Carillo's stories have been boring. Oh, they're interesting in a "I'd like to read an article about that" sort of way, but not in a "let's watch this instead of events" sort of way. Fluff.

• And now we're over to gymnastics, where we only have one more night to spend with Tim, Al, and Elfi. I know, I can hear you crying already.

• Jeremy Wariner, the Athens gold medal winner for the U.S. in the 400m, wants to run faster than last time. I never would have guessed that without this fluffette. Jeremy wins his heat.

• Sanya Richards should race fast because she has aerodynamic elbow sleeves. But I'm worried that gigantic engagement ring from Aaron Ross will slow her down. That thing's a monster.

The race starts, and she comes out of the last turn with a huge lead, but then the weight of that rock was just too much in the last hundred meters. Bronze for Sanya.

Afterwards with Bob Neumeier, Sanya said her leg cramped about 20 meters into the straightaway. That would explain how her she lost such a big lead. Ato Boldon, however, seems unconvinced. When Tom asks him for his analysis, Ato says he doesn't see anything indicating a cramp. For Sanya's sake, I hate to admit it, but I think Ato's right. Ato talks us through the replay, and her stride never changed in the stretch. I think she was just out of gas. Good analysis by Ato.

• The nice thing about tape delayed coverage is we can go immediately to the next event, the women's 100m hurdles final, featuring Lolo Jones. Go Lolo! Also running for the US., Damu Cherry and Dawn Harper.

Oh no, Lolo! Lolo hits the ninth hurdle, and although she didn't fall, it slowed her enough to finish out of the medals. But the winner, Dawn Harper of the U.S.! Yay, Dawn!

Bob Neumeier interviews Lolo afterwards and she's very gracious about her mistake. Later, however, NBC has a heartbreaking shot of Jones standing alone in the stadium tunnel, overcome with emotion. Again, can't we get the track and field production crew to work the gymnastics next time?

• Speaking of gymnastics, we're back with Al, Tim, and Elfi for the women's balance beam. Cheng Fei of China goes first, and even though she blows a couple of moves she still gets a high score. Both Tim and Elfi say it's too high. Al says it's too high. But none of them will say what you know Bela would say, which is that they suspect it's a bit of homer-ism. That's why Bela should be the analyst in London in 2012. Do it, NBC!

• Incidentally, we've gone over 32 minutes without a commercial break right now. I love it!

• Fall, stumble, fall, stumble... nobody's doing well tonight. That leaves the door wide open for a one-two American finish for Johnson and Liukin. First up, Shawn Johnson.

Johnson looks really good. She bounces a little on the landing, but high-ranking Team Rockwood member Sandy says she's the best so far. Let's see if the judges agree.

Yes they do! Shawn's in first and NOW NBC decides to go to a commercial, 44 minutes after the last break. Way to build the suspense, Peacock.

• Back from the break, and Nastia's up. Wouldn't that be sad if she tied for first AGAIN? Oooo... it was realllly good. I'm thinking one-two. If it isn't, I'm personally going to contact Bela and have him throw a fit for me. And the result is...

Second for Nastia! First for Shawn! One gymnast to go! The last gymnast stumbles! U.S.A., gold-silver! Shawn smiles as big as ever and searches the crowd to find her mom and dad, then points "number one" at them when she does. NBC has a shot of the parents, and Mom and Dad point "number one" back. Mom is shaking and starts crying. Dad gives her a big hug. This is better and more emotional than any fluff segment that NBC has produced in the entire Olympics.

And did Shawn sing? Sigh. No. Well, nobody's perfect.

• And now we're live in the studio with Bob and Bela, joined by Shawn Johnson and her coach, Liang Chow. It's a pleasant interview, I suppose, but I think that Chow actually has a more interesting story. Oh, well. NBC's been waiting for Shawn to win a gold medal for the whole games, so now we finally got it out of the way. Fluff!

• Last up tonight, the men's high bar in gymnastics.

The Netherlands gymnast is named Epke Zonderland. Epke Zonderland! Shout it out loud! GO ZONDERLAND! Oof! His crash was as spectacular as his name. It's too bad he fell, because the rest of his routine was great.

The first Chinese gymnast did well, but everyone else has had problems. And now the door is open for Norman, Oklahoma's Jonathan Horton. Boomer Sooner, baby! Wooooo!!! Okay, he stepped on the landing, but the rest of the routine was AWESOME!

Sandy says definitely medal, I say gold. SECOND?! Oh, come ON! Even the Chinese crowd is booing. He finished .025 behind China's Zou Kai. I'll bet Bela is going nuts, now. Two gymnasts to go, but I'd have a hard time believing that both could score higher than that.

The next gymnast up is France's Yann Cucherat. He falls. Horton is guaranteed third. Igor Cassina of Italy is the last high bar gymnast, and he is the reigning Olympic champ. Tim says he misses an element and that means Horton will get silver. And he's right!

Mom and Dad Horton are waving flags, hugging, and crying, much like Shawn Johnson's parents. There must be some gymnastics' parents code that I don't know about. Jonathan points at the camera and says, "Silver medal, baby! Woooo!" Seems like we just said something like that.

It's hard to find much to complain about when we get to see 44 straight minutes of events. Okay, that's not true. I can ALWAYS find things to complain about, but I was pleased with the coverage today. Good job, NBC!

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