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Friday, August 22, 2008



Maybe the batons are made of butter...

Who else can't hold onto a relay baton? You wouldn't think it would be that hard...

• Bob leads us in to some action from early this morning, featuring the U.S. volleyball team facing the Russians. Perhaps you already saw this if you were up at 3 a.m. I'm betting you didn't.

Off to taped action already in progress. Actually, it's already over, but let's play along. Tied at two sets apiece, we get to skip all of the lead up and go straight to the deciding set. There ARE some advantages to tape-delay.

On a spike shot, the Russians foul by being over the 10-foot line. Imagine Russia violating a boundary. That never happens, right Georgia?

We're tied at eight in a match that goes to 15. The winner of this game advances to the gold medal round. The loser goes to the South Osettian front. Well, I mean, if Russia loses that is. And they will. Go U.S.A.! Woooo!

Russia goes up 11-10 but blows the next serve. Nervous, Russkie? Not us! We have ice in our veins. That's why we won the Cold War, baby!

The Russians put in Semen Poltavsky in a substitution. What? I'm just reporting the guy's name. They only leave him in for a point, then pull him out. So, Semen's in and out. That was fast. I hope they were satisfied.

• And the U.S.A. wins! Russia goes down 15-13 and the United States will play for the gold for the first time since 1988. Awesome!

• Back in the studio, Bob has a LIVE interview with U.S. Volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. The first part of the interview is about the win over the Russians and everything we just saw. The rest, and the majority, is about the attack on his father-in-law and mother-in-law from earlier in the Games. I know this isn't an event, but even I'm not hard-hearted enough to think that this isn't worthy of discussion. Not fluff.

• Off to the Bird's Nest, where we finally get to see some of the decathlon. Bryan Clay, U.S. decathlete, balances his life between training and family! Awww! He loves his family and his kids! Why, that looks like someone who could get a giant endorsement contract if he wins the gold! Fluff!

• Dwight Stone gives us a rundown of the decathlon's first day since we didn't get to see any of it on NBC yesterday. And then he runs down the first four events of the second day. All-in-all, he spends about five minutes on it before telling us that Clay has one event left and he's almost guaranteed a medal. Five minutes on the event that determines the "world's greatest athlete?" A few nights ago we spent that much time watching Mary Carillo fly kites! What's up with that?

• Now we get to see the medal ceremony that we missed yesterday for the U.S. sweep of the 400m. The winner, LaShawn Merritt, doesn't sing. Jeremy Wariner, bitter second place finisher, doesn't sing. David Neville, who literally dove across the line to edge out the Bahama's Chris Brown for the bronze, sings the entire Star Spangled Banner. Guess who my new favorite U.S. runner is?

• Now the U.S. women get to try to make up for last night... or was it the night before? This China time-shift thing has me all confused... in the women's 4x400m relay semifinal. Try not to drop the baton this time. Unlike last night, today the U.S.A.'s bibs look like they were printed in advance, not written with Sharpies.

The baton and the U.S. team make it all the way around tonight. Bob Neumeier asks Sanya Richards if there were discussions about doing just that. The look on Sanya's face indicates that it probably wasn't a pleasant discussion.

• And now we're off to... water polo? Really? Cool! Something different! The U.S.A. is playing Serbia for a chance to get to the gold medal game, and currently they're ahead 7 to 5 with five minutes to play.

You want to talk about some athletes? Water polo players swim back and forth across the pool, tread water, fight off other players and throw a ball to score goals, all for ten-minute stretches at a time. Think you could tread water for ten minutes? Go ahead, try. I'll bet some of you get tired walking from your couch to the fridge. I know I do. Just watching water polo makes me tired.

The Americans stretch their lead to 9-5 before a commercial break.

• Commercial break! Two kids, a boy and a girl, go all Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fighting over their last Chicken McNugget. Why not just get another Happy Meal, kids? Heck, then you'll even get another toy. Bonus!

• Back to water polo, and the U.S. scores right away to make it 10 to 5 with two-and-a-half minutes left. The Americans haven't gotten ANY medal in water polo in 20 years, and it looks like now they'll be playing for the gold. Announcer Bob Fitzgerald says that the Serbians reportedly lost to Italy on purpose in the qualifying rounds just so they would get the U.S. in the medal rounds. Heh. How'd that work out for you, Serbia?

Not too well. The U.S. wins and advances. The Serbians sulk to the bronze medal game.

• Finally! NBC mentions the softball team getting the silver medal, but only in a segment about how well the U.S. is doing in team sports.

• Mary Carillo on martial arts! Yes! Taekwondo! Oh... wrong. It's a story on the Kung Fu Monks. Mary goes to the Shaolin Temple, birthplace of Kung Fu. I knew that because I watched Survivor last season. Anyway, Mary learns some forms from a monk. Or rather, a Shaolin monk humors her instead of breaking her in two. Then she punches monk in stomach with no effect. Then she watches another monk do a handstand on 2 fingers.

Back in the studio, Bob can't believe that Mary could resist using "Kung Fu Fighting" as a musical backdrop, saying those monks were as "fast as lightning" and "a little bit frightening."

Interesting, but still fluff.

• The Chevy Gold Medal Spotlight tonight is back in the diving pool. I thought yesterday was the last day of diving. I guess not. TONIGHT is the last night. I think. Maybe it's tomorrow. Oh, what do I know?

It's the finals of the men's platform diving. The U.S. has two divers that have a chance to qualify. Does it really matter? We all know the Chinese are going to win. They win all the diving.

Fluffette for U.S. divers David Boudia and Thomas Finchum, who are friends. No one told them life was going to be this way. So far it hasn't been their day, their week, their month, or even their year.

• Cris Collinsworth, American's favorite soccer dad, does five minutes on the Redeem Team. "LeBron is over here... then over there... and boom... and like wow!" Has there ever been a goofier man on NBC? He's pleasant enough, but every time he's on screen it's like they just picked up some enthusiastic fan and put him on the air. I guess that's what I'd look like if I was on NBC.

Anyway, he asks LeBron about the differences between the 2004 and 2008 teams. LeBron says "team" is the key word. Sappy, but isn't that the answer we all wanted to hear? Plus, I don't think he's trying to pull the wool over our eyes. It's clear James believes what he's saying.

Then Cris asks if the U.S.A. wins the gold medal, when they play national anthem, will LeBron cry? Never mind that, what I want to know is will he sing? Fluff!

• Back to the Bird's Nest for the men's 4x400m relay. The U.S. men are in this first heat. Don't drop the baton!

They don't, and cruise easily into first place. And just like at the women's relay earlier, Bob Neumeier asks this team, too, about the baton pass. Before last night's races, who would have ever thought that would be so important?

•  In heat two, the Jamaicans actually finish in second behind the British. Ato rebukes the British runner Martyn Rooney for poor sportsmanship because he's taunting the Jamaican runner as they come down the stretch. It's only a semifinal, says Ato. Not good idea to taunt the Jamaican team, says Tom. They're both right, Martyn. You're asking for trouble.

• To the pole vault, with Dwight Stone doing the commentary. Dwight Stone is awesome. I wish NBC would give more time to the "field" events just because Dwight is so good at telling you what's going on.

The U.S. vaulter Derek Miles, fails at his last jump, meaning he can do no better than fourth. Dwight then tells us that this means the U.S. has no pole vaulter, triple jumper, high jumper, or long jumper in the finals. Ohhhh... so THAT'S why we don't spend any more time in "field."

• Peyton and Eli Manning have played, in various commercials, Hungry, Hungry Hippos, Jenga, Go Fish, and had a thumb war. You know what they SHOULD have played? Electric football. Now THAT would have been funny.

• And now we get some fluff on both the men and women from the U.S. relay teams dropping the baton. The also get scolded for not having their bibs printed out. That's the USA's responsibility? I would have thought that would have been the race organizers, but I guess not.

High-ranking Team Rockwood member Sandy says, "This is fluff? I thought fluff was supposed to be happy." It's the new "depression fluff." All the emo kids like it.

• Anyway, now it's time for the women's 4x100m relay, sans Americans. They're in the blocks... and they're off!

Holy Kingston, mon! Tonight, JAMAICA blows the baton transfer! Did they learn NOTHING from the U.S.A. last night? Not only that, we get some instant Karma. Remember the British taunting of the Jamaican relay team just a half hour ago? Here, when the Jamaicans blew their baton pass, they ran into the team in the next lane, knocking them out, too. That team? The British. Coincidence?

• Back in the Water Cube for more semifinal platform diving. You already know I love the drop cam. You know what I'd love even more? The drop cam in slow-motion. Every other camera they use at some point ends up in slow-motion, why not the drop cam? I think that would be cool. Try it, NBC!

• Gleb Galperin, the Russian diver, has the Olympic rings logo tattooed on his left shoulder. Unfortunately for him, the logo is wrong (the rings are too close to each other horizontally). How would you like to have people pointing out your faulty tattoo for the rest of your life?

• More Bolt fluff! Tonight he's racing as one leg of the 4x100m relay final for Jamaica. Hopefully he's been practicing handing off the baton. This race, too, is sans Americans.

Finally the favorites make all of the passes! Jamaica wins the gold and Usain Bolt is a part of another world record.

Back in the studio, Bob tells us that Bolt has had such a good time in China that he's donating $50,000 to the Red Cross to help the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. You might be able to fault Usain for showboating in the 100m dash, but I think this shows a lot more about his character.

•  At last, we get to the last leg of the Decathlon, and American Bryan Clay has an insurmountable lead. Which means he's going to do a slow, leisurely jog around the track and still win the gold medal while everyone else knocks themselves out going for silver.

• Last up tonight, the medal ceremony for decathlon winner Bryan Clay. Take a look at that! He sings! He IS the world's greatest athlete! Okay, he didn't sing all the way through, but he's a decathlete. He doesn't have to be great at everything. He just has to be better than most at a lot of different things.

Coverage was pretty good tonight, but I feel a little ripped off that the only part of the decathlon we got to watch all the way through was the one event that Bryan Clay didn't even have to contest. Just one more full day of events! Tune in tomorrow.

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